Saturday, December 31, 2011

Startin' A New Year!

 Well, the weather around here for the past couple of days has just been drop dead gorgeous, so I couldn't waste any of it by staying inside.  Piss on the pottery, I had to do some gardening!  But it wasn't just for the sake of good weather.  There is a big cold front coming and I really needed to get some stuff ready for that.  They are predicting lows around 18 degrees several nights.  Now, for us that's cold!  Sweetie Jack raked a bunch of pine straw for me and made piles in the garden so all I had to do was mulch around whatever plants I wanted.  So, I pruned and mulched the blueberries (on the left).  I have 4 blueberry bushes now and a few herbs planted between them.

I pruned and mulched the raspberries too.  Yes, I know you can't really see much but some types of raspberries you are supposed to cut all the way to the ground.  I'm still learning on these things.  I also applied another layer of enriched topsoil around them before I mulched.  They did pretty good this past year but I want more!!!  To the right you can see a couple of cabbage plants and some leeks.  They are doing well and in that seemingly empty space above them is 2 new kinds of garlic.  I really hope they do good.  Over to the left is my strawberry bed but I think I'm going to order a new type this spring that is better suited for this climate. 

This is a handy thing I wanted to show ya'll!  Jack put this up for me after I described to him what I wanted.  And yes, I do sometimes let him build things on his own!  I found this old discarded mailbox and had seen in a book how you can turn them into a kinda toolbox for your garden.  It was his idea to add the hose bracket, which also works good.

I just cram all kinds of things in here and it all stays perfectly dry.  Pruners, clippers, gloves, string and so on.  It's very handy to have it right in the garden and not have to keep running back to the shed or whatever to get stuff.

So, I had intended on doing one of those end of the year synopsis kinda things but haven't got around to it yet.  I might still.  I also had a new year's goals post in mind so we'll see!  I wish you all the best for the new year.  May you find everything you are hoping for.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Enjoying The Last Of The Year

 The weather has been quite mild around here lately and everybody has been enjoying the warm sun!  Nights are cold enough to keep a fire going though.  I told Jack yesterday that I certainly appreciate these days in the 50 degree range but I would like to see a little snow this year too.  Anyway, we have been taking advantage of the sunny days by having a little fun.  It being the last week of the year, and in keeping with some traditions of the 12 Days of Christmas, we have taken time to visit with friends and just enjoy some time to ourselves instead of working so much.  We went to the city yesterday to see some of the decorations before they take them down and just see what there was to see.  We've enjoyed a couple of dinners out and taken advantage of the good sales to get a few things.  For instance, I bought a stoneware bread pan (for baking) that I have had my eye on for some time.  It is environmentally friendly and made in the US and, I got it for $10!

 Soon enough it will be time to get back to business as usual though!  We need to harvest about half of the meat chickens soon.  Real soon.  They are eating us out of house and home!  We have learned quite a bit having these though so I know if we have them again I will definitely do some stuff differently.  We underestimated how long it would take them to mature for one thing.  It's been about 14-16 weeks instead of the 6-8 that you read about.  They have also grow at vastly different rates.  Some are well past time to harvest and some are still a couple of weeks out.  I don't know.  We have fed them well and they get a vitamin supplement in their water.  In addition to the natural feed they did have grass to eat, which they devoured in no time.  After they mowed all that down I have taken to going each day and digging up clumps of grass for them and putting it in their run.  This gives them the greens they like and something to do so they don't get so bored.  They love digging and scratching through the clumps.  I also harvest spare leaves off the broccoli and chard (and whatever else I can think of) for them.  Jack even grows sprouts for them!  I believe next time I will grow a whole crop of greens, like collards or such, just for them in the garden and then throw them so much a day to supplement the grain.  If we only get them in cooler weather I would have plenty of room in the garden for this.

