Saturday, September 21, 2019

Back in the Groove...........

The year is three fourths over and I feel as if I am finally getting my feet under my body again.   Cancelling a big 4 day show I think has a lot to do with my blood pressure dropping and finding my feet again.  I just did not have the inventory I needed for that show and not enough time to produce that inventory.  Hindsight bites me again.  I really though I could do an 8 day show in June/July, head to Alaska for a 12 day trip, crank out 200 bowls, do all the canning and gardening and still make enough inventory for a four day show.  Ok, I really did not see how crazy this was until I just wrote it all down.  I also am having a hard time recuperating on the fly like I used to...... 

I went to breakfast for a yearly catch up with a dear old studio mate and was truly hobbling around, you know like an old person, which I am NOT!  One knee was quite swollen and I kept thinking sheesh; I eat all this healthy stuff, garden surplus, organic, no milk, very little meat, no eggs, no soft drinks or sugar, steel cut oats and cucumbers galore and I can hardly walk.  Then over breakfast I heard the magic words...... foods in the nightshade family.  I have been eating massive amounts of; tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers and paprika (because I am Hungarian and it's a food group).  Hell I just filled the basement with all those things.  On Wednesday I banished all nightshade foods from my meals.  It's now Saturday and my knees are much better, I can touch the floor without bending my knees, I walked three miles yesterday and worked most of the day in the studio.  So I will stay off the nightshades for a month or so and re-introduce it in very small increments around Christmas, when I can blame my stiff and sore joints on cookies!   

The canning is winding down but the recipes are still stacked high, so many more things I would like to try this year that will just have to wait.  This morning I dashed out to the orchard to pick up another "final" basket of peaches but alas they had been replaced by apples, squash and pumpkins.  I've added to the shelves in the basement; 6 jars of cowboy candy, maple peach bourbon butter, peach butter, more caponata, tomato jam and still a few more jars of soup need to be filled. 

 Here is the almost finished inventory list for anyone interested.  I think there are right around 360 jars on the shelves and probably close to 400 by the time the canner goes back in the basement. 

Oh and when worlds collide!  
I watched a YouTube on the "new pear corer" promised to save loads of time when canning pears.  YES, a new gadget I might need to add to the kitchen artillery.  When I can't listen to one more hour of NPR or audio book I watch YouTube videos on gardening, canning, pottery etc.   I fervently waited in eager anticipation for the visual of this new gadget.  OMG I had one in my hand as I was trimming pots and watching YouTube, drum roll .........

Hey fellow potters, does this thing look familiar, as in, your favorite loop tool?
In case you need a designated kitchen gadget, here is the link:

I scrubbed and bleached my Dolan trimming tool for de-seeding jalapeƱo peppers and it worked like a charm.  I will be trying it on pears next and then returning it to the studio.  Oh and I am positive the Dolan loop tool is a lot sharper than the pear corer listed above.

So happy the crisp northern winds have started blowing in; nice to head out for morning a walk before the world wakes up.   
Finally seeing a few honey bees!  I can count on one hand how many honey bees I saw in my garden this year, so scary.  This one was in a feeding frenzy on Ageratina altissima or more commonly known as White Snake Root (and it is poisonous to mortals, cows, goats, horses and sheep,  contains the toxin tremetol, causes milkfever).  No bees, terrifying.  Poisonous Plants and botany, way cool...... 

It's cool enough to get back from walking and do a little weeding.  Head down, butt in the air and moved through the backyard pretty fast.  Fast enough to be in the studio by 10 am.  Sat down to throw and my hand was on fire!  Have no idea and never saw anything but my hand sure was breakfast for some critter living in the weeds! On a good note, a bucket of cool water and clay slip took care of this by evening.  Amazing and again proof I'm doing what I need to be doing, although a bit of smashed up plantain and comfrey would have worked too. 

Speaking of snakes, this cute little garter snake showed up to sun himself on the rocks next to the studio.  In the 35+ years of gardening this property I almost never see snakes so this was awesome!! 
I have a feeling Rufus the tail-less, killing machine and neighborhood cat has done his fair share of snake wrangling in the garden but this one has escaped the jaws of death so far. 

I had lunch on the patio yesterday and I saw the orange flash out of the corner of my eye.  I left the seed heads of the echinacea up for the goldfinches.  The orange flash, Rufus rocketed into the garden and yellow feathers were flying.  I jumped up from lunch and chased him on a good run to his house.  His owner and I cornered Rufus in the bushes.  In complete disgust he spit out the tiny yellow fluff ball.  Disoriented and dazed the goldfinch flew high into a white pine to recover.  Rufus has not been seen in the yard since.  

