Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fleas Be Gone! or Taking a Little Fleacation.

  Whilst Smallest Child and her Handsome Husband are taking a little Hurrication in New Orleans as "Isaac" does what he must do, I am similarly occupied here in the valley.

Today I am flea bombing in the house.

 Every summer there is a 'flea season' in the country. They breed like crazy, can live for 2 years without food, and there is no way to completely kill them all off without killing ourselves as well. (probably not even then...)
   So...there are flea baths for the furry beasts, flea medicine, and occasionally when those don't work well enough there's "the real poison", the flea bomb automatic spraying thingy, which you set off in the house and leave. As we've had a hideously hot summer and fleas thrive in heat we've had to resort to the bomb. Which is why I am now justified in hanging out on the porch on this pretty day, with my blog and my sewing and my coloring book and haven't a single guilty thought about all the work I "should be doing" in the house.

     Aside from the pleasure of being liberated from 'shoulds', the Manimal is teaching his twice weekly bookbinding class tonight, so I am free to do as I please till he comes home around 10pm. A nice big swath of time for me to fill with happiness, thats what.

   Especially For Ember:
 Here's me early this morning in my favorite outfit.  Manimal took the picture for me. He thought it a rather strange early morning request, as I actually have never liked having my picture taken.
    It is quite a roomy dress, which I did not make, and the apron over it which I re-made. I got the dress and apron at different times at the thrift store, or actually I got a burgundy square necked dress and a somewhat larger blue round scoop necked dress at the thrift store. Both are of sturdy all cotton calico, both flower prints, both home sewn not factory made, which appealed to me. (You seldom see homemade clothes at the thrift stores here.)
   I added pockets to the burgundy dress, which you can't see because of the apron. Then later I cut the sleeves off the blue dress and cut out the back except a bit of a bridge at the top, and sewed it up neatly to make it into an apron very nearly like my favorite style. 




Notice the enchanting morning-sun squint. Also bare feet, my preference as often as possible.


Here's what I did to the dress back, just cut out a big ironing board shaped piece all the way down to the hem, then turned the raw edges under twice and stitched it neatly by hand. (too lazy to get out the sewing machine, fill a bobbin and thread the machine,)




Here's one of the two pockets, made of  1950's scissors fabric from Grandma Pat's stash and a bit of blue flower print from a long ago quilt project. The scissors fabric was a wonky shaped bit left from cutting out a blouse or something, so I had to piece it together to make pockets. Which just makes it all the more fun.








       While we're on the subject of fashion or the lack of it, here's a pic of Molly My Love.
  She is my fashion icon.  I do not own her, and I have no idea who she belongs to or where she came from, or who made her, I was watching her on Ebay and she got boughten while I wasn't looking. She's a happy sort, does things her own way, keeps her chin up. When I grow up I want to be just like her. But taller.  She's on my computer screen because  saved her as wallpaper.

I adore handmade rag dolls, possibly because they look more or less like the real people in my life. Teehee.

Oh-here's a true story sort of about that. And sort of not.

 Yesterday I cleaned shower drains in the dormitory. during lunch hour we had gotten a call that the furthest west shower drain on Foster-Martin building's 3rd floor was running slugishly. Martin is my building, and I was taking care of floors 2 and 3 for the day.
The dimwitted children I work with  male custodians had themselves a hearty laugh about this, and one "kindly" offered to "teach" me "how to fish", guffaw, guffaw. To which I replied "I've been a single mother since 1993, it takes a lot more that a wad of soapy hair to scare me."  And I trotted off to snake out the drain in question.

Now Martin building hasn't had it's very own custodian for  more than a year, and has had to make do with a series of temporary hourly employees who really aren't trained yet. This is because the custodians who were in charge of this building fell sick (one in  mind, one in body) and because they have neither one actually QUIT their jobs, and because the company can't fire anyone when they're out sick (even for a year) their jobs cannot be taken by someone else. Job security issue.  I imagine the drains have not been cleaned over there for more than a year as I gather from the grapevine neither of these workers were the type to do more than the minimum anyway.

I got to floor 3 and found in the custodial closet the long thick wire that our maintenance man had bent into a hook at the end. I took out the shower drain cover and sat down on the damp shower floor as there was no other way to see or reach into the drain. After I had poked around in the drain a while I dragged up enough soapy stinky old hair to build a fair sized but smelly and unattractive kitten. 
My grasp of logic is good enough that I supposed the other drains would be in similar condition, and I was right.