They LOVE chard, broccoli, cabbage, anything like that.  By selling some eggs at $2.50 a dozen and letting the hens out to forage all day, we are pretty much covering our feed costs for the hens.  I have even had some people insist on giving me $5 a dozen for the eggs so that helps to cover some of the cost of these meat chickens.  Not much but some.  Once all of the hens are laying consistently (selling 5-6 dozen eggs a week) I believe I could completely make up the cost of feeding the meat birds, with the addition of growing a crop of greens just for them. 
So, it's all a learning experience and each year you learn more and more to refine your operations.  I have been very pleased with the amount of poop these guys are producing too, which goes right into the garden, which helps greatly to produce more crops!  We are finally beginning to see success in this cycle of things and it's great!  A permaculture system is really what we are going for. 
I am waiting to hear if I will go back to the construction job after the first of the year, as the plan was.  In a way I hope they don't call!  But, I could use the money. 
Now that Christmas is over I suspect the pottery orders will slow down some but I think I have made headway into that cycle also.  As your work becomes more well known you can develop better sales all year 'round, rather than just at holidays when people are buying anything!  As soon as I finish, one way or another, that welding job I can focus on getting more places to carry my work and therefore more revenue from that coming in.  2012 looks to be a very promising year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Christmas Day

 Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays! or Joyeux Noel!!  to everyone!  I hope you have all are having an enjoyable holiday season whatever your practices or beliefs.  I finally had time this year to actually make a wreath!  From greens I gathered about my land, of course.  Hehe!  I have always enjoyed the practice of decorating with evergreens and whatever grows around the area.  Even the chicken coop got a wreath!  I'll have to try to get a photo of that.

Today has been a very quite, laid back day for me and Jack.  We visited with family yesterday and decided to spent today at home.  We don't do a lot of gifts but did get each other a couple of things.  I got him, at his request, a Kindle.  I don't really see the allure of those things but he seems to be getting a big kick out of it.  I got a Le Creuset brasier (5 qt. I think)!  I am stoked!!  I got my range hooked up and now have to decide on what appropriate dish to cook in it! 
I'm cooking a nice dinner for tonight and then we'll watch It's A Wonderful Life.  I wish you all peace and happiness and much love.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Night Before Christmas

 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the kitchen
Not a creature was stirring, not even Basement Chicken.

 The stockings were hung by the fireplace with screws
In hopes that Jack would notice the cues.

 The chickens were nestled all snug in their coop
 And I was trying hard not to step in their poop.

 And Jack in his T-shirt and I in my slip
Had just settled down for some nog and some lip
When out in the woods I heard such a ruckus
I fell off the couch and landed on my tuckus!
Away to the door I hobbled kinda quick
Flung open the same and stepped on a stick.

When what to my blurry eyes should appear
but a big goofy bloodhound and eight giant deer!
With a yip and a yalp and a howl so loony
I knew in a moment, it must be stupid Ernie!
More thunderous than cattle, here they all came
I cursed and shouted and called him such names
You dumbass, you stupid, you lousy ol' cur!
I'll beat you, I'll choke you (just joking)
if you don't get outta hur!!  (that's redneck vernacular)

So up through the valley they all did run
With Chigger in hot pursuit
If only I'd had my gun.
But I did hear him yelp as he ran out of sight
and I laughed at the thought of how Chigger can bite!


So Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Friday, December 23, 2011

O Christmas Tree

 Many of you that have read my blog for a while know that I'm always a bit later than most in getting my tree put up.  I don't follow the norm anyway, as far as societies traditions go and prefer to stick closer to our ancient traditions of Solstice or Yule.  Therefore, my tree gets put up right around that first day of winter but it stays up until Epiphany or 12th Night as I do celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas from the Christian view.
I know I had previously also mentioned that the little corner stand where I normally get my tree had sold out before I could get down there this year, leaving me facing a bit of a conundrum.  I knew where another lot was that sold trees but they were expensive there and I could really use that $70-80 somewhere else right now; I am laid off.  Plus, the trees had been shipped from quite a distance and did I really want to participate in that?  I mean, I preach this buy local, buy local etc. all the time.  Or perhaps, not buy at all?  Shouldn't I practice what I preach?  Of course, I should.  This left me with really only one solution if I wanted a tree.  Cut a local one and preferably from my own land.  I mean, I do have about 18 acres.  There are lots of trees on that much land.

