Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday WARNING: Not Pictorial in the least.

1-I am thankful butchering day is over, and particularly thankful that The Manimal did the butchering  himself.  This was quite a decision for him to make because his religious teacher assures him that killing anything is the worst deed you can do in this life. This teacher eats meat himself, but someone else has to kill the animals he eats. The Manimal and  I both consider this pretty darn hipocritical.
      I object to the abuse of animals, to factory farms,feed lots, battery houses of thousands of laying hens penned up for life. It is because of my feelings about commercial animal treatment that we got day old chicks and raised a flock of laying hens three years ago.  We wanted eggs done right.
    Our 10 hens and two roosters live in a little house that would accomodate probably 100 battery hens boxed and stacked three cages high. 
      They wake with the sun and go to bed at dusk, I don't fake them out with artificial light to force them to lay more eggs. In the spring when a couple of the hens go broody I let them sit on a clutch of eggs and hatch them, and raise the chicks. The flock has a natural life. They have a fenced run to protect them from predators, but the get out to free range almost every day. And by free range I don't mean what commercial concerns often mean by that term- one 12 inch door for 600 hens and the door seldom  actually opened.
   When I say our hens (and roosters) free range  I mean they go up the ridge as high as they want and down to the creeks as deep into the forest at they wish.  I have not clipped their wings, and they all fly quite well too.
      I don't consider killing an animal for food to be abuse. Everyone/everything dies sooner or later. Most things die to become the food of something else. That is how this planet works, and there is no avoiding it.
My goal in embracing veganism is to disconnect myself from the quite hideous industry that has grown up around forced breeding of animals by the billlions and treating them as if they were farm machinery. I believe it's bad for the animals, bad for the planet, and also bad for the people who work in this industry. Treating animals inhumanely is dehumanizing to people as well.
       It is not my intention to disconnect myself from life on this earth or from the reality of how the food chain works. So. I'm very pleased that The Manimal is willing to take on the killing and butchering and that he is careful and skillful at it. If he's going to be an omnivore I respect him for taking on the full responsibility.

2-I am thankful for the amazing peace, harmony and QUIET we have now that there is no longer a gang of juvenile delinquent banty roosters swaggering around here crowing at all hours of the day and night and picking constant fights with each other.
      We chose the sturdiest, prettiest, least aggressive banty rooster as a partner for the banty hens. I've named him Keeper.  He's the son of one of my banty gals who hatched out a clutch of eggs this spring.

3-I am thankful hens aren't too smart. They sleep a sleep of forgetfulness that would thrill Shakespeare. I am using this to my advantage by moving our half-wild banty hens into the henhouse with the large hens. I want them housed before the weather gets bad. After I cleaned out the henhouse today and put in fresh litter I put the big hen's   set of three perches in a north-south position instead of the former east-west position. I did this to disorient them. I want to stop them automatically going to their usual spot on the perch. Next I brought in a good stout limb with the branches off and mounted it cornerwise for the banty hems. I chose the corner behind where the large hens will roost.  Then I shut the doors till nightfall. When it was dark I first carried Keeper and his 3 hens to the henhouse and setted them on their new tree limb perch. After a bit of ruffling they went right off to sleep. Then I opened the hen door and shone my flashlight into the henhouse and Whitney and his full sized hens followed the light and got onto their newly positioned perches and also went to sleep. When they all awake in the morning they'll be enough confused by the perches facing a different direction and the sun coming through the window from a different side that I suspect the big hens will hardly notice four banties perched in the corner.

4-I am thankful there are brilliant people on the internet who raise hens happily and humanely from whom I can learn things, since I didn't grow up on a farm and am learning as I go here.

5-I am thankful for mashed potatoes, which is what I had for supper. This has been my lifelong food of choice when stuck for choices. I seem to have spent a disproportionate amount of my childhood sitting in restaurants waiting for my food-adoring family to choose from a menu of items mostly unappealing to me. Happy was the day when I discovered I could sidestep parental pressure to "just decide on something' by  saying "I'd like a double order of mashed potatoes". 
    The potatoes I cooked for supper came from Idaho. I wonder how the carbon footprint of an Idaho potato in Indiana compares to the carbon footprint of a rooster born and raised in our side lawn. Without his fancy feathers a banty rooster is not much bigger than a baking potato.

6-I am thankful for my red rubber gardening wellies. They came to me from Scotland, I've worn them year round in every nasty weather and hard work imagineable, and they are still going strong after twenty years. The heels are worn down a bit, but that gives them character. As I began mucking out the chicken run today I especially appreciated them. A foot of manure and decomposing straw is not a place you want to stand in with your Crocs on.

7-I am thankful for nice chilly weather.  I have allergies, or at least I've had allergies since I moved to this forest valley four years ago. When last I cleaned out the henhouse it nearly killed me. I thought I'd never be able to breathe properly again.  That was on a hot humid day.  Today in the crispy coldness I cleaned out the henhouse in record time and it did not hurt to breathe in the least. A wise farmgirl would make a note to self for future reference when scheduling mucking-out appointments.
   I'm also thankful for our big wide aluminum shovel with the handle broken off.  The henhouse is small for a big lady like me (5'4") and wielding a regular shovel in there was very knocky and awkward what with the ceiling and walls getting in the way. I tried a trowel, which was dreadfully small for the work at hand, then told The Manimal what I really needed was a wide shovel but with a short handle. He pointed to a broken scoop shovel leaning against a tree and suggested, "You could put a short handle on that."  But as it happened the whatever-its-called metal part of the shovel that the wooden handle fits into was long enough to get a good grip on so it really doesn't need a handle at all.

