Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mother Nature

I grew up on a dairy farm in New Hampshire and behind the house was a gnarly evergreen that we could see from the kitchen windows where our table was. Early on I remember the tree was known as the Mother Nature tree. I can't know how the story was created but surely it was one of us kids that asked some question about it which then prompted a story and her name.

Mother Nature was a daily topic on the farm as it affected everything whether it was to dry, too rainy, too windy, too cold. The farm had a few wells we used for the house and barn. I remember summers when my father would be down our wells piching sand up out of the well to try to get more water. The wells were shallow dug and had a ladder in them down the side. At the bottom I could see fine sand when they were dry. I couldn't help my father so I would just kneel at the edge of the well opening and watch him down there sweating and trying to muster moisture for the cows. Today I see that vision from his perspective and only can imagine the discouragement he felt.

I remember Dad trekking through feet of snow with a ladder over his shoulder to get snow off the roof of the four square colonial. And thunderstorms that rushed in so fast and furious there was barely time to get off the tractor and under cover. They were big and scary, shaking the house and rattling the windows. Many springs the banks of the Souhegan River, which our farm bordered for pasture after pasture, overflowed and flooded our fields for a week or more. Our house and barn sat on a knoll and all around us the fields were transformed by the swollen river. That was scary to me as a little kid.

This summer Mother Nature has imposed herself upon us in a very clear way. Rain. It has been raining for 6 weeks, nearly every day. With each passing storm I think, could it rain harder? And it does. Yesterday our temperatures and humidity were poised for a rough storm late day. I was in Keene wrapping up work and then grocery shopping but knew the storm was imminent. The sheep were on pasture but the plan was to get them to the winter barn as we were apt to get 2-5 inches of rainfall on an already soggy ground, plus damaging winds. So I hustled through the grocery store and it just started to sprinkle by the time I got in the truck. I got home to a gentle rain and thought, not too bad. But then I heard a rumble of thunder that shook the house and said...better move the sheep now!

No sooner had I gotten the winter barn ready and driven the flock down but the skies opened, the thunder rolled and the wind blew. Rain! Like a dam had burst wide open. Instinctively the flock went out into the pasture under the big apple tree thinking they needed shelter then they realized the barn was a better option for sure and all roared back in to their great big safe barn. It poured most of the night.

This morning we are one wet, soggy mess. Because of the humidity and the rain and the manure I felt the flock needed to be moved for the day out to pasture despite the sogginess everywhere. I have 4 options for moving them and none were in great shape. The ground is so over-saturated that water is atop the grass in places. I put them in a pasture that is soggy but manageable for today. I gave them a good round of hay fro breakfast and cleaned their barn up for tonight.

It is now a daily challenge here to make it work for them. We will face hoof problems unless we take measures now to ward them off. We'll spend a half day this weekend trimming all the hooves and then dosing their feet with some protective medicine to ward off laminitis. It is just the nature of a wet summer for them. If we do nothing foot scald will occur. And as for winter hay, we now are in trouble. We have 250 bales in the barn and only half way done. No one can make hay in the New England states as we are all in the same boat.

As we face one set of circumstances other regions are too dry. Texas is in real danger now. The Southeast and the Northwest have record heat and no rainfall. There are wretched storms racing across the middle of the country over and over. No one is getting off easy with Mother Nature right now.

What challenges has Mother Nature imposed on you this summer? Has she affected your life at all?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Final push

I thought I could get number of photos out tonight but it is just too darn late and tomorrow is the final push to the finish. We did an incredible amount of work. Fifteen of us focused on handpainting a number of substrates with varying degrees of texture and complexity. I took pictures but then the light was bad or the camera's abilities were lacking OR the operator was just too busy!

I learned a lot this week and know it is my mission to share it with those who are ready to learn. Below is some of my work to the right/below still drying on the racks. And yes that shibori piece to the far right traveled to Seattle with me to be energized!

Tonight I am still immersed in thoughts of where I need to go tomorrow with final indigo tweaking and a bit of glitz still left to apply. It was definitly a week of new learning for me! Here was my free for all skein put together with various small lots of yarns overdyed in indigo...this was comic but rewarding relief today!

I shared the week with great women and reconnected with some wonderful dear friends. Part of the week here from my perspective is the connections we make during an explosive week of intense creative work amidst a beautiful landscape. Here I am with two women I met my first year here in Ballard in 2006. We have continued life's journey together ever since. Although they were not able to join in the week, the three of us joined Wednesday eveing for dinner at Volterra in Ballard. Great women I will love for ever.