But let's back up just a little shall we?  Say....30-35 years or so.  You see, the only evergreens that grow in this part of Alabama are either pines or cedars.  Now, when I was a child we always had a cedar tree.  They grew prolifically on our land and if we couldn't find a suitable one there, our neighbors would always welcome us to look on their land for one to cut.  From what I remember we always had a good time, going out to choose the tree.  Sometimes we would even hitch the horse to a little sleigh-like contraption we had.  We would all ride on the way over and then let the tree ride back to the house so it would not get torn up from being dragged.  And we were happy with our cedar tree...until we got older.  Then we began to see what other people had and what they had in town and our little minds began to turn and we began to think that maybe what we had wasn't good enough.  And sure enough, it wasn't long before the unspoken truth crystallized in our minds.  Cedar trees were what poor people had for Christmas trees.  Now, we were by no means wealthy but we were not what I would call poor, but God knows, Christmas is certainly THE time to keep up all those appearances, so we confided to our parents that we needed a "bought" tree.  You know, one of the real Christmas trees, the Frasier firs, even a Douglas fir!  Anything but the homely, scrawny little "corndogs" as we so derisively began to call the cedars.  I suppose in the spirit of the season, or the spirit of just getting us to shut up, our parents went along with us and from then on we had our bought tree.  Smug in our self satisfaction and conformity we all carried this on into adulthood and I must sadly admit it has been my one weakness, my one last holdout in my personal Christmas vigil against the rampant consumerism.  Boycott Black Friday?  Of course!  Handmade presents?  Certainly!  Have a local, native, unendangered tree?  Uuhhh, I think I smell the ham burning, excuse me please...Oh, I've used every excuse in the book; 'the firs are so pretty and they look like what a Christmas tree is supposed to look like!'  'I'm supporting a local merchant by buying one' and on and on and on.  But it all comes back to that little unspoken suggestion I learned as a child by observing, a little too closely, what other people have.  Cedar trees are what poor people have for Christmas trees.  In all of my unconventional life spent thumbing my nose at what society thought, I could not admit to myself my true aversion to this simple thing.  This simple and stupid thing. 

Why?  Well, I reckon you'd have to go back even further into the Southern mind and history to find that answer.  My guess would be that the South and it's people have far too long had their faces rubbed in their lacking.  Yes, things are catching up now but when I was a child the spectre of poverty still hung over most country folk like the pendulous moss in our ancient oak trees.  The appearance of having more than enough was very important.  Spare change to see a movie or indulge in the luxury of ice cream.  Not much to most city folk but it meant something to us.  So, being able to go out and buy a 'real' tree, as opposed to having to cut one you find in the woods, meant that you were doing okay, that you were not some country bumpkin that just didn't know any better.  It's a silly thing I know; you don't have to tell me.  But as Chigger and I hiked through the woods last week, just looking mind you, it occurred to me just how easily our society can take such a silly thing and twist and fold it into a spectacle ranking right up there with the whole idea of Christmas itself.  Yes, we are celebrating the coming of The One whose birth was so lowly even a occupied cattle stall would do but don't you dare drag that trash tree into my house!!  I can see the designers of Southern Living passing out now!  Somebody get the vapors!!