8-I am thankful for the way our kitties get stockier and silkier every day. Pyewacket and Pandemonium both started out as scrawny sorts, and it's nice to see how running up and down in the hilly forest (or on the forested hills?) is building nice muscles on them. They've become such satisfyingly big handsome cats.

9-I am thankful I have two computers to choose from, as at any given time one of them will refuse to work for me. Occasionally both refuse to work at once, but they always seem to get over their moods and return to service.  They're my most frequent connection to the outside world and I miss the world when they're having moods.

10-I am thankful for texting and messaging. I got the prettiest picture message today from Youngest Child to say/show she'd received a little thing I sent by post and that she was enjoying it. Instant gratification is nice now and then.

There ya go. Ten Thankfuls even though it was butchering day and the water went out  (cold weather broke pipe) and we had to go to town for plumbing parts.
 Maybe tomorrow will be a little less interesting.  Wait, no, we have to fix the plumbing tomorrow, so that will probably be pretty darn interesting too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Doll Mania part 2, More from Willow Street and then the Portland house.

I had a little rubber doll like this one. Her molded hair is an updo in the back. Her body is molded in one piece, and she's stuffed with kapok or something soft to make her allegedly cuddly.

Mama made a bunch of cloth Betsy McCall dolls like this for the Relief Society Bazaar. The one that she kept was dressed as a fairy, in a little strapless tutu of silver lame.
         When I was small the Relief Society was run by the women themselves, not under the control of the main church. They had their own elected officers, their own magazine, and earned their own  money to support themselves and for charitable purposes. As femininsm began to rear it's interesting head "the priesthood" decided the women were working too hard with bazaars and things earning their own  money, and working too hard running their own they took away the women's autonomy and began "supporting" the Relief Society out of general church funds.  They even gave the women their very own page in the official church magazine.
This was among other things the end of strong lesbian women in leadership positions. None of the women I knew liked this, but it's pretty hard to argue with Salt Lake.

This little Madam Alexander doll is named " Marybel Gets Well".  As you can see she's wearing her pink satin nightie. She has casts for her arm and leg, crutches, dark glasses for if her eyes are bothering her, and a paper of little dot stickers for when she has measles or chickenpox.  When I got my Marybel I also got a set of bunk beds her size, and a little nurse kit. The nurse kit was exactly like the doctor kit except the bag was white instead of black and the picture on it was of a girl instead of a boy.  Doctors were boys back then.

   When I was four years old we moved from Willow Street to the house on Portland Avenue. Here are the dolls I remember from that time.
These little wooden dolls are made in Poland. I had several over the years. I remember Mama bought one of them for me at Opell's Bakery. This was owned by Aunt Pat's brother-in-law, and is where she met Uncle Ray. Why they carried Polish dolls at a bakery I have no idea.
Chatty Cathy. She could talk when  you pulled her string. What can I say? My parents were on the cutting edge of technology, we had a phonograph and a television too. Uncle Charlo thought she was a perfect choice for me, as my nickname was Chatterbox.  I think the whole family were relieved when Chatty Cathy's string broke, rendering her forever silent.
Dixie the Pixie is an American Character doll from their Whimsies line.  Mama and Daddy hid her in the wardrobe and played 'Getting warmer" and "Getting cooler" for me to find her on my 4th birthday.  I was not too quick to catch onto following temperature related clues, and when at last I was led to the wardrobe I was not thrilled with the idea of opening it. When I finally was persuaded to open the wardrobe there were two big eyes staring out at me.  I  liked Dixie the Pixie once I got used to her.
     Poor Pitiful Pearl was based on the cartoon character created by William Steig (who also created Shrek).  The idea of a doll based on the work of this famous New Yorker cartoonist apparently charmed Mama.  I remember Daddy looking up a cartoon of Pearl to show me, but the whole concept was lost on me at age four. Not only was I too young to make the connection between a doll and a magazine cartoonist, I don't think I really grapsed the idea that something drawn could be made into something three dimensional.  Anyway Poor Pitiful Pearl came in a patched dress and tattered shawl, but also had a fancy dress of sheer blue with a black velvet belt and dressy shoes, so you could adopt her and give her a better life.  Lesson for 4 year olds: fancy clothes = better life.
Ugly Nurse Doll. I have no idea who gave me one of these.  I had an Aunt in Kentucky who was a nurse, so this was probably a gift from someone who knew that.  Cheaply made, probably bought at a grocery store. I remember her legs came off and I was frequently standing in line waiting for grown-ups to put down the groceries or dry their hands or finish buttoning their shirt so they could put nurse doll's legs back on. Her eyes popped out too eventually.  At first you had to stick your finger up her neck and push on the back of her eyes to get them to pop out, but after awhile all you had to do was shake her hard.