 I am newly assigned to Martin.  The other hourly custodians are, shall we say less inclined to hard work than I am.  Two of the three are large enough I seriously doubt them capable of fitting into the shower stall in the position necessary to clear out the drains. This being the case, and since I like to deal with life As It IS, not as it 'ought' to be, I went ahead and gave my afternoon to clearing all the shower drains in the building. Twenty of them. The final two were in good condition, I imagine because they were in the basement where the suction power is stronger than on the higher floors. I think the basement showers drain more quickly, so hair doesn't have a chance to hang up and make a clog.

--------->  Here comes the loosely related to personal appearance part of the story  <----------

Picture me in a loose blue polyester smock, pockets bulging with toold, blue jeans just beginning to fade with a splotch ofnpaint below one knee. (from painting pedestals at the art gallery)
 Short hair, no makeup, pink in face and sweaty. Figure like a comfy granny. Sitting flat on my derriere on the wet floor of an unflatteringly beige tile shower stall, legs wide spread, right  foot sticking out of the shower displaying my worn-out black tennis shoe.
I'm studiously poking around with a long hooked wire, dragging up fistfuls of stenchy old rotting soapy black and red hair and plopping the wads of hair on a paper towel by my left foot.

In walks a Greek god.
Ok, a college student, but not the pimply dork kind. This one was tall,(at least from my seated position) tan, well muscled, with a stop-and-stare handsome face. Wearing naught but a periwinkle blue towel casually slung around his six-packish mid-section.

"Hi," he says in a warm strong but silky voice. "Wow! Thanks for doing this. Will it bother you if I'm in here, or should I come back later?" (oooooh, a gentleman!)

"No, go ahead," I say, "The one on the end is draining good now."

"I really appreciate you doing this," he says, and  goes off to launder his marvelous figure.

Dang!

Never seen something so purty up close in my life, and there I am not a poshy well primped 18 year old, but a comfy little granny parked on her wet backside hauling big smelly gack clogs out of a drain.

Like I tell my kids, Life is all in the timing.

(thus ends the exciting part of the story)

As I was making my way down from 2nd floor to 1st I ran into the chap who had offered to teach me to fish. He asked what I was doing, and I told him I was clearing the drains. Both floors? He seemed astonished at that, and I replied No, all 4 floors, explaining I'd rather take care of them now, while I had free time, than wait until I was busy and have to do them as emergency calls.  He told me I didn't 'have to' do them, and I said I wanted to (quite true). He went away shaking his head.

Apparently he not only was surprised, he told the boss and the rest of the staff.  When it was quitting time I went to the office to clock out and as I came round the corner my co-workers and boss stood up and CHEERED waving their arms in the air and fist-pumping happily! Which was really funny, and very sweet of them. They're a good hearted bunch of people.

Funny thing is I didn't expect any praise, I just thought it seemed logical to do what needed doing when I had free time to do it. Plus, clearing really yucky drains is kind of fun.  It's the sort of job where you can see that you've accomplished something. I like that kind of project.




Here's how the porch looks at bedtime. You will have to imagine the songs of crickets and bullfrogs.

And how I look at bedtime.
 And how I look in better light at bedtime I think I'm beginning to look like Hugh Grant. Probably it's the floppy hair and pointy nose. (the current Hugh Grant, not the twenty-something one).

And here's the dogs ready for bed, or parts of the dogs, I couldn't fit them all in the picture. And my feet being happy to not have shoes on (although I love buying shoes I love taking them off, too.)



Here is where I sit writing this today, although obviously I'm not sitting here as I took the picture. Nice breeze, not to hot. A good day for occupying the porch.


Meanwhile on the clohtesline a nice striped cotton is drying. This will be the binding of a quilt that will live with  Smallest Child. I'm going to cut in on the bias, so the stripes will be diagonal around the edges of the quilt.


The hollyhocks we brought from the house in town are huge this year, topping twelve feet high. I suspect this is because we planted them where Manimal has been chucking the coffee grounds for many a year. 

The flowers are the size of my palm and are a deep somewhat purplish red.
They're just beginning to go to seed, and I'm saving the seeds if anyone would like some to try in their own garden.


And there you have it folks, all the news that's fit to print, And More!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Work on Monday, Wash on Tuesday, Iron on Never.

        School started Monday here in Indiana, and for those of us who are humble blue collar dormitory custodians that means the summer work schedule ended and the winter work schedule has begun. I'm an hourly employee in my first year with the university (as a staff member, I was a student for eight years). This means from now until May 2nd I'll be working the weekend shift, 7:30am to 4:00pm Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
   The rest of the week is Mine, All Mine!!!

