Sunday, July 26, 2020

July life in the Falls.......

July 26th and we are moving along.....

Canning season starts this week, alert the media!  My lists are made and equipment has been hauled out of the basement and it means summer is in full swing.  And what a summer it's been!  This summer has driven me back to the studio as the heat and drought have been all but unbearable.  The gardens look tired and not well tended.  The veg gardens are plugging along and here is the latest update.

english cucumbers are having a very good year! 

Beans are slow but finally producing.  
Bean beetles have found the beans again. 
Daily picking has commenced!  For the love of morning rituals.

The basil has finally recovered and it looks to be a 
banner pesto season! 

These little cucumbers I started in the studio back when the snow was flying are a winner.  
Spacemaster 80 is the variety and I will grow these again. 

The bell peppers have wilt.  This is as bad as I have seen it.  
I did not start these, I bought these plants from a local green house.
This has spurred me on to start many more plants next garden season. 
Plants are expensive, seeds not so much and if you're a seed saver, free! 

Celery is having a great year.  The peppers plants behind the celery is a variety called: Yolo Wonder Peppers.  A sweet pepper from Texas. (started last March in the studio)  As our summer has been hotter than ever they are thriving and probably think they're in Texas!  They started out in terrible shape, I almost yanked them and tossed these in the compost pile but wow have they recovered.  Lesson learned this year:  Plant for heat, drought, cold, wet, and everything in between.  We just don't know what the weather will be like anymore.  Why go to Vegas when you can garden?

Onions, banner year!  I grew two varieties (not from seed)  I grew a cooking and storage onion and an onion called "Stuttgart".  What a winner that is! Crisp, mild, great in pickles, round and flat, slow to bolt and just all around delicious.  

Ancho Peppers and Jalepenos are enjoying the heat as well.

The back garden looks tired, very tired.  I have started digging potatoes for meals.  They have done well.  Almost everything in this garden except the beets have bolted.  The lettuce did very well.  Kale has done well too.  Beans are coming along, very slowly.  Japanese beetles have found the raspberry bushes along with the local herd of robins.  If I walk out in the very early morning (6 am) I can get a handful of berries for my oatmeal.  Peas were good too.  Kohlrabi, spinach, lettuce, radishes etc bolted in the early heat; carrots did not like the heat and have ended up wormy and tough.  This garden will be pulled and planted for Fall and we will try again.  Eventually I will put a hoop house over the entire bed and try to grow greens this winter.  

All in all it has been the year of assault and war.  The groundhogs have shown up; eaten all the seed heads off the lettuce and kale.  To add insult to injury, tunneled behind the rain barrels.  Also using the front porch as les lavabos or a crapper, it just sounds better in french.  

The raccoons have invaded the chicken coop and using the front walkway as les lavabos also.   Welcome to Miller re-location services!  

The chickens have become escape artists.   I was in love with my first flock of chickens almost 6 years ago.  These girls are chickens and jerks.  I like them a lot but they have tested my patience to the point of thinking chicken soup might not be far off.   I managed to keep the deer off the hostas and then the chickens decided to fly the coop, regularly, no matter how much chicken wire I tacked up and ate the hostas and the ferns and squash and the lettuce.  I just googled how to clip their wings, happening later today.  I have one ring leader, a Rhode Island Red who is getting clipped first!  I predict there will be unhappy girls but I will pull up a lawn chair, pour a Guinness and see if they hover craft themselves out of the run.  Or maybe they are just magic chickens!  In which case I will pull out my electric wand and yell: STOOPIFY!   WWMWD or what would Mrs Weasly do.

Edible landscaping.....
 This is the front of my house.  The new bed, installed in March.  Keeping this alive has been interesting.  In this bed I can harvest; lemon balm, sage, lavender, a lapin cherry tree (the deer and japanese beetles love ๐Ÿ˜• ) and a moon and stars watermelon vine.  

The front walkway is lined with alyssum, victorian salvia, teucrium chamaedrys and basil.  

and dahlias, the bulbs are edible! 