Tiny Thumbelina.  Cloth body, soft plastic arms and legs, and a big knob on her back to wind. This would cause a bent rod inside her to rotate, which made her head move in a rolling-you-head-exercise kind of way.  If you laid her on her side the movement of her head would be translated down to her lightweight body and floppy limbs.  If you were extremely gullible you might be able to convince yourself she moved like a real baby.  The grinding of  her little internal gearworks was slightly unbabylike.

My first Barbie. Thickest eyelashes in the world (a ridge actually), unnaturally tall for her width, unnaturally busty for her height, and those ankles would never hold up that curvy body in real life. The only natural thing about her was the way her strapless swimsuit top kept rolling down. some clothes are only really suitable for standing still.

Next Time: The Bruceville years.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Retro Doll Mania

        My Dear Mama, was born in 1930. Her early life was spent between the Stock Market Crash / Great Depression and World War Two. Because of this, and also being the tenth and youngest child of a coal miner, when Mama was growing up she didn't have dolls.  They were expensive. Food was a better expenditure of the family budget.
       What Mama did have was paper dolls. When the kids would go to town to a movie Mama (then known as Patty Jo) would save her popcorn money. Instead of an edible treat at the movie on the long  walk home she would stop to buy paper dolls at the drugstore or "the five and dime".
     By the time Patty Jo was ten or so she had quite a collection. Beautiful paper dolls of Deanna Durbin and other film stars, with lavish paper wardrobes.  She also had a niece, about two years old, who really wanted the paper dolls.  Her mother, who apparently had no idea what the paperdolls meant to Patty Jo, insisted that she give her paperdolls to little Susie. All of them.  Naturally being a toddler little Susie tore them up.

That this was traumatic for Patty Jo is certain, why else would I have heard this story 5,000 times in my life?  
     Fast forward a few years, and Patty Jo, who is now called Patricia, has something better than a mere collection of paperdolls, she has a job (first as a waitress, then as secretary to the hospital's head of nursing) and a wardrobe of her own pretty clothes from the nicest dress shops in town. When they get nice things in that would look good with Patricia's bright blue eyes and flaming red curls the shop ladies set them aside in the back room and telephone her so she can come have the first look before they are put out to the general public.
        She also begins to collect dolls. I doubt if she thought of it as "collecting dolls" in a 'this is a hobby' or 'this is important' kind of way. She just saw dolls she liked, bought them, and with her sister Dorothy began to sew stylish wardrobes for them. 
This is a Dollikin from Uneeda Doll company. (is that company name a form of subliminal advertising?)  She is 19 or 20 inches tall depending on her hairstyle. She's fully articulated, so is extremely posable, designed to be a showpiece rather than a child's toy.  Commercial patterns were available to sew clothes for her, so she had an amazing wardrobe. If you have ever tried sewing for a Barbie you'll appreciate how much easier it is to sew for a doll whose hand is as big as your thumb.

This is Little Miss Revlon. Her waist turns. She's pretty, elegant, and about half as tall as Dollikin.  Also the possesser of a vast wardrobe.

This is Tiny Terri Lee. By the time I met her she had so many clothes they wouldn't all fit in her box.  Of course dolls don't wear out their clothes or outgrow them.

This is an 8 inch Betsy McCall doll. Yes, same name as the magazine and the pattern company. Yes, commercial patterns were of course on sale so you could dress her. Yes, Mama's was very well dressed.

Fast forward again to the fall of 1956. Patricia by this time is usually called Pat. She has a handsome husband who makes a nice living.  She is a stay-at-home mom, a term no one had thought of yet as it was assumed anyone producing a child would stay at home and raise it herself. She has a four-year-old son called Dickie-boy nd a newborn daughter. Moi.
A daughter is, of course, good and sufficient reason to get more dolls.

I've been perusing the internet trying to find "every doll I ever had". Most of them are there somewhere. In fact, most of them can be bought on Ebay right now.  If in my stroll down memory lane you see something you like, the odds are you can find a seller or three or five on Ebay who would be happy to fulfill your dreams.

Droopy Drawers

These squeaky baby toys have a wardrobe mishap going on in the back. Their jammies back flap is half down, which is why in our family they were called Droopy Drawers. I have no idea what the original name was, if they had one. There was one for my brother and one for me.

Yo-Yo Clown.  Mama made me one very much like this, which eventuallt succumbed to the ongoing disasters of living with small children.

This is a sleepy doll. Possibly meant to set a good example for nap-shy tots?

A Rose O'Neill Kewpie. My paternal grandmother made dresses for mine in the same fabrics as the dresses she made for me.

Mama had of course gotten off to a good start with the son, getting him a Howdy Doody marionette, which is manly being a cowboy and not a "doll" strictly speaking, so being pc for a fifties boy child.  Dickie Boy tired of him about the time his strings were hopelessly tangled, and I inherited him.  This picture is a rubber stuffed doll. Our marionette was wooden, with head and hands of somne hard plastic or composition ofnsome sort, but I couldn't find a picture of him. He was very floppy, which to my little child mind made him seem 'sick' so he got to be the patient when we played hospital.