So, come this past Monday I requisitioned Jack and we trekked up the side of the mountain to where I had earlier spied a somewhat stately cedar tree.  Well, as stately as they can be...and we cut it down.  Lacking the horse, he drug it back to the house but that's one good thing about cedars, they are much lighter than the firs and they don't shed!  Very little anyway.  I still had a number of pottery orders to get out so it took me until yesterday to find the time but then I decorated it as a cold rain fell heavily outside.  Rain, not snow.  This is the South after all, where cedars and pines are our evergreens.  
Now, were certain people to come to my house for Christmas I know I'll be teased about this tree.  It's scrawny.  I mean, you can practically see right through it.  The lights don't sit on it quite right but then, lots of things don't sit on me quite right either.  But it's real and it's appropriate.  I am poor, by most of society's standards.  Dirt poor.  I've got bare plywood floors for goodness sake!  But I have my life firmly in my own grasp, not loaned out to some bank or faceless corporation and if I want to take the rest of the year off to relax and enjoy this holiday season, as we should, I can. 
But most importantly, as I gaze into the tree's golden light, I can see the reflections of so many family members, now passed on, in the shiny decorations and I can hear their laughter and I remember a time when we had so much fun dragging a scrappy ol' cedar tree into the house.  And we didn't pay a dime for it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Silent Sunday (well, not really)

 We've been getting some hard frosts but the broccoli is taking it all in stride and growing.  Supposedly it can take down to around 20 degrees F.

 Full occupancy!  First time I've seen this!

 Ms. BeaBea hiding out in the dusting box.  She's been molting so she's been keeping a low profile.  She almost seems embarrassed by what she looks like and doesn't want anybody to see her.  Bertha has been kind enough to stay with her and keep her company though.  They are the two oldest hens and pretty tight friends.

Interesting rock.  These are all over my land and range from golf ball size to truck size.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Overdue Update

 I had thought I might get some rest while I was "off work", so to speak, but things just keep piling up and multiplying.  On a good note, I am almost finished with all the orders for pottery and am now just making whatever I feel that people might like.  Small stuff mostly; pie plates, mugs, small bowls and such.  I have been so busy with this!  The kiln often does not even completely cool before another load is ramping up.  That's good though!
Unfortunately there is usually bad to go with the good however.  About a week or so ago I noticed one of the smaller meat chickens was out standing in a mud puddle, covered head to toe in mud and grime.  I had just been out to check on them about a half hour earlier so he hadn't been there long but he was obviously not well.  I have seen how vicious some of these chickens can be to the smaller ones and suspected one of the big ones had stomped on him a bit.  I actually saw a big one grab one of the smaller ones one day, by the nap of the neck, and sling that poor little chicken halfway across the pen.  Although I think it's a horrible practice, I can see why they sedate these chickens in a commercial environment.  5,000 of these monsters crowded in one place and you would have half of them dead in no time.  Anyway, I scooped the little feller up in a towel and took him into the basement where I gave him a warm bath and set him by the stove to dry.  Chigger came in to warm too and they hung out for a while.  It was apparent that the bird was messed up though and I wasn't sure what to do.  After a while he started to eat and drink but he couldn't stand up and was very quite.

The next day I noticed that another one was staying in the coop house and wouldn't come out.  Upon investigation I saw that it was having trouble walking but seemed fine otherwise.  This breed just has issues with their joints and tendons and this one's knee joint wasn't working well, so I brought it in to keep the other one company.  I gave him a bath too and he seems to really enjoy being a basement chicken!  He just chattered and talked the other one's head off.  I tried all kinds of treatment on the first chick but it just couldn't seem to recover.  It would eat but got to where it would not drink.  It could sit up, like you see here, but could only take a step or two and was always unbalanced and teetering around.  I suspect one of the bigger ones damaged it's neck maybe?  I hoped and tried so hard to help him recover but it just started to get worse and I was afraid the little guy was suffering, so I put it down.  The other, bigger one seemed to miss his buddy but is doing well now.  He stays near my pottery wheel while I'm working and chatters to me and Chigger, or whoever else may be around.  He has a VERY good appetite and eats well.  I have been massaging a healing oil into it's knee joints in an effort to keep him mobile.  We'll see.  I told Jack I feel kinda like the witch in Hansel and Gretel;  "Here my sweetie, eat this so you'll get plump and juicy!" 
And so, in more bad news, our sweet Emily (a young laying hen) died yesterday.  She was a good little Leghorn hen that had just started laying.  I never noticed anything to be wrong with her; she seemed the picture of health.  I went out to check on how many eggs we had and saw her on the nest, which is normal.  But she had her eyes closed.  I thought this was odd but when I petted her she stood up and clucked at me so I went back to the studio for a while.  I went back out maybe 45 minutes later and she was dead, laying in that same nesting box.  It's so hard to tell if a chicken is sick.  I examined her body but couldn't find the first mark or swollen spot or anything on her.  I mean, gushing blood or not eating or spitting up you can tell, but otherwise it's baffling.  So, we buried 2 chickens in 2 days.  I can take a good many things in life but I can't bear to see an animal hungry, sick or miserable.  I think we try to take care of ours the best we can but sometimes stuff still happens. 