And yet another couple of good women I have come to love these past few years. Roberta Lowes who owns Fibers, Etc (sorry no website) in Tacoma, WA and is also an incredible weaver and fiber artist. Nancy owns this shop in Bellingham, WA and too is a weaver, spinnner, knitter and more.

Here we are this week in an nearly impossible to corral photo.. I must say for fifteen dyers, plus Michele, Kathy, Inga, Sophie and the university interns the flow was awesome in and around the studio!

Tonight I was able to share the coastal route home with a dear friend for one of the most amazing vistas. There were still kids on the beach building sandcastles at 9:30PM in the dusky evening while the Olympic Mountains framed the backdrop on a Pacific Northwest sunset. What a dream week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Ballard bus

My city life reality while here is to use the metro bus system to get around. Seattle's system is pretty good and you can get anywhere for $2.00 during peak hours and $1.75 during off peak. So here I was yesterday AM....late for the bus at it arrives way down to the end of my street(count 10 telephone poles to the corner) and around the corner at 9:15 and it was 9:0 9. I could have run but my head said no. If I miss it, I miss it, another comes every 30 minutes.

I got to the intersection and looked left to see where it was and there it was, thwarted by a bus stop.

I looked right and had just a jog to go to the stop. Bus is coming. Move it. You can tell I am moving by the blur to the camera!

I popped to the street just in time. 9:15.

On the bus and off we go. This woman was sitting to the driver's right and at one point he said "hey! don't you be falling asleep now." She was rocking and reeling, nodding off. She talked her way down to the stop I got off on at Market and Ballard. I watched her wait get right on the next bus, wondered what would happpen to her, never to know.

My walk from the stop starts at the top of Ballard Ave and down to the studio. It' a beautiful street and a little oasis in the big city.

I am determined to get going sooner today! and I will get many more pictures from our time in the studio ....I promise! Too much to do, too little time.
More views of Ballard...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Earthues studio ~ day one

Day one of the work at Earthues began with discussions about the importance of fiber preparation when working with natural dyes. First and foremost is the scouring process. Of course it is imperative with raw fibers but even when you think your prepared yarns are clean they still carry residue and need a thorough scouring before mordanting. Mordanting is the second and equally important step to insure that the fibers will ultimately accept the dyestuffs and at their richest potential.

As usual once the work begins I forget to take pictures of our progress. There are 15
of us this year, a full house to be sure. And I must say what could be a crowded nightmare is really a cohesive group, all easily fitting into the space with ease. Here we are working through painting palettes for some handpainted yarns. We basically took eight dyes and applied them to strands from four different yarns; a mohair cotton eyelash, a high end silk, a wool/alpaca and a superwash wool. Then we could see the interaction between the dyes and the substrates for our chosen palettes.

We broke for some great food in and around Ballard. And again for dinner before returning at 7PM for a lecture with Michele on the environmental considerations when using natural dyes. A full day and the first of three, plus a half day Friday. I will try better to get more pictures of the work we are doing today!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Free day in Seattle

Seattle is such a great city....a break from my country life in the best of ways. I awoke this morning rather early at 6AM but really late for the Northeast. Time clock was discombobulated so Seattle's 6AM was my East Coast body's 9AM. Soaking up the Northwest morning in my wonderful refuge I found myself gravitated to this view from my lodging's level. To the West, the Olympic Mountains are before me. Like the mountains of New Hampshire they stand to remind me of tried and true, solid and steady. A country span apart.

After a leisurely start I gathered my day and took the bus from my digs to Seattle proper to Pike Street Market. Have you ever been?

Pike Street Market is a destination. If you stay in Seattle for more than a few days you can enjoy some of the best meals, fresh fruit and produce, fresh fish, pastries and cut flowers galore for the table. There are numerous artisans displaying their crafts from pottery, jewelry, musical flutes and ocarinas, knitted items to Japanese watercolors and so much more. It is awesome. And then there are the musicians. They are everywhere. And they rotated through the market so you would see one at one corner and then a half hour later a new musician would have moved there and the prior moved on. I think it was the best part of my day to see so many talented musicians playing with no more than themselves and an open instrument case for tips. This is the "girl from Duke". I heard her play pretty early in the day and was mesmerised. She played in the classical style but could also play a mean fiddle piece.

And yes, this is fresh fish! Oh to have this market at home.

This cellist was also lovely to listen to.

And the vegetables.....the colors and art of fresh produce.

These guys were great....they were laid back but solid and steady blues men. Singing 'Kansas City' as I went by.

These men played in different locations but the same instrument...what is it? Anyone know? Very interesting tone and musical style...each unique but similar.