Mama also bought a huge picture called The Dearest Dolls, which hung over my crib, and later hung over my bed in every house we lived in until I was old enough to protest.  It was a picture of a pair of shelves filled with what I suppose in the fifties would have been termed 'dolls of many lands'.  I thought is was creeeeepy, all those odd little faces looking at me all the time. I wish I could find a copy of it somewhere just to see if it's as creepy as I remember it being.

Tiny Tears. I remember walking across our cement front porch dragging her by one foot, her head scraping on the cement. Which means I must have been only a couple of feet tall and barely walking. When I was older I remember Daddy taking her head off to fix her broken drink-and-wet mechanism.

That's it for today folks.  These are all the dolls I remember from my birth till we moved from Willow Street to the house on Portland. I've decided the easiest way to document the dolls is to do it by which house we lived in when I got them. I suppose for someone who hasn't moved much that wouldn't work, but we've lived so many places that rather than thinking in terms of years I tend to think in terms of houses.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday, the abbreviated version

1-I'm thankful The Manimal goes back to work tomorrow. I don't get anything done when he has a day off to work at home. At least it feels that way. Do women with retired husbands ever get anything done?

2-I'm thankful Middle Child and her handsome mate are recovering rapidly from a nasty incident of food poisoning which got their holiday trip off to a less than jolly start.

3-I'm thankful if they had to get food poisoning at least they were driving instead of stuck in an airplane.  And also that they're now safely at his terrific mum's house where they can get some TLC.

4-I'm thankful our "spare" bantam roosters will soon be nourishing a friend's family instead of roosting on our front porch and making shrill noises at all hours of the day and night. And I'm verrrrrry thankful I don't have to do the killing or butchering or cooking or eating of them.

5-I'm thankful my One and Only Brother is coming up to Eldest Daughter's house this weekend. He lives far away and we seldom have a chance for a visit, so this will be a treat. I shall be there Sunday morning with bells on.

6-I'm thankful The Manimal's One and Only Sister and her hubs are coming to our house this weekend.  His Middle son and The Girlfriend are also planning to come join us. Eldest son and Youngest son are still trying to alter schedules and make travel arrangements, so pending........(taps foot impatiently.....)

7-I'm thankful the loud crash upstairs didn't wake The Manimal. House rabbits are thought of as quiet pets, but ours are a bit riotous at times. I think when we're all out of the room the two of them play mosh pit.

8-I'm thankful I only have two rabbits.

9-I'm thankful the plaster is finally dry in the pot of my holiday tree. Tomorrow I'll decorate it.

The plaster is poured, the branch is in place. I had no idea this would take 2 days to dry. I think the plaster I found in the tool room must have been past its use-by date.

Garlands of handmade paper beads from old Hannukah wrapping paper. I'm hoping they look gorgeous draped from branch to branch.
 The Tree, such as it is.  I painted it with chrome spray paint I had leftover from a giant fork sculpture I did years ago. Apart from the shininess it has a certain Charlie Brown Christmas earnestness about it.

10-I'm thankful for homemade bread, a fairly regularly occuring blessing in my life. Yum.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday

1-I am Thankful for the rain. Lots of rain. Days and days of rain. Honestly, I'd rather have snow, which to my mind is more fun, but rain is what we've got right now, so I may as well be thankful for it. Just keepin' it real.

2--I am Thankful our workshop weekend is over. There's nothing like having a visiting artist and a house full of strangers for a few days to make a girl appreciate the blessing of solitude. Somehow I think better without a crowd.

3--I am Thankful for paper towels. Lately Silly Dog has taken to eating things that are not meant to be digested by mammals. Bits of plastic, chewed up sticks, assorted things we can't identify when they return in a semi-digested state. The grossness factor of this would be much worse if I had to clean it up with a cloth towel and then also clean the towel. I think I do not exaggerate too fiercely when I declare trees were invented to make paper towels as nature's way of apologizing for the stupidity of young dogs.

4--I am Thankful for my daddy's old shirts.  One of which I've successfully turned into a chemisette.  Or as Tiniest Child said, a Grandpa Dick Dickey.  The 70's shirting was soft and nice to work with, and I think it'll be fun to wear when it gets a little chillier around here. I'm glad I've got a few more to play with.

5--I am Thankful  for Greystone's Creative Hands


      My dear Mama bought this 22 volume set in the early '70's. We lived in Michigan then, in the country 45 minutes south of Detroit. Our Creative Hands books arrived one by one in the mail. I think it was one a month for the whole 22 months.
     They're of British origin, and are a complete set of lessons in sewing, knitting, crochet, tatting, and all types of needlework. There are patterns on graphs that you can trace out.  All the lessons start in volume 1 and continue through the series, so even if you live in the absolute middle of nowhere as we did, and as I do now, you can teach yourself not only basic needlework skills but even alterations and advanced tailoring with these books. Here are a few pages to give you an idea:

Drapery making, lace making. darning and mending, macrame, anything you can do to adorn the body or feather the nest, Greystone's Creative Hands has got it covered.  The styles in the pictures are charmingly late 60's to early 70's, but the techniques can be applied to any style of clothing and any era. There's even good information on historical costuming.