    Tuesday was warm and sunny with a nice breeze. I celebrated my four-days-a-week freedom in a homesteadly manner by scrubbing down Maybelle,  my beloved vintage Maytag wringer washer and doing laundry The Fun Way.  She has been sitting idle since the beginning of last winter, poor girl. The whole summer I've been working a 40 hour week and not had the time or energy to clean up the porch and get her going.  Yesterday, however, she got a good scrub, as did the double utility sink that serves as my rinse tubs.  I got a new, much longer garden  hose awhile back, so I don't even have to carry water to fill the washer and tubs anymore. Yay!






     Maybelle lives on the porch because the laundry room is already occupied with The Manimal's washer and dryer.  He got here first.  That's ok, there's not enough room in there for a wringer washer and rinse tubs anyway, and if Maybelle were inside I'd miss the whole working in the fresh air and sunshine part of laundry day which is so fun.

In winter, when water in Maybelle's insides might freeze and burst something I use the automatic washer in the house, but even then I don't use the dryer. I prefer hanging things to dry. I have clotheslines in the loft which is very warm in winter.(it's very warm is summer too, come to think of it.)  I've also got three wooden folding drying racks that I can set up by the wood stove downstairs. Clothes drying adds moisture to the air, which is especially nice in winter when the house is heated and closed up.

   Here's a pictorial tour of my fun, fun first day off of work.


The double utility sink is from Manimal's oldest son's old place. It was sitting unused in a store room. Both sink drains are linked together with a y shaped pipe, so you can pull one plug and drain either side or pull both plugs and drain both sides at once. I haven't got the sinks piped to the septic tank, I use nontoxic soap (homemade) to wash with and drain my gray water into a bucket for use on the gardens,or sometimes I use it to scrub the front porch and back deck.
Here's a long view of my "laundry room".You can see the hose, which comes from the faucet around the far side of the house.  The blue mover's blanket hanging on the left is to block the sun, we've had an excessively HOT summer here in the midwest.
 The little old cupboard was abandoned in the shack up on the other side of the creek and I've adopted it. You can also see the chairs I made new seats for by weaving strips of the heavy plastic sacks our animal feed comes in. They're pretty sturdy, and when eventually they wear out I can always weave new ones. I found the chair frames with torn seats on the curb at hippie Christmas a few years ago.
       (Hippie Christmas is the end of the spring semester. All the university students pack their cars and go home, leaving piles of furniture and other useful things on the curb, allegedly for the trash man, but most things are "adopted" before the sun goes down.)
The utility sink makes a great set of washtubs, and the price (free for the hauling) was perfect for my budget. It had the kind of drains that take a rubber plug. I had two, but one has gotten mysteriously lost.

So I cut the turned edge off a lid from a plastic cottage cheese container. When I put water in the tub suction holds the lid in place, making a leak-proof plug.  After I'd done the washing and was draining the tubs I found the ring on the rubber plug for the other sink hurts my finger as I try to pull it out, so I've decided the homemade plug is better and have made one for the other sink from a pudding lid.




On the way to the clothesline you would do well to stop and have a few cherry tomatoes, sweet and warm from the sun. Yum.

This skimmer is meant for cooking, to get foam off the top of beans or jelly as they boil. It's also a good laundry tool for removing dog hair from the top of the water so that it doesn't just go right back onto the clothes. It's also great for catching bugs that have the misfortune to fly into the washer or rinse tub. Bugs sometimes do not realize what they're getting into. (Like us all.)

A drain plunger with holes in it makes a good agitator for doing small loads of wash in a bucket. There are fancy versions of this available online and from catalogs, but the homemade version works pretty well.




Years ago when the Manimal was courting me he would bring me out here for the weekends. As we worked in town all week  at least part of the weekend was catch-up on household tasks time. I began doing the laundry because I didn't like the way he did it. He did it the"normal" way, of course. Automatic washer and dryer, toss clothes in, take them out,shove them in the closet.