Speaking of worlds colliding or maybe it's just that time of the year.  
Rachael's, Fancy Lumberjack got a moose for the freezer this year.  And on the exact same day I finally got one of the groundhogs, (not in the freezer)!  Winning! 
The Mom: 1
Fancy Lumberjack: 1

Although Rachael is going to need two freezers for her winter meat supply.  
Moose burritos, moose stroganoff, moose bacon, moose chili, moose for everyone!  

I am finally in the studio daily.  Catching up on orders and getting ready for Holiday shows. 

 I am working at a nice pace and not burning the midnight oil.  There is a wonderful cadence to the day, the week and the month.  I am happy and Kirby is very happy!  

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Winding down........

The Victoria Salvia, Hydrangea Paniculatas and Autumn Sedum Joy (doesn't that just roll off your tongue)  are doing their thing and the bees could not be happier.  It should be Sedum, Autumn Joy but Autumn Sedum Joy is more fun to say; my garden my rules. The pollinator activity is frantic at the moment, a sure sign we should all be a little frantic getting ready for the impending whatever...... I have given up trying to expect regular weather patterns.   However all the signs are there, squirrels are in hyper-gather, the groundhog is so fat he doesn't fit in the trap and moonwalks out the door, the deer are BIG and growing antlers, bird traffic is changing, the dog is pretty springy in the mornings, the geese are honking and the Monarchs are migrating. 

I wake up one morning, do a garden walk about and say out loud........ "it's over" and where are the CARBS?!   

Time to drag the canning stuff out of the basement and get busy!  It takes about a month to get the shelves in the basement full.  It's not day in and day out because I am not that kind of girl.  This year I had a hard time getting my canning gene kicked into gear.  Normally there is a rhythm or cadence to this time of the year, especially in the kitchen.  I stalk the garden and farmers markets relentlessly, starting in early August.  I always, always, always kick off the season with dilly beans, this year no beans!  I drove, I called, I banged on the doors of all my old haunts and no beans when beans were supposed to be happening.  Gotta say it threw me off my game!  Luckily my tomatoes were gaining and corn was around the bend.  And then there were the cucumbers....... holy cucumber season, it was overwhelming this year.  I fermented and made enough relishes for 5 families, I donated, I did cucumber drive-bys and they are still coming on strong; although slowing down thankfully!  I tried to trap the groundhog with cucumbers but he just wasn't having it, he was over cucumbers too.  He did love the watermelon and grew so fat his butt kept the door wedged open while his front part ate watermelon, carrots, greens, and anything else I put in the Hav-a-Heart trap.  I no longer have a heart and thinking giant paint balls might be in his future. 

Finally the pots bubbled, the dog had tomato stains on his big yellow head and got stuck to the floor twice but licked his way out.  I had more than one vinegar facial this year and the compost pile grew from the cast offs.  

There are still a few jars that need to be filled but the majority of the canning is done for this year.   It's time to type up the inventory sheet, attach it to the clip board and hang it on the basement door.  When, He Who Shall Not Be Named, is rummaging through the cupboards or fridge, I hand him the clipboard and see if anything looks good in the basement without actually descending into the basement.  Now if the troll, giant spider or occasional mouse would hand up a basket of jars filled with goodness we could all live happily ever after. 

In other news...... the Peace Corps bowls were delivered!  Another order was delivered and the studio got cleaned!  

I also learned my super fantastic dog will lay on his bed while I use my rotary Dremel sander on his nails!  This is revolutionary over nail clippers and a game changer for both of us!  I am now the very pretty nail lady who sits on the floor for doggie pedicures.  A swim in the lake, a warm hose-down in the driveway, a Dremel pedicure and Doggie Spa Day is complete.   

What would Mrs. Swan say? 

And in the pottery world....... I cancelled a show, gained two shows and really need to get in the studio but I think I'll bake a loaf bread first because it is CARB season!  Bring on the sweaters, wool socks, backyard fires, bowls of hot steamy soup, cooler weather, pumpkins and wands, swirling leaves and a good glass of bourbon.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The great slog of 2019.......

I am missing my blog..... and as a dear friend is winging his way to Uganda and he likes news from the home front, it appears to be the perfect time to sit down and review this slog of a year.

The midwinter slogged into Spring, pretty wet.  I planted beans three times and finally gave up.  The local farmers had a little better luck:  SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMER!  The planting never was fast and furious this year and the weather was just crazy! I saw bugs I have never seen before, so many pests and very few honey bees.  Beans tanked but cucumbers were the garden over achievers.  From 6 plants; 45 pounds donated to the Salvation Army, 3 1/2 gallons of pickles, cucumber salad every single day, neighbors feed, friends delivered too and they are still producing!

Wet, hot, a couple weeks of no rain and watering.  This must be the greenhouse effect that goes with climate change.