6--I am Thankful for  Hex, Daisy and Rosevile (on the bed) and for Poppy, Eleanor, Willow, and Portland.  I got my first Susie Sad Eyes when I was around 12 years old. Of the zillion or so dolls I've had in my life she was the first I bought myself (with my lunch money) and is my favorite. I have no idea what happened to my first SSE, she got lost when we moved to Michigan I think, I don't remember ever seeing her after that  move.
    Fast forward couple of decades. Shortly after she and her dear husband moved here from the west I described this quirky little doll I used to have to Oldest Child, and she said "I have a doll like that. She doesn't have clothes, but her face and hair are like you describe, I bought her at a garage sale in Texas for a quarter. Do you want her?"
    Bless her heart, Oldest Child wouldn't even let me pay for the dolly. "You're my mom," she said, "I think you're worth at least a quarter!"
      This specific doll is Portland*, lower right hand corner in the above picture. I brought her home and started making clothes for her, and when that turned out to be a fun project I started building her a home on a bookshelf. My rule for her home was that she could only have things she could "borrow" from the big people in the house, so she has chairs made from butter cartons, a bed made of a cigar box, rulers and clothes pins, and a little dresser of matchboxes.

  Eventually I discovered EBay, and Portland got some sisters. They're in their almost identical nighties for the picture, but they do all have their own highly individual clothes too.

7--I am Thankful for all my Berry Good Friends.  My kids had Strawberry Shortcake dolls back in the 80's, and they were adorable. They smelled good too, which means if you leave them on the swing set ovenight a raccoon will chew their cute little faces off. Because  I think the new version of Strawberry Shortcake dolls are ghastly looking a few years ago I decided to get some vintage ones. Even 30 years old they smell pretty good.
    EBay sellers are a highly variable bunch of folks. Some value their wares very highly, others are just looking to clean out the attic.  When I was shopping for vintage Shortcakes I found undressed or incompletely dressed ones to be cheapest, which is logical. In my search to replace some missing shoes I also found some sellers listing 'lots' of clothes and dolls. It was cheaper to buy a 'lot' of three dolls with a pile of little clothes than to buy a single replacement shoe. That is how I ended up with um... 14 dolls and a big strawberry case full of clothes and shoes when the original plan had been just to replace the 4 dolls my 4 kids once had. 
     The seven big dolls have moved into in the downstairs of the "girls house" and the baby ones are on a shelf by my big green bed.  It makes me smile to look at them.
    Fourteen people in a 2 room house. Wow. I should do something about that.
8--I am Thankful for Lucy Sky.  She's charming, she's huggable, and she has big eyes. My life drawing prof used to tell me I always drew everyone's eyes bigger than eyes really are. He was right, I did. I have no idea why he saw this as a problem, if I wanted an accurate look I'd use a camera.

 I found her on Ebay as well. Her commercial name is Lonely Lisa, she was made by the Royal Doll Company. She came to me nude and grubby and she was in tres terrible shape. Her cloth body was disintegrating, her wire skeleton (to make her posable) was rusted and broken and her sponge rubber stuffing was crumbled to nasty dust.  I didn't like her body shape, which was very short and squarish. I took her apart, cleaned her up, and drafted a new body for her that has a longer torso and an actual waist. Next up is making her wardrobe. Her yellow checked chemise is from the sleeve of a blouse I got from an old friend.(whom The Middle Child is named after) Her petticoat is from a worn pillowcase embroidered by my maternal grandmother. I've got bloomers cut out for her that I'll sew as soon as my thumb heals, and then I think she needs a good full skirted jumper to go over it all. She's a lovely size to work with, as she's big enough to hug but small enough to dress from the scrap bag.

9--I am Thankful for Peg Bracken.

Her I Hate to Cook Book and her I Hate to Cook Almanack are a delicious blend of practical cookery and whimsical prose.

Her I Hate to Housekeep Book is a delight as well. Bracken's writing may not be as fancy as Shakespeare, but it's come in handy a lot more frequently in my life.

10--I am Thankful for Ongoing Projects.

When you wake up in the middle of nowhere to a murky gray sky and a hungry, hungry wood stove, it's nice to have some creative work to look forward to.  I typically have four or more projects going at once. That way I can stitch on the quilt for awhile upstairs, then go do some lap-sized sewing downstairs to keep the dogs company.  I have a knitting project to work on in the truck when The Manimal is doing the driving, and there are painting projects and such that can only be done outside in good weather (which means not this week).

Above is the beginning of a table runner. The wild canary birds are in honor of The Manimal, who is  bird lover.  Because we have a lot of mismatched restaurant china that we use for parties I'm going to put as many colors and prints as possible in the runner.It should also go nicely with my growing collection of hand stitched cloth napkins.

And here's my most ongoing project, the infamous dragonfly quilt. I got three blocks quilted this past weekend while I was staying out of the way for the workshop. Only 17 blocks to go.

