New hobby — like I need another one

So I helped our teen services librarian with a craft program the other week, and now I’m hooked. Paper making is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require much upfront investment. The $9.00 blender – yeah, this you really do have to have – was from the hospice thrift store. Created my own mould and deckle out of canvas stretchers. Screening from Home Depot wasn’t pricey – and I can always use the rest to mend the screens that Killian The Hell Hound has spent the summer destroying. Plastic tub for pulp was 3 bucks at Marc’s. Paper for pulping is recycled packing paper that comes in the boxes of books at work. It’s plain, off-white newsprint. Nice stuff that it seems a shame to just throw away.
My intent for my first home project is to include leaves/grasses when pulping the newsprint and then embedding Queen Anne’s Lace before pressing and drying the handmade paper. I’m going on the assumption that the leaves/grass will make the paper a pale green.
Now, to shake off the end-of-the-week inertia and gather up supplies Will post photos of finished project.

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Cursing the darkness

I hate fluorescent light.  I hate the “quality” and color of fluorescent light. I hate the flicker and the glare on my computer screen, so I’ve had the custodian at work take out the bulbs in the fixture over my desk.

I hate that hotels are using the compact fluorescent bulbs in bedside lamps. They’re fine if all I want them for is groping around for my glasses in the morning, but for reading in bed, they stink.

I hate that the government is mandating the demise of incandescent bulbs. (See this article from US News and World Report: http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/economy/2007/12/19/faq-the-end-of-the-light-bulb-as-we-know-it.html). Ok, they’re not energy efficient so they’re bad for the environment, so we’re going to save the whales one light bulb at a time.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, I went ahead and purchased a compact fluorescent bulb. The thing cost 7 or eight bucks and came in a hard plastic “case” and cardboard sleeve. I was going to try it out in my bedside lamp, ’cause for me, that’s the acid test. Now, I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of trying to extract a purchased item from its theft-proof wrappings — it usually involves scissors or a utility knife, kevlar gloves for protection against the resulting sharp plastic edges, safety goggles, etc. Can you guess what happened?

This damned expensive light bulb broke inside its plastic container. Now the fun really begins, because you can’t just throw the damned thing away. See this link to a fact sheet on mercury safety, ’cause, yup, the things have mercury in ‘em. http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf

No, I didn’t immediately air out the house, place the pieces in a glass jar with metal lid, vacuum, empty the vacuum, put the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag. I did not take the broken pieces and clean-up materials to the solid waste plant in Westfield. The next time I vacuumed, I didn’t turn off the air conditioner, open the windows, and leave the AC off for 15 minutes after vacuuming. (Special note: See the part about the solid waste plant? If the bulb had simply burned out rather than breaking, I would still have been expected to hand carry the bulb to the dump.)

The Amish have the right idea. Better to light a candle than curse the compact fluorescent bulb.

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Bountiful harvest

We’ve had a vegetable garden since we bought this house in 1978. In fact, we dug the garden before moving day since it was early June, and we didn’t want to lose any of the season. That same plot, amended over the years to compensate for the heavy native clay soil, has kept us in tomatoes and beans, mostly, for better than 30 years.

I approached gardening with a lot more fervor this season, after listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Eating locally (becoming a “locavor”) and frequenting farmers’ markets are becoming new habits. The frightening rise in the prices of everything has caused me to commit to thrift in a whole new way. One of the concepts one takes away from Kingsolver’s book is that eating locally doesn’t have to mean going without. In fact, embraced fully, eating locally can mean eating more richly and with more pleasure.

At first, I found myself stricken in the aisles of the grocery store as I tried to juggle eating locally with eating inexpensively with eating to fit my diet. But as the weeks have gone by, it’s become easier. Eating locally can mean choosing chicken in the grocery store that came from farms two counties away rather than from the national mega-farms. An excellent jarred spaghetti sauce is made an hour away. An equally excellent commercial pizza sauce is made two hours away.

You can define local eating as you wish. Kingsolver suggests you think about the miles and fuel spent to get the food to you; her family stopped eating bananas and satisfied their need for fruit with the peaches, cherries, apples, and berries available on their own farm or from area growers. They did make one concession on coffee, recognizing that coffee was, for them, truly a staple item. So they elected to only purchase fair trade coffee, an item that’s even available in my local grocery stores.

As I’ve moved through the summer, inspired by Kingsolver’s book, I’ve taken up cheesemaking, bread baking, and pickling. I replaced an ancient chest freezer with an energy-efficient one. I’ve started buying bison (available about 12 miles away) for its health benefits. As the freezer fills with not only the yield from my own garden, but also what I purchase at the farmers’ market and roadside stands, I feel as though I’m moving us in the right direction…economically, environmentally, and healthfully.