          First I brought some clothesline rope out here, and a package of clothespins.  I strung the line up between a triangle of stout trees, and gave the electric dryer an extended vacation.  The Manimal found he liked  his shirts line dried, fresh smelling and crisp.  Next I found a canvas bank bag and stitched him up his very own clothespin bag, probably the manliest clothespin bag anywhere.  The JRC is his initials.
       If I'd known I would be coming out here to live and would become the permanent  primary laundry-doer I might not have made this thing, haha. My thought was that he could now properly hang clothes in my absence.    HA! Manimal, bless him, lacks the clothes-hanging gene. He will only hang clothes on the line if the dryer is on the fritz or the electricty is out.  If forced to line dry clothes he hauls the sodden clothes out of the washer and flings them higgledy-piggledy onto the clothesline. They don't "need" clothespins as the weight of the water holds them down. They take forever to dry this way, and when they are finally dry they are all dried solid in pleats, crimps and clumps. Which DOESN"T BOTHER HIM!!!
So I do it myself (said the little red hen) so he doesn't look like a bum.
Manimal's shirts on the line. I hang them by the collar band, with three clothespins, and they dry smooth enough to not need ironing. I think the valley breeze must work as a wrinkle preventative.  At any rate I DO NOT IRON.  I figured out doing the Plain Dress Project that I could spend 5-15 minutes of my time ironing each dress or blouse and within 10 minutes of putting it on it would look about like it had before I even ironed it. So being the wise woman I am I just stopped ironing.  I now consider the iron to be a tool for pressing seams when making clothes, not for maintaining the daily appearance of clothes. Anything that looks too awful un-ironed does not stay in my wardrobe.

Notice the travel trailer in need of refurbishing, the rumpled blue tarp over the hen's straw bales and the henhouse just behind the laundry?
     One end of the clothesline is tied to a basketball hoop post. The other end is tied to a schoolbus. I see no reason to pretend to the world that I live anywhere other than a supremely rural ramshackle valley. Manimal's best friend Cowboy calls this place "Little Arkansas", and I think he does not mean it as a compliment.

Here are my four extremely boring polyester blend work smocks. I know I'm fond of plain dress, but this is an entirely different level of plain.   Worn with the mandatory blue jeans this "uniform"  serves to make the custodial staff  recognizable when needed. We're all blue, you can see us from 50 yards away.
 At the same time it serves to make us easy to ignore. Many of the students walk past us as if we didn't exist, the uniform is a sort of cloak of invisibility.  I will spare you my rant concerning class distinctions (and the denial of them) in America Land of the Free.  Also my rant concerning foreign students and how they view/treat servants (which is what they see us as).
    Not that all or even most foreign people are unanimously bad to servants.   It's just that the only way an 18 year old student gets here from the other side of the world is by coming from a wealthy family, and the behavioral programming of persons who are brought up to be served  is as different as night and day from the behavioral programming of persons brought up to work for a living.  Between the students and the staff this job is quite an education in human nature. Honestly, I often feel like I don't "belong" in this job, like I'm working undercover or part of the witness protection program or something. But I enjoy the job, it's great fun to tidy things up, and I find my co-workers fascinating.  Not movie-star-fascinating, more as a study of personality types and psychological quirks.  In private conversation with me once our boss referred to our workplace as The Land of The Misfit Toys, and it is a very accurate appelation. Not that I'd tell the other toys what he said.


To the left, our schoolbus. Someday to become a home on wheels.


Cloth napkins. I hang them neatly folded in half over the line, and they dry  not needing ironing. I just fold them two more folds and stack them in a basket.



Now, since I think I"ve figured out how to download them, lets go to the  movies!

WASHING MACHINE AGITATING- unlike the automatic machine Maybelle has not got a tall center post, so straps and sleeves and long lengths of cloth have nothing to get twisted and tangled around.


video


WASHER SOAKING- you can pull the lovely aqua knob on the side of the machine to stop the agitator, and soak things for as long as you like.
video


HERE'S HOW WE SQUEEZE THE WATER OUT WITH THE WRINGER.  When Middle Child was eleven or so we had ,my grandmother's  (Mom Rodgers') wringer washer. Poor Middle Child was doing laundry and got her fingers caught and her hand went through the wringer. Our visiting neighbor girl ran screaming from the house, and continued screaming all the way home.  We popped the wringer open (there's a safety release) and put ice on Middle Child's hand.  She is clearly not the hysterical type.

The trickiest part of a wringer washer is getting the clothing started through the wringer without catching your fingers. My other grandmother (Mamaw Williams) taught me to chain the clothes through by laying the edge of the next item onto the one almost through the wringer, nose to tail. Much safer for the fingers, and fun to do as it's a sort of challenge to keep up to the speed of the wringer. (note: the wash water is not orangey yellow in person)


BUCKET AND PEFORATED PLUNGER - this is useful for small loads, and takes no electricity which is excellent. It's of course more work intensive than the wringer washer, but somewhat less so than using a washboard.