*Although Portland the doll did accompany The Manimal and me on a business trip to Portland the city in Oregon (where she was much photographed and much admired) she is actually named for Portland Avenue where our family house stood for five generations. Willow is named for the street where we lived when I was born. Can you guess who Rosevile is named for?

Ten Thankfuls. There ya go.
I'm in a dolly mood today. Did you have a favorite doll when you were little? Do you have one now?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday

           Ten Thankfuls
Faaaaarm Livin' Is The Life For Me !

        As I work on various stitchy projects I've been watching Green Acres on Youtube. Hand needlework and high-tech entertainment. Let's call it Rural Life for Primitive Moderns.
     I fearlessly (or heedlessly) left the big city to embrace this down-home life with The Manimal (who assures me the only way he'll ever leave this place is when 'they' come to carry him out feet first). It is only natural that I heartily identify with the perpetually lovely Lisa Douglas.

    (Although  with my age and unerring fashion sense I fear I look a bit more like Mrs. Ziffel).

     At any rate, this feels like a good day to list some thankfuls related to the miriad joys of living in the approximate middle of nowhere.

1-I am thankful that there are seventeen acres here for our dogs to run free. Also the cats, who love to chase small wild critters but usually don't catch them.  I tried to get you a picture of Pandy running free in a countrified manner, but all I got was a blur. Here he is contemplating his freedom in a countrified manner.

2-I am thankful for three creeks we can wade in when it is wet, and also thankful that in the heat of  late summer when the creeks dry up we can collect the geodes that wash down from the hills.

3-I am thankful for a good woodstove to keep us warm and a forest full of good firewood.

Here's about a week's worth of home-grown comfort.  We've almost got enough wood cut and stacked to get us through the winter, and there are enough standing dead trees for several more years that we will cut and split as we need them.

4-I am thankful for clotheslines and clothespins and the fresh-off-the-line smell of sun-dried sheets. But I'm also thankful for the electric dryer which does a great job of removing dog hair. Cat hair. Rabbit hair. Tiny baby chick fluff.  Sawdust. Our lint trap gets a good workout.

5-I am thankful for the forest around us, and that the gravel road to our house is almost impassable, and that the blacktop road is half a mile up the winding and steep gravel road.  I'm thankful the highway is a mile further up the blacktop road, and towns are twelve to fifteen winding and hilly miles further. I'm thankful the only neighbors further down this dead-end road are gone to work in town all day everyday.  All of this creates a level of privacy unknown in town.
Pesky things like rules about proper neckties and matching shoes and handbag do not apply here at all.
 Clothing can be optional here when the weather is good.

                                         (Thank me for not posting a picture here.)

6-I am thankful for bonfires, and that we can have them here any old time we want. I do like burninating the countryside. I need to learn to make vegan marshmallows for our bonfires. Yum.

7-I am thankful the deer, coyotes and wild turkeys drop by often to entertain us. I especially love it when the coyotes (there are at least ten) sing together up on the ridge at night, their voices are hauntingly beautiful.

8-I am thankful that no project is vetoed here on the grounds of "we don't have enough room to do that."  Anything can be done-made-fixed outside, where space is unlimited.  Inside any room can become a workroom as needed. We are not of a nature to fret about sawdust on the kitchen floor or paint splashes on the bathroom sink. A jar of paintbrushes is in permanent residence right next to the kitchen sink and two chainsaws rest just outside the front door, a step away from my big ol' bucket of walnut dye. Creativity Central, that's what.
       I'm extra thankful for my regular studio space in the loft where I can look out the windows at the forest on three sides and down into the livingroom on the fourth side. It's a dandy place to "go to work" each day.

Why two sewing machines in the studio? Because the Viking is in the closet and the treadle machine is downstairs. Of course.

The quilt I promise to finish one of these days. A longstanding work in progress. It is amazing the amount of sewing I get done that is NOT on this quilt.

Comfy craftiness everywhere. The little sewing table in the lower right belonged to Grandma Pat. I lusted after it from childhood onward, but it never occurred to me that someday I would inherit it. 

9-I am thankful for the cheerful white schoolbus in our driveway that will someday be a rolling home.

We got all the seats stripped (very hard on the fingers) and have half of the seat frames out.  The remaining half have bolts so rusted we'll have to cut them out with an angle grinder. This makes a very satisfying display of dangerous looking sparks, which makes us feel like we're DYI superheros.

As you can see to the right, there's a vintage travel trailer we're working on too. I've got the 18 cabinet doors painted in shades of blue and green. There's some water damage inside from  a leak on one edge, so we need to do a bit of  interior wall replacement in that spot before I can continue decorating.
 Someday we'd like to have a fleet of these little trailers as guest cottages, Tres chic, no? I think of them as miniature interior decorating projects and there's nothing I like more than nest building!