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Woo hoo…Number 666!

Guess what I got to do on Saturday — be model #666 for Franklin’s 1,000 Knitters project!

Talk, talk. Knit, knit. Snap, snap...fun!

Thanks to Jackie and all her helpers at The Wool Gathering in Kennett Square, the experience was well-organized and a ton of fun! I arrived about 45 minutes after they opened, and was number 42 in line. Jackie had chairs set up out front so we could sit in the sunshine and knit and chat. The shop is intimate but lovely, and they set Franklin up near the front window. There were cookies and brownies and Philadelphia soft pretzels…yum! Oh, and the yarn was luscious, too. I bought two skeins of Regia sock wool and a few buttons I couldn’t resist (two sheep buttons and one very special Sculpey-type button I will now need to knit a project around.)

I waited only about 45 minutes or so until it was my turn. Franklin is charming and cute and proves the adage that all the “good ones” are either gay or married. He told me I was knitter 666 and even offered to let me switch if I had a problem with that. I figured somebody had to be #666, so what the heck. Sometimes I am a beastly knitter! We chatted about my 400+ mile trip to participate and what else I planned for the visit. And as we wrapped up, we both laughed over our respective addiction to a particular Ravelry thread that Franklin called “cheap crack.” BTW, for those who wondered over on Franklin’s blog…the scarf seemed to be about 8-10 feet long. Little hard to tell for certain, because he has it partially rolled up. I knit at least two rows, but I admire the folks who had added some pattern during their shoots. My hands were sweating so much, I only barely mustered the two rows of garter!

Some of us then gathered ’round to share Ravelry gossip, and I met Michelle, a delightful young actress from Virginia. We ended up checking out other stores in Kennett Square, including the Mushroom Shop (gifts and fresh mushrooms, plus a small mushroom museum, since KSQ is the center of the mushroom industry. )

Lots of fun and worth every mile of the PA turnpike to be part of it!

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Wiggle-waggle wash day

Murphy needed a bath. Actually, Murphy needed a full day of beauty, but working a trip to the groomer’s into a full work week just wasn’t happening. Plus, frankly, dog grooming is kind of low on the list of household priorities when there’s only one income. However, the fates aligned to make payday land the same week that I ran into Adam the Groomer at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. What’s Adam got that other groomers don’t? This:

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Cool, huh? Becky arrived around 4:15, took Murphy out to the van, and an hour or so later, brought him back to the door, all fluffy and gorgeous. See?

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One very handsome puppy!

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Uh, yeah…it snowed!

Well, that was quite a weekend! It didn’t really rival the Blizzard of ’78, but it was still a heck of a lot of snow. Too lazy to write the thousand words, so here are some pix:

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From the front porch

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Front sidewalk. Looks like 10-12 inches.

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I guess this is why we didn’t have mail delivery Saturday!

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The backyard, Saturday evening. Looks like meringue!

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Of course, Guinness had to get right into it!

Sunday was sunny and the snow was beautiful. Monday, we had a few small snow showers, but nothing stuck around. Today, the morning began with dense fog. Thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday. I think the only things we’ve missed lately are locusts and frogs.

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A Daphne remembrance

Success! I managed to turn the wool from the late Daphne into something quite lovely for Kate. Here is Kate, wearing the Parisian beanie beret knit from my homespun:

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I suspect that your average sheep farmer doesn’t create memorials to lost sheep. They’re farmers, not pet owners. Probably, if the flock is large, the animals don’t have names, but numbers, etched on tags, fastened to ears. There’s little room for sentimentality when making your livelihood in livestock.

But then there are the hobby farmers. Wikipedia calls a hobby farm a “smallhold maintained without the expectation of being a primary source of income.” Depending on the size of the farm, hobby farmers may keep rabbits, a few chickens, and some bees. An acre will support a pair of milking goats or some pigs. And a hectare (today’s vocabulary word — means 2.5 acres) will handle a mini flock of sheep.

There are days when I’m thrilled that I live in the “city.” On trash pickup day. On the morning after a huge snowstorm. On all the days when I don’t have to hope that the sump pump keeps running, that the septic tank doesn’t overflow, that the well doesn’t run dry. And then there are the days when I wish I had a little piece of land. Just enough to keep a few sheep of my own, and maybe some rabbits, and enough chickens for eggs, and a bee hive or two, and lots and lots of room for great big dogs to run.

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