I am still finding clean up from the last storm as we prepare for the next storm, due tomorrow afternoon.  

I am still learning...... 

I pruned the oakleaf hydrangea early but only took a 1/3 of the growth out.  
It recovered and looks great!  Those pink panicles tells me the days are winding down. 

Hard to tell from this photo but I cut half of this annebelle hydrangea 3 times last Spring.  Annabelles are big floppy bushes and by the end of July are flopping all over the other plants.  The half I did not cut back is flopping and laying down on the job.  The half I cut three times, is standing erect.  Not as many blooms but it's upright!  So next year maybe two cuts.  It does solve a problem.  Fewer blooms are attractive and give the eye a bit of a rest as it pans through the garden.  

2020 is has just been a slog and bit of a battle.  From websites and selling pots to gardening and house renovation.  

Our very close call with Covid.  

Our basement stairs are in need of repair and as I run up and down those stairs a couple times a day I thought it was a good idea to rip them out and rebuild them.  The electrician said he would not come back until the steps were repaired.  Ok, got it!  I pulled a couple boards and realized this was structural work and maybe beyond my skill set and youtube.  I called a contractor.  He arrived and was great.  We were masked and gloved as was he.  We hired him, we did not shake hands.  He said he could start in about two weeks.  Great!  Last Thursday we got a text that he had tested positive for Covid.  Shit!  We had been in the very small basement huddled around beams and pipes surveying a dicey situation.  It had been 7 days since we had contact.  We self accessed and we felt fine, we felt good.  We thought we should go get tested to be safe.  Call around and no tests are available.  We would need to travel 30- 40 miles to get a test and then wait 6-10 days.  Called urgent care and a lovely woman talked me off the ledge.  Self quarantine for 7 more days and see how you feel.   We are finishing up our self imposed quarantine and we are fine.  But too close for comfort!  I have been so careful.  Only one other person has been in my house since March!  

So now that I have first hand experience with testing or no testing, I really wonder how in the world can schools open in a few weeks?  Things to ponder in the kitchen during canning season and the garden.  

Be safe out there...... ๐Ÿ’ž 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Shopping Online

or what I did on my summer vacation........

3 days of this will eventually get you to this ↓

The blog has changed a bit.  There are new icons in the header above ↑↑↑↑ "mugs, bowls, teapots, shopping cart".   A place to buy work online has been long overdue and this is an immediate fix until I descend further into the nightmare called HTML and work out e-commerce.  I may have to go to ETSY as an interim if this doesn't work.  Alas, I am not a fan of ETSY but I only have one brain cell left and ETSY might get it.   I also know the shop is small but as I fire and build up new inventory I hope to add to the pages.  Heading with; Jars, Pitchers, Woven and/or sculptural work and a potters feast of Miscellaneous.

I set up all the buttons and gadgets needed to shop online and then at 3 am last night, I realized I had no idea how get the mailing address of anyone who ordered anything.  I don't think paypal sends a mailing address.  My email is listed on each and every page.  Yes, you must email your mailing address or where you want pottery to arrive.

I have set up a postal account, got the postal scale, a stack of priority boxes, a bit of bubble wrap and newsprint, a sharpie marker and a printer.  May the force be with you!

I am trying real hard to put my big girl pants on and make this happen but truth be told I like making pots a whole lot more than selling pots!  Or maybe bartering should be in future.  A bag of magic beans for a mug please ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stay safe out there!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Get chickens and is it 2021 yet?

Not that I think it's gonna be a whole lot better but this year is just dragging.  It's like the needle is stuck and we are paralyzed; we just can't change that channel.  

Speaking of paralyzed........ 

Ethel in the back, Buffy (hiding) and Matilda. 