Sharing the cherry tomatoes with the hens.



Lastly, just for fun, a nice wedge of watermelon for Pollock and Schmutzy.

video




Hope your laundry day is sunny and fun!




















Friday, August 17, 2012

Whilst the Owl is away the Pussycat shall play

        The Mighty Manimal is away for a week, and  we have been busy,busy, busy here in the forest valley. By busy I mean sorting through the loft and packing up boxes and boxes to be taken to Goodwill. By 'we' I mean me. The dogs and cat have been laying about as usual. Supervising, they call it, but they're supervising from the front porch while I slog away upstairs, so they're not supervising too closely are they?
     I worked on packing things on my last days off, and a bit after work during the week.  I also brought more boxes home from work to further the project, which looks like it will be ongoing for awhile.
Doesn't the truck look pretty half loaded with useful things that  are of no use to me personally?
      Today is my day off again.  This is the last week before school starts, and I will be switched from my summer job of 40 hours a week to my "real" job, which is weekend shift plus one day which equals only 24 hours a week  It will be less money, but also less gas to get to work and more time at home which I intend to invest in continuing to declutter my part of the home.
     Be The Change you want to see in the world, right?    
     I spent this splendid Friday morning hauling boxes out and loading the truck, and when it was full I drove it to the Goodwill in Martinsville.  Although I seldom listen to the radio as I drive (I prefer the noise in my head) I switched it on as I started up the road and the song playing was Dust In The Wind, which seemed quite suited to the occasion.

We live halfway between two towns, so halfway between two Goodwills, but gasoline in M'ville is several cents a gallon cheaper than elsewhere, so I went there and filled up the tank and got groceries all in one trip. The difference in price on a full tank of gas more than pays for the drive there and back.

    The Goodwill unloading guys complimented me on how I had everything boxed up neatly, and in categories even! Well of course I did.  I'm a tidy person, it was organized in the closets and drawers and cupboards...I just transferred it to boxes. 
     After Goodwill I stopped by Traderbakers, my favorite flea market, to wander around happily, marveling at the enormous amount of useless junk there is in  the world. Naturally I didn't buy anything. I felt positively giddy with virtue (ok, imagined virtue).
     Then I got groceries and came home to my happy doggies (It was not just trooooo love, I also brought them biscuits). There was a message from Manimal, saying he's going to a Parisian Flea Market tomorrow morning. He's eager to see what french junque is like. Haha. I messaged him back requesting that he Please NOT buy me anything! I do not recall that I mentioned what I'm doing with my free time this week....
      After lunch and a nice phone chat with Smallest Child, who called from New Orleans, I realized I still had several hours left before Goodwill closes, so I scampered up the stairs, slung a great many more things into boxes, and hauled them down to the truck. In the process of hauling, and casting my eye about (there's a pretty image) for other things that could be hauled away, I realized that with eleven boxes fewer books in my life I don't need two bookcases, so as I adore the big one (and the men who gave it to us when I was a teenager) I hauled the skinnier white painted one to the truck. (Quickly before I could think of anything else to put where the books had been!) I figured out I don't need a sewing machine cabinet with no sewing machine in it, or that cleverly designed wheeled wicker file folder organizer now that I have a big desk with file drawers. Or some baskets that were storing junk in a posh looking way, now that I've got rid of the junk. Or three drawers full of  video tapes, or a box full of music cassettes from my dear departed mama. Or my huge wheeled book bag now that I'm a college drop-out. I haul hay, straw, manure and vegetables these days, and use a wheelbarrow.
       The second trip to Goodwill was even more fun than the first. I truly love decluttering. As I drove I made up a song for the occasion all about how happy I am to put useful things back into the world, and how I don't want to have to take care of anything I don't care about, and how I like having space for the good things to breathe, and a bit about the joy of saying Goodby to things that were once a good buy.  It was a verrrrry happy and spritely little song. It may or may not have had the words 'useless crap' in it somewhere, I can't quite remember.  As songs go I'd say it was right up there with Ballerina Corner and The Cricket In The Lamp, and was quite a bit better than Little Elvis.
       Then I came home. Happy. I went up to the loft (which it is too dark now to photograph) and gazed benevolently at the empty spaces where boxes and overloaded shelves used to be. I came downstairs and studied the big homemade calendar that covers half the fridge door and realized that The Manimal will be home in two days, which gives me two evenings  after work to tidy up and do laundry so he doesn't come home to something resembling a bomb site.
    I also realized he will be going away on business again in a month. That gives me four weeks to collect some more boxes, sort some more corners of the loft, and discover all the other things I can happily live without. I'm hoping to get to tghe back of the second closet on the next go-round. I got one side of it done today, but there's a lot more in there, most of it mysterious and as I haven't needed it in 4 years I imagine it can mostly GO.