10-I am thankful for scraps. Scraps of cloth, of paper, of wood and metal, extra things and leftover things and used up things just waiting to be re-used in some way.  It is said that God created the universe out of chaos.  Occasionally I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF we have here. That is a good time to remind myself  that chaos is just material waiting to be used creatively.
Here's a patchwork bottle I'm working on for my future Etsy shop. Water bottles are a modern fact of life, but I hate for my water to taste like plastic, and am not much more keen on having it taste like metal. Water carried in glass tastes best to me. 
 In a vintage household hints book I read that mommies should slip a little sock over baby's bottle (always glass in those days) so that if  (when!) baby drops the bottle  and if it breaks the broken glass will be neatly contained in the sock. Safety first, plus easy clean up. 
 As a grown up artsy version of this handy tip I've started crafting bottles covered in hand-stitched patchwork. If you drop and break your water bottle the glass won't fly everywhere. Of course the patchwork gives a bit of cushioning which makes the glass less likely to break when dropped, and the cloth covering also makes the bottle less slippery so you're less likely to drop it. Win-win-win.

There Ya Go.  Ten Thankfuls on this sunny crips Thursday.  Ze Life She iss Good!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday Plus a Lecture To Myself

1-I am thankful that the snow that came has also gone. It's much easier to take care of hens without trudging through snow to get to the henhouse. I know we'll get more snow sooner or later, but I'd be pleased for it to be later.

2-I am thankful that Fearless Puppy and SillyDog keep the predators away from the house and away from the hens.  Silly dog is the huge undisciplined 2 year old Australian Cattle Dog / Dalmation mix on the left. She is fairly dreadful, but she means well. She is skillful at chasing deer away from the garden.   Fearless Puppy is the 11 year old  Schnoodle on the right. He's the best friend imaginable. We have coyotes living on the ridge across from us. They like to eat chickens. Fearless Puppy once held off a pack of 10 coyotes all by himself at 3am. Very Brave.

3-I am thankful I have a good stash of sewing and needlework materials. This proved Just The Thing when I broke the laces of my tatty sneakers. Rather than spend ten bucks on gas for a trip to town to buy shoelaces I crocheted some. Two strands of pearl cotton held together and crocheted as if they were a single strand makes a lace thick enough to be sturdy but not too thick to go through the eyelets.  As a bonus, the nubby texture makes them stay tied better. The original laces to these shoes were smooth enough that I had to tie double bows to keep them from coming undone and even that didn't always work.

4-I am thankful for VHS tapes, DVDs and Netflix and PBS.  Hand sewing is a quiet activity and I do a lot of it. Watching a movie or documentary as I work makes the time go faster entertains me and educates me. It is possible that it also keeps me from going stir-crazy, I'm not really in a position to be the judge of that.

5-I am thankful for newsprint.  Our local newspaper sells the roll ends of newsprint very cheaply ($3-6 depending on width). This is very handy for drafting patterns and tracing patterns from existing garments.  This week I copied one of my favorite aprons so I can make more of them. I also drafted a pattern to make some chemisettes out of old work shirts of my Daddy's that Mama had saved.  The generous size of newsprint rolls lets me draw out patterns without having to tape a bunch of sheets of paper together. It's cheap, so  if  when I mess up I can just start over.

Here's the beginning of a chemisette from Daddy's old shirt, I think it will be cute under my homespun  dresses and it will help keep my neck a bit warmer this winter.

6-I am thankful for my French Curve. It makes pattern drafting a lot easier and tidier. Although I bought it more than a year ago I just recently learned to use it from a tutorial here at Gerties Blog for Better Sewing. Gertie is amazing, and I've learned a lot from her blog. Go there. Get enlightened.

7-I am thankful for hippies, bohemians, beats and other artsy types of the '50's, '60's and '70's. Without their shining example during my growing-up years I might have spent a lifetime believing that I should be like "everyone else".  Yeah. Like I could have done that anyway.

8-I am thankful for Thrift Stores.  Not only are they a great source of things, they're also a great source of things with which to make other things.  Long ago I thrifted a skirt in 4 different black and white checks. It was ankle length and had an elastic waist. It was a rather straight skirt and not excessively flattering to my curvy (read pudgy) figure. I've refashioned it, cutting the four nearly straight long gores into eight wedge-shaped shorter gores to create a short shapely skirt. I also sewed little colorful patches at the intersections where the big checked patches come together, which cheered up the somber palette. Lastly I elimanated the elastic waist, adding a proper waistband and a zipper swiped from some old jeans, and stitched on a patchwork pocket. The skirt is now much more fun, much more wearable. Cost of project: $3.00 for the original skirt, the thread, zipper and bits of calico came from my sewing stash.
   I've also been embroidering some thrifted jeans for my partner's Wild Son. One of a kind clothes are the bestest!

9-I am thankful for eggnog. Sweet, tasty, comforting, and festive Yum. You know how when a friend or relative dies you suddenly feel like you never really appreciated them while they were alive? You feel like you should have spent more time with them while you had the chance? Like if you'd only known that they soon would be gone from your life forever you would have savored your time together?  That is how I feel about eggnog. I am returning to being a vegan, and there is one remaining serving of eggnog in the fridge. As The Manimal doesn't like sweet things I will be drinking said eggnog before this day is over. I will then rinse out the carton and put it in the recycling bin, and that will be then end. Eggnog will no longer be a part of my life. Goodbye Eggnog, alas I knew you waaaaay too well.