We just got done with a stretch of a well,  Sahara Desert kind of heat wave and drought, just spit'n sand and dust 24/7.  The chickens were in a dust bathing frenzy.  Then one morning while dragging the hose around trying to keep plants alive; OHhhh and how happy am I that I transplanted every living thing on this half acre back in February and March, because now all that stuff is stressed, making me stressed.  Wait, back to chickens!!  I toss some looper (caterpillar) chewed kale and beet greens over the fence and the girls come running.  Whoo Hoo, greens!!  Except Buffy who is duck walking and can't make it over the step to get any greens.  Crap on hot brick I got a sick chicken.  Drop the hose and go into chicken catching mode.  Shouldn't be too hard because at best she is waddling.  But she shoots past me as I thrust out a too slow hand.  And then on a hot stinking, sticky, sweaty, fly buzzing day, I lay down and commando crawl to the back of the underneath coop to grab a duck waddling chicken.  Nope, she shoots by again and as I lunge I conk my noggin on the spider web encrusted rafters.  Let the cussing begin!  Now the top of my head matches my chin.  I back out, sit on my heels and wait.  Meanwhile, I gaze over at the gang of five, they are munching away and ill affected at Buffys distress.  Chickens are dinosaurs, they just are and it really is survival of the fittest.  They hold no attachment to each other or me or the dog or the cats because they are toothless dinosaurs that happen to taste like chicken.  She waddles past again and I thrust out a hand, grabbing a handful of tail feathers and she is mine and I am thankful she does not have teeth!  Round 3 goes to the old lady with chicken poop on her knees and feathers up her nose!  I tuck her under my arm and escape the coop.  Once I get her outside I pin her down for a quick once over.  She is filthy and carrying about 5 extra pounds of dirt.  This girl has dust bathed herself into oblivion.  I have had chickens before and I have never been aware that this could be a problem.  I snatched her up by her little yellow chicken feet and when she tips upside down a pound of dirt falls out of her pockets.  Now, I am just grossed out and yelling at a chicken; What is wrong with you?!  You are supposed to shake yourself off after you have a good roll in the dirt!  While she is upside down I run up to the house to turn on the hose.  And wouldn't you like to be my neighbor?  I am your neighbor, running around and yelling at an upside down chicken, named Buffy.  Perhaps quarantine has gone a bit too long.  Running to the way way back of the garden, retrieving the hose and with one hand, attach the power sprayer.  (Good thing I had a pack of kids at one time in my life, well just one in particular who shall remain nameless.)  Yes, I power washed a chicken.  Neither one of us was very happy about this.  Oh and wet chicken smells nothing like Channel No. 5.  After I could see pink skin, I carried her, dripping wet and still upside down as she was very calm upside down, into the studio where I burrito-ed her into a giant bath towel and gave her a good once over.  Is there anything uglier than a soaking wet chicken?  But happy to say I could find nothing.  Toweled her off, stroked her little head and she went to sleep.  Hey, could somebody stroke my little head and get me a drink?   Then it was time to toss her back in with her "friends". Who realized she was looking quite Verklempt!  The Gang of Five, followed her around pecking at her to the point I thought I was going to need rescue her again.  But as it was 100 degrees out (not kidding) she dried rather quickly.  She ate some greens, wandered around then settled in.  Walking fine and back to normal.  I'm not giving this chicken much hope as the was the chick who had pasty butt.  The chick who escaped the pen relentlessly and then freaked out because she was alone.  She is sort of shunned by the other girls and I really don't know why.  But she holds her own and hangs out with them when they free range.  

Life with chickens during a pandemic is good.  It gives you something to do other than watch CNN or the stock market (which makes no sense at all anymore).  They keep me on a schedule.  Up at 6 am and with Kirby, we roll out to the coop to release the Crack'n.  They tumble out and down the gang plank to fresh water and feed.  Usually a treat; a sprinkle of freeze dried meal worms, last nights leftover salad and some fruit. 

By the time I get the girls settled the dog goes missing and I wander the backyards quietly looking for Kirby.  Thankfully he has a muppet tail that can be spotted from a mile away.  Herd him back to the yard, get him inside for breakfast and put the coffee on.  Head to the underworld, empty the dehumidifier (working double time), check the mouse traps and troll traps and head back to middle earth where the smell of coffee punches the air.  WE'RE GONNA LIVE ANOTHER DAY!   