      I promised Ember to get pics of me in the dresses that made it through the closet sorting.  I've no one here to take a picture, will persuade The Manimal be photographer when he returns. Meantime here's a very bad picture of me in his bathroom mirror this morning (before I hauled boxes and got the whole front of my dress filthy ,which is what I get for deciding it was too hot to wear an apron.)



On the one hand it is true I didn't hold the camera very still, but even if I had, I AM kind of fuzzy looking. This is my "I don't need to see anything" look. There's also a variation that involves wire rimmed glasses.  Modern peasant, that's what. I tend to be at the outer extreme of low maintenance. The Manimal likes this just fine, which is fortunate as it's unlikely to change. I don't fancy becoming fancy to please anyone.

    Between sickeningly hot weather and a ghastly flea infestation that required smelly sprays the dogs, cat and I have more or less taken up residence on the front porch the past ten days or so. Not something we could do in town where people are expected to sleep in bedrooms and eat in kitchens or diningrooms and bathe in a bathroom.
      It's been quite fun, really. The necessity to sleep out there honestly lasted just two nights, the rest of it has been simply because we're enjoying it. Especially during thunderstorms.

Here's Daniel lounging on the summer bed (aka the futon mattress from the livingroom)

Also of note, and also related to the flea infestation, Daniel has gotten all his dreadlocks cut off. He hates haircuts, which is why he had dreadlocks.  He WILL BITE if you wave scissors about in his vicinity. His only GOOD haircut in 12 years was the summer Smallest Child and her Sweetheart (now her handsome husband) visited and gave him a playful and cuddly (and sneaky) haircut on a blanket on the front lawn.  It took an hour, but was amazingly peaceful.  They have serious skilz.
        Not having an extra pair of hands or any charming helpers I muzzled the poor lad with a  thick strip of plastic shopping bag (soft and drool proof) Then I sat on the bed with him, holding him down gently with one leg across his body. Then I chatted to him and sang songs to him.  He started out not liking it, squirmed like crazy and vocalized his complaints (echoing through the forest valley). Eventually he got tired of wrestling with me and fell asleep, and I had to wake him to turn him over and do the other side. Fairly peaceful. His second best haircut behavior-wise. AS far as appearances go, his haircuts are always ghastly looking. He's half Miniature Schnauzer and half Toy Poodle, bad hair is just part of the whole package deal.

    
   
   













    

Here's Sir Daniel sleeping peacefully the morning before the scissoring. Longest dreads he's ever had.  Without them of course, he looks like a small grayish rat.  Still, he's my bestest pal ever.



No longer dread-ful.


That's about it for news at the moment. For those in the family who are sentimental, bid a fond adeiu to this. I once spent a couple of weeks working on this paint job because the idea of a plain old brown magazine rack was just appalling to me.  Turns out we are not the kind of family to keep our magazines in a rack anyway, and those spindles are foul dust catchers.

More When it happens!

XOXO !


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lofty Thoughts or What I Did This Summer (and am still doing) A jumbledy bit of writing but I'm too yawny to properly sort it, so I wish y'all luck making sense of it.

Years ago when I moved in with The Manimal I sorted through my little rented house like a mad woman and got rid of nearly everything I own. Hahahahaha!    
   Ok, I got rid of a whole lot of stuff. Sofas, chairs, tables, boxes and boxes of books, half of my  clothing, more than half of my dishes, pots and pans and so on. I gave things away to family and friends, then I donated the rest of it all to Goodwill and moved down to this valley with a happy heart and a great deal of optimism.
        Optimism, of course, is a far cry from Clear Thinking.
.    The Manimal built this house, and raised his 3 sons here long before I came to this part of the country.He has a long history here, a history full of adventures and collecting.
   Because I did not want to take up too much space or be a burden I thought the best thing would be to move my belongings into the loft of the house. My reasoning is that the loft was not 'really' being used.  It just held things in boxes and random bits of furniture belonging to the 3 grown sons who were all off living on their own. Junk actually....at least close enough to junk that none of the boys wanted it in their own homes.   After a couple of years the boys moved their stuff out (or threw it away or whatever) which you would think would give me more space, but I got another sewing machine, and set up my quilting frame to finish a quilt, and my brother gave me a spinning wheel.....so it stayed crowded up here.
This is what happens when you move 5 rooms of stuff into one room.
    The loft had been 2 bedrooms not-very-large-bedrooms before the addition was built, with one bedroom having a half wall, open to the great room below.  A year or two before I met The Manimal he had taken out (chopped out might be a more accurate term) the wall between the bedrooms, turning this into a large open room. Brilliant idea, much more useful than two little pokey rooms.   STill, once all my giving away was done I still ended up essentially  moving 5 rooms of belongings into one room.