10-I am thankful for Middle Child's continual good example to me where diet and compassion for animals come together. She has fearlessly seen me through many bouts of  relatively healthy lacto-vegetarianism, interspersed with decidedly unhealthy omnivorousness, and has bravely led me to the vegan path.  Yes, eating healthfully without taking unfair advantage of animals is possible.  No, it is not necessarily easy. Yes it is worthwhile, for the sake of the animals, for my own health, and for the health of the earth.
(Note: You start out teaching your children, but eventually they become your teachers.)

There's my Ten Thankfuls.

Having now opened up the Vegan Kettle of Fish I will proceed to think aloud.
    Yes, I'm honestly scared of what affect my becoming permanently vegan will have on my relationship with The Manimal, who has recently been making plans for taking on more farm animals.
     We currently have around 16 chickens. Seven good laying hens, their noisy but charming companion rooster, a couple of bantam hens who probably lay eggs somewhere in the forest, and five noisy and not charming bantam roosters.
    We also have two un-petable rabbits living in the loft, which I can only describe as having been a Bad Shoppin Impulse.

  The Manimal wants more. A working farmstead is his dream.
  He wants us to get milk goats.  If we have milk goats they will have to have a baby each year to stay "in milk", but that is ok (to him and to conventional farm wisdom) because he also wants baby goats to eat (in curry).
   He wants us to get more rabbits so we can breed them and eat the offspring.
   He wants us to get some sheep for wool, but he also wants to breed them so we'll have lambs to eat.
   He wants to get a couple of pigs "to fatten". Piglets are soooo cute, and that sounds like a fun project, BUT you know the purpose if "fattening" pigs is not just so that they'll be cute and fat. It is so that they'll become ham, bacon, tenderloins, sausage.
   He'd also like us at some point to get a small cow so we could make lots of cheese and butter. Like goats, a cow has to have a calf every year in order to make milk. Why? Because the milk is not  supposed to be for humans, it is for Her Baby! The common practice is to keep female calves as future "milkers" and kill the male calves for veal, or raise them till their big and then kill them for beef.
   He wants some ducks and geese, also not just to look at. Sigh.

   I was brought up in a meat-eating  finish-your-milk-before-you-leave-the-table sort of mid-century family. I love cow's milk even though I'm allergic to it. I love to eat steak, roast beef, hamburgers, beef stew. I love pork chops, crispy bacon, ham sandwiches.

  I also love animals.

 I've had a few years of homesteading experience before moving to this valley. Long enough ago that it feels like a different lifetime, but still.  I know I'm capable of killing animals, I've done it before, years ago when we raised rabbits. I understand that everyone on this planet eats someone, one way or another....I get the whole food chain idea.
   I get it. But I don't like it. I think it needs rethinking.  I think the fact that humans CAN eat animals doesn't mean that we HAVE TO. I think I can find a way to eat well enough without eating animal flesh or animal products. I have other options.
   I learned on that long ago little homestead that I liked raising rabbits and that I could (with my seven-year-old son's help) kill them, butcher them and cook them. I also learned that to me rabbit doesn't taste good enough to be worth all that effort. What started out as an attempt to have uncontaminated meat for our growing family became an eye-opener for me in the amount of effort and resources involved in raising animal food.
  Now, a lifetime later I'm figuring out that I don't want to raise and eat any animals at all. I'm not saying other people shouldn't choose for themselves, I'm saying raising and eating animals is not what I choose.

 Pigs are known to be as intelligent as dogs for God's sake. How could I possibly kill an intelligent creature and eat it? Chickens are fairly stupid compared to mammals, but I find I don't want to eat them either, much less kill them myself and eat them.

   The Manimals's plan is to have someone else do the killing. Me, since he knows I can do it.
 His spiritual leader is dead set against them killing anything (pun unavoidable), but curiously is not against eating meat as long as someone else did the killing. This seems the height of hypocrisy to me.
 Our original plan, when we got the laying hens years ago, was that if any of the day-old chicks turned out to be roosters we'd keep one (because The Manimal likes the crowing) and eat the others. I would kill them (because I lack his 'religious' conviction) and he would clean and butcher them and cook them because he's the chef around here.
    His choices are his alone....I am going to play the girl card here. It is a woman's perogative to change her mind. I am hereby officially changing my mind about killing "spare" roosters or anything else.

  For me it has come down to this:

    I will not kill any sentient creature for any reason other than to save my own life.
    My life is not being threatened with violence by any chicken, cow, pig, sheep, goat, lamb, or fish.
    I will not hire anyone else to kill for me.
    I withdraw my support from the meat and dairy industry which is for the most part quite hideous and is at its very best still quite unfair to our fellow creatures. As a mother if someone wanted to kill my babies and steal my breast milk I would have objected.  Cows do not "give" us milk, we take it from them. Chickens do not "give" us their legs and breasts, pigs do not "give" us their bacon. I no longer feel right about supporting and taking part in this huge system of raising enormous amounts of animals to use and to kill.
 I opt out.

      Fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts are plenty to healthfully support my body.
      I do not need more than that.
      I will not take more than that.

      I will learn to be healthy eating plant foods only.
      Starting now.
      Excuse me while I go serve that last little bit of eggnog to the cats.


    Rapunzel the Vegan