I walk around the yard and decide what gets watered and what is worth letting go.  The kale gets yanked and put in the freezer.   I pick the last of the peas, a few gooseberries and my first 3 cucumbers.  Dill is always picked.  Pick some flowers for the house because by 6 pm they are gonna be toast.  

We are almost in high holy canning season.  I am only doing warm ups for now.  I picked 10#'s of tart cherries and canned them up.  

Made sweet cherry BBQ sauce and canned a bunch of sweet cherries up too.... because we will not see bing cherries for $1.59 a pound again this year.  
My blueberries were good this year too......

Canned up flame roasted peppers .... that story will be left for the next blog.

Ran out to the blueberry farm, a few miles away and picked 13 pounds for the freezer.  
Going back on Wed. as I know I need 30 pounds to get me through one whole year. 

The heat, drought, pandemic, political bull shit is starting to take its toll and I am finding myself weary.  In the heat of the day I head to the studio but I am not feeling very creative.  Functional work is about all that makes sense right now.  For the first time in 35 years I am struggling in the studio.  It's so weird, this year is so weird, one big fat WEIRD.  But I love throwing and it is the one comfortable thing in this wobbly world right now.  I've made 100 mugs and had time to study profiles and foot rings.  Think very hard about bowls and what goes in those bowls and how they sit on the table or cradled in your hand to slurp soup or how the round of the spoon scrapes the bottom of the bowl..... and so it goes. 

I've also had a couple insights as to why I am struggling.  I am marveling and scratching my head at some of my dear pottery friends who have not skipped a beat during this time.  They carry on, fire kilns, make work and have shifted to online sales pretty quickly.  
Not me, I am keenly aware that the paradigm has shifted, the world has changed, my world has changed.  On this deep level of change how can my work not change?  I cannot keep making the same stuff as I have changed on very deep level.  I have long been bothered at how static my work was.  It just sat there waiting for you to dust it or put food in it.  I started weaving and started making rims move but I still wasn't "there".   
In the past I have always been able to work in the garden and have stuff kick me in the ass to make sense.  This year the garden the is just struggling, kind of like me.  But the garden is not static and forever changing.  And it's why I can't seem to get enough.  It ticks all my boxes, even this year. 

  This area is usually so think you need a machetรจ to hack your way through, not this year.  

                                             2019                                                                                 2020

Sweet peppers have wilt, pests are insane this year, birds are eating everything in sight.  It really feels like war this year.  Usually I toss seeds in the ground and everything grows.  Every thing has bolted; swiss chard, kohlrabi, kale, beets, broccoli, lettuce, spinach and the list goes on.  I have replanted beans three times!  Basil is struggling and I don't think I can survive without pesto.  But some stuff looks pretty good, native perennials. 

And through all this I read the people of Pakistan are experiencing 125 F temperatures and they don't have air conditioning.  Is there going to be an earth left for any life to matter.  Get the environment under control, it should be a number one priority.  AND YES, every thing we are protesting and signing petitions about is important but when did science take a back seat?  I am passionate about Choice, women's right, black lives matter, and getting the orange idiot out of the oval office but these all seem like flies buzzing around the big pile of crap on a hot brick and that is the climate.  How long until the insurance companies go bust because you need to rebuild that house on the beach in Florida?  I am not opposed to rebuilding but not in the same place. How about on a hill or maybe a bunker?  
We keep looking for a place with more acreage, although this half acre is about to kill me, and we can't find anything better than what we have now.  We live on a hill and we have good access to water and we have sandy loam for soil.  And by GOD we have chickens and it's 7:00 pm and this what is waiting for me.......

Hey! It's 7:09 pm and you are late lady!  We got stuff to do!  So I open the door and the storm troopers assault the neighborhood! 

My neighbor sits on his back patio and plays his guitar.  The chickens love it and off they go.... 
they will be back home by the time the street lights come on and we will do it all again tomorrow. 
And that is why I know we will get through this.  Very changed and hopefully much wiser.  
Be safe, wash your hands and for god sakes wear a mask!