I managed to get all my vast wardrobe into the closets, but it certainly took some doing.
 WARDROBE CONCERNS
  My dilemma with wardrobe issues is this-I really like clothes and have far too many of them.  Like most people I had by this time accumulated different kinds of clothes. Everyday clothes such as jeans, sweaters, t-shirts; dressy clothes for special occasions with matching uncomfy footwear and little bags that won't hold anything; Sunday Best dresses and suits; painting clothes (with my history of painting all over them); school clothes (I was in college for a decade. Oy.); play clothes; shorts and tank tops for hot weather; thermal underwear for cold weather;rather nice and properly stylish office type clothes (for business occasions and interviews);. Costumes for dress-up (we're that kind of family), and lastly I had a set of handmade clothes from The Plain Dress Project.
Here is one overstuffed closet. Behind the crammed together clothes are 10 plastic snap-lid storage boxes (6 large, 4 small).Necessary because mice love dresser drawers, and chew into cardboard boxes.

As a Textiles Major at university I'd become interested in the functionality of clothing on several levels. Why do people dress as they do? How do we judge/evaluate one another by our clothing? Where does clothing comed from? Who makes it and how, and in what conditions?    These and a dozen other clothing related questions filled my head.
Someow when I started working 40 hours a week I stopped tidying and putting things away.   Beneath the clutter-an ironing board, a desk, two sewing machines, two dressers, a sewing project. a bookmaking project, and afghan squares waiting to be stitched together. Oh yeah, and a spinning wheel I need to find a part for.
As my Thesis work for my degree in Textile design I chose to do an exploration of very fundamental clothing.  As it happens, in the middle of the year I ended up dropping out of college to go live in the forest and take up a Back-to-the-Land lifestyle with my darling  long-haired bookbinding teacher, so I've not actually completed the Plain Dress Project.
     But I haven 't given it up either. 
The idea of the project was that I would design a simple functional outfit, make multiples of it, and live a year wearing these plain-ish dresses exclusively. I would carefully document what this did to A-the cloth, B-my head, and possibly C-my relationships. I chose simple homespun cotton, which to my delight turned out to not need ironing after the first few washings. I chose to make dresses because I was double majoring in religious studies and spent a lot of time in places where a woman appearing in pants would have been disrespectful. (I couldn't think of anywhere wearing a dress would offend anyone). I designed the dresses to have large pockets so I could forgo carrying a purse, and I calculated the size of the bodice and neckline so the dresses would slip easily over my head simply because I hate putting in zippers. Because I would be wearing aprons much of the time (very practical) I chose checked and print fabrics rather than plain colors to avoid being taken for a member of our nearby Amish communities.
    Not that I'd be offended to be thought Amish, but that I would be going places Amish women do not go, and I didn't want to cause any confusion or undue curiosity about them.

    I did actually learn quite a lot from The Plain Dress Project, about the properties of different fibers, about commercial clothing construction, design and marketing. I learned a bit about how clothing functions as an identifier for groups. I learned about clothing styles in different countries, and about how various cultures view concepts such as modesty, propriety, stylishness, vanity and humility.
    I learned things about myself too. I learned I honestly prefer simple handmade dresses to any other type of clothes (and believe me I've tried them all).
    I learned by buying and wearing some that actual Amish/Mennonite style dresses are Not for me. They're too structured for my taste, too complicated to construct, and are these days generally made of polyester which must be a godsend to a mother with 8 or 10 kids to clothe as it's so easy-care, but I just really hate wearing polyester. (My poly work shirts are bad enough, I'd hate to wear the stuff from neck to knees!)
     I learned that I dislke having anyone else tell me what to wear and what  not to wear. Muleheaded, what?
     I learned that I'm happy making clothing. For my family. I can't imagine wanting to take up doing it for the general public. I prefer to just be my very own sweat-shop.