I applied to both weeks at Boston Mills in Peninsula, Ohio, back to back 4 day shows, now that is a real slog!  It’s a lovely art show and as I didn’t get accepted last year I applied to both weekends this year and got in both weekends.  What to do?  Thought about this long and hard and decided to do both.  The first weekend with the new functional transfer ware.  It’s pretty labor intensive with carving etc. The second weekend I got in with decorative work..... also labor intensive.  The grand plan, see what sells the best and start to wean myself off the other work.  This would simplify the studio and give me a little more sanity in my life.  I have never worked so many hours in the studio in an extended stretch of months.  There was no time to blog and it was pots, kilns and clay, 24/7.   Honestly, all the way to the stroke of midnight as I backed out of the driveway.  Both weekends were incredibly hot, over 100 degrees in the tents and then the biblical rain arrived.  Both weekends I had storage boxes floating in the back of my booth.  The first weekend my booth was on the outside edge of the tent and we had a tick invasion.  Ticks look great on white curtains ...... OMG!  I totaled out at then end of week two and my total sales were only $70 apart.  No decision was made, I will stay in the state of total confusion.

I off loaded everything in the studio, slammed the door and madly packed for my first ever trip to visit daughter #1 in Alaska.  It was a welcome break from studio burn out!  I came away gobsmacked by the opportunities available in Alaska. We toured the farmers markets, visited Rachael's college farm I have been hearing about forever, toured a musk ox farm, fished the Kenai and ocean, finally got some camping in and dragged 50 pounds of fish home and we canned Alaskan produce around Rachael's kitchen table and cleaned fish at her sink.  And somewhere in the wilds of Alaska I lost my wifi hotspot so I suspect there are bears ordering pizza.  If if you're a climate denier, get yourself to Alaska!  It is scary what is happening in Alaska.  I fished in a raging river with smoke all around us.  The river is raging from the melting glaciers and yet the fires are from little or no rain.  The spruce beetle, Dendroctonus rufipennis is leaving its devastating mark on the scenery too.

Missed my dog way too much and he apparently missed me.  It took two weeks to get him back to his happy self but we got there.  And yes, Alaska is as beautiful as everyone says........ it is a wonderful place to run away too.  

It has been hard getting back into the swing of the studio, even with the 200 bowl project for Peace Corps looming over my head. I have been making bowls for this project since 2006 and I am done.  It’s time consuming and this year truly has been a slog from the start.  The only reason I did it this year ...... they couldn’t find another potter interested.  I suppose if Rachael hadn’t been in Peace Corps and understanding the projects that are funded are pretty good endeavors I would not have stuck with it this long.

But wait!  It's canning season!!  All that stuff I canned last year is pretty much gone!  Time to replenish the shelves.  I learned a lot looking at what was left on the shelves as I started this years list.  We like food in jars that give you immediate gratification.  It's not your Grandma's fruit cellar anymore.  Now my shelves are filling with Bruschetta, Marinated Mushrooms, Dilly Beans, Peach Salsa, Cowboy Candy and  Eggplant Puttanesca but still rounded out with tomatoes, peaches, mincemeat, green beans and soups, lots of soups!  Canning is evolving and now that technology is catching up to canning it makes it much safer.  In fact the more I read the more I wonder how anybody lived through the early 20th century before mass grocery store feeding began.  If I didn't need to pay bills I would wander farmers markets, buying baskets of produce, come home and can away my life.  I just love this time of the year.  The colors, the vibrancy of all things coming from the garden!  It's an amazing way to say farewell to summer.  I love stuff socked away (specifically food) and this year with fish in the freezer too, well I am feeling pretty good.  The one place in my life I have a wee bit of control .  No added sodium, sugar or other things I can't pronounce, just pretty basic stuff.  Hmmmm maybe my next career I will be a canning coach....... I know I have a whistle around here somewhere.

And some things stay constant....... back to Craigslist and bought a bigger pressure canner! 
Another brand spank'n new canner that was used once maybe twice.  Now I can double stack jars!!  Saves me so much time.  Rachael will be getting the other canner.  

It's just been one hell of a slog this year. The year has not gone as planned, not even close and I don't see much changing.  I am contemplating cancelling a show but won't know until I see a couple shelves of mugs in the studio because if you don't have mugs, what's the point of setting up?  There has been so little time to blog and I have to say the state of the world has me left speechless.  I am just out of words on climate change, politics, human rights, stupidity on a scale I never thought we were capable of as a species.  We have the ability to do so much good and make this place a spectacular planet, spinning through time and space but we can't seem to stop fighting and tromping on one another.  Tread lightly....... 

Maybe not like this guy somewhere in Alaska who just couldn't manage to encounter the wilderness without.....