The girl from Duke had moved on and in her space came the piano man...he was working the passers by and also offered his services for weddings and private parties. An entrepeneur alive and well.

So many fresh flowers, in pots, on balconies, in buckets to buy. I bought multiple for my dining table, one for my home host, one for Earthues....all the flowers were fresh, stunning and affordable.

Then I found the girl from Duke again. She had moved up to another corner. She was playing a beautiful classical piece and I had to really stop and take note. When she finished I took a minute to talk with her. On the inside of her violin case was a sign that read "My heart belongs to Duke University". I told her how much I loved her music. She was delighted to hear that, I could tell, and to share and talk. She will be a freshman this fall at Duke University and is so excited. She has been playing violin, studying classically, since she was eight. She was so lovely to talk with. I said "your mother must be proud", she said, "not always (smile)". Note the dish of pet food at the curb.

And this woman stood bravely at a spot and sang her heart out. Totally blind and truly open hearted. I saw her later wending her way through the crowded street and was humbled at her tenacity.

I arrived back home at 4ish to a very friendly kitty. This is Stella and she is very shy for sure but when I walked in the front door she was most most interested in my presence. We shared greetings and it felt good to be received by the family pet so far from home.
I loved pressure, a visual explosion of sight, sound and senses.....and all the while the sun shined and faces were smiling.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Whirlwind month

Looking back across our June and first half of July: it was a test of one's patience and creativity as the rains came. It was a deluge, day after day after day. Here is the flock holed up in one of the pasture sheds waiting out yet another storm. It was a long four weeks of endless rain.

But the skies finally cleared the first week in July, we bedded their loafing areas with straw to ease the flock's discouragemnt with the sodden ground and they instantly settled in and never looked back at June. Here they are back on the pasture where they were holed up a few weeks prior.

One thing that has been good is the pastures have grown by leaps and bounds. We finally were able to get some second cut in the second week in July, here it is waiting for us to load into the barn.

Webster finally could enjoy the front stoop with his girlfriends.

Then the annual renovation season began. We had some pressing issues with the big barn and the house that needed attention. The big barn which is our lambing barn as well as the barn we use for hay storage and shearing times and also just times when we need to treat or care for a certain sheep was in need of a new sill, ramp area and new windows. Our favorite contractors, Courtlan Construction, once again took to the task and voila! Safe and sound.

They have also been plugging away the past couple of years at my studio building and this year provided me a second floor, high in the treetops for more storage and office space. It is devine!

Then the back of our home was really struggling with some sill rot and had to be addressed. They tore off the old clapboards and are working on the repair as I write. New sills, insulation and fresh clapbords. They will address the moisture issue so we don't have to revisit this in our lifetime.

I love to watch this crew work. Not only are they great at what they do but also they throw a good sense of humor into the day. One of the guys found this pair of old shoes, one inside the other, stuffed into the cavity of the wall amid the insulation. Any ideas what vintage they are?

Last weekend Faith brought her beau Brian home to meet us. They live in Arizona and we hadn't had the chance to meet him. Brian is a self-proclaimed unhandy man so we had quite a few laughs as he spent the weekend here on the farm where everything needs a handyman! He went four-wheeling with Jack out on our land and they had a ball. It was so great to have them both here for a visit.

On Faith and Brian's last day, bright and early in the morning, the tree crew arrived to take 3 great big trees from around our house. As we watched the crew cut the trees from top to bottom and feed the limbs into the chipper, Brian said "Now that's the definition of a handy man!" For three good reasons the trees had to go. Too close to the house from a safety standpoint, too much shade out front and too much shade behind the house which was a large part of our sill rot on the backside.

Excuse me, this is our front yard!

Here is Ashley enjoying her own private pile of hay and wearing it too!

I am leaving shortly for the annual week in Seattle working at Earthues studio on some fresh concepts and color excursions. The week looks to be perfect weather in the Pacific Northwest and I am most excited! I will do my best to get a few posts out while I am out there.
Enjoy your week wherever it takes you!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

My tiny Shelley painting

A few months ago I was happy to join in on Elisa's challenge to help Animal Rescue of Fresno and she had a fun giveaway for those donating to the cause. And lo and behold I won the grand prize, a tiny painting by nrLois. I had the choice of a random painting or one done from a picture of one of my own pets. I chose Shelley, the Sheltie, who we lost last November. And here is the last photograph I have of Shelley in October and next to it the Tiny Painting nrLois painted from the picture.
I love it! She captured Shelley in a free form style and I will cherish this forever.

Shelley, my most loved canine companion, I miss here still every day. And she has instilled in me that I will have to have another Sheltie, sooner than later.

Thank you Elisa and nrLois!