    I learned that with a dozen or so types of clothes to choose from each day I kept reaching again and again for the same few dresses, the ones I made in the summer of 2007. Consequently when it came to decluttering, that is what I opted to keep.  The plain dresses for my personal wear, and the work uniform for when I'm "on the clock".

  As I'm in my current job most likely until I retire I won't be needing office clothes EVER AGAIN for office wear or for job interviews. No more Dress For Success, from here on people can just take me as they find me. What a Huge Relief! (for me anyway, I don't know how 'people' feel about it.)



     With only the plain dresses I of course could easily part with all the pairs of shoes of various styles and heel heights that don't go with plain dresses. All the stockings and undies of a style to not work with plain dresses.  All the coats and jackets and sweaters that don't work with the dresses.
    Box after box filled up and my smile got bigger and bigger.
    My closets have plenty of breathing space between hangers now.  I still have enough of an assortment to play around with a little (blue dress with aqua apron? purple dress with pink flowered apron? brown striped dress with brown flowered underskirt?)  This pleases my artistic inner child without taxing my frustration level. I like having more wiggle room between things.










Second closet.  Behind these clothes are boxes of stuff that 'came with the house' which I therefore cannot get rid of. Not my stuff, not my perogative to jettison it. I compromise and hide it from myself for now.
 So here are my two closets jam packed with many many kinds of clothes. Too many.
   As I am now employed in town as a humble custodian I wear to work the required uniform of a pair of jeans (I own 3 pair) and a pocketed polyester smock (the company supplies us with 4). I wear these clothes in rotation day after day. Actually although I own 3 pair of jeans I don't like wearing jeans, so I've been wearing the 1 most comfortable pair day after day (washing as needed) and haven't gotten around to taking the other 2 pair off the shelf in 12 weeks now.
My work is as custodian in a "quad" of university dormitories. This past week we had some early students move in. It is a program for inner city kids, they come to campus 3 weeks early to get a head start on living away from home and having a drastically different lifestyle.

As I'd been threatening to seriously declutter the loft, hauling empty packing boxes down from the upper stories of the dorms put me in mind to let these boxes serve humanity one more time before being recycled.

   I got my co-workers to help me accumulate a few decent sized boxes, bit enough to hold a good deal, small enough for me to carry when full.  When The Manimal picked me up from work I hurled them in the back of the pickup truck and I spent my two days off this week sorting out a large bookcase and one and a half closets. I am not yet decided what to do about some of the not-mine things in the back of the second closet. I may address that issue on my next days off.
Here's the first closet again. My work clothes (ho-hum) hang on the door here, but I later moved them to the second closet when I'd emptied out the unworn stuff in there.  Behind these rows of clothes the mouse-proof storage containers are all sorted out. Lots of clothes, shoes, blankets, sheets, and craft things packed up and ready for the charity shop and the "free" shelves at our local recycling center.

As I have a zillion (estimate) too many books I;ve decided to only keep the ones I really read/want as reference books, and my favorite of the children's books for reading with grandchildren.  The rest of them can go to the library book sale where they can make someone else happy. I've had my turn.
Here I've taken the books from a large bookcase (to  move it, it weighs a ton)




Here the books are all in boxes, as is 85%  of my previous wardrobe.
The secret of the success of this decluttering project is that The Manimal will be traveling soon. Due to his collecting nature it is tricky to get an unwanted object of any description out of the house without him pointing out that
A-we may need it someday
B- we have another one alike and we shouldn't break up the pair
C-they don't make them like that anymore
D-we could use it for parts if something breaks
E-we might know someone who needs one and if we keep it then we'd have it to give to the future imaginary person

and while I understand the logic (ha!) of all these points, my answer in this case is It is MY STUFF and I AM GETTING RID OF IT. PERIOD.

To avoid un pleasant conversations therefore I am secretly plotting to haul these boxes of goodby things to their various destinations while my beloved is in France enjoying the bread and wine and cheese. We each shall thereby have our own favorite pleasures.

Like any large project  the Loft Clearing is looking a whole lot worse before it will look better. That seems to be the nature of life. Fixing often looks like disaster for a brief while.

I'll post you some after photos when it gets to looking better.

In the meantime, look at these:







And lastly here's a picture of eggs because the girls lay such pretty eggs and looking at them mkes me smile.