Today is a rainy, dreary day but it's not cold at least.  Some of the production rush is over so it is a slightly lazy day.  I'll do a little more throwing today as the kiln cools off, keeping BC (basement chicken) company.  If the rains slacks off a little we might go walkabout to find a Christmas tree.  I noticed that the little corner market where I normally buy one has sold out, so, looks like this may be a homegrown Christmas for real!  I might even make out some of my Christmas cards and do a little shopping online tonight while somebody else is occupied with reading or such.  Tomorrow looks to be a nice day.  I must go into town to deliver yet another load of pottery and while we're there we thought we'd check out a couple of holiday markets and just generally piss around and enjoy ourselves.  Have a nice lunch somewhere; that sort of thing.  I'll try to get some photos!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Two Hands

During the past few years many of us have seen a huge surge in interest and production of handmade items.  Some of it due to disgust and revolt of the rampant, mass-produced hysteria of consumerism and some of it is simply due to unemployed people trying to make a living the best way they can.  As someone who has made a living with their hands for most of my life, there are several false notions out there that I would like to address so that if there are others out there considering crafts or such as an income source, that they would not be discouraged by people who have no idea what they're talking about spouting a bunch of crappola.
1.  You can't make a living with art/ crafts in a bad economy.  Well, I tell you, going by the number of orders I'm getting for my work right now, I'd never know things were not good in this country if I didn't read the news.  Yes, I understand that it is the holiday season and people are buying more and it will drop off after the first of the year but.....people are buying.  If you make a good quality product and market it in the correct area, people will buy it.  You might have to make smaller items, as I have had to do, but you will sell lots of these.  My big, expensive casseroles are not moving, at all, but I am overrun with orders for small dessert bowls, soup bowls, mugs etc. and am bringing in a substantial amount of money from that.  People are fed up, for the most part, with cheap crap from China and are looking for an alternative.  These are the people you want to focus on and find.  Forget about the rest.  They wouldn't appreciate your work if they had a million dollars because some people just do not get handmade.
2.  I'd never be able to make enough money off it to pay for my time.  Now, if somebody is using this excuse simply because they don't really want to try to market their stuff, then fine.  However, if anybody really believes this, then I'd have to call bulls**t on ya.  It all comes down to where and to whom you market your work.  Yeah, if you go to flea markets and crap trying to sell handmade sweaters for what they are actually worth then people are going to laugh you out of the place.  BUT, if you market your work through high-end consignment shops, galleries or other alternative markets you are likely to find many customers.  There are still lots of people out there with money and who usually appreciate hand made.  Now, it must be of very good quality.  Lots of people nag me about how picky I am on my work.  I cull my work and a defect means I have more stuff to make mosaics out of, if you get my drift.  Bring out the ol' hammer!  You must be ruthless in judging your work.  You may also have to go cities 100 miles (or more) away but if you can find a place or places who will accept a large enough inventory then it can be worth the drive.  If you choose to do craft shows, only do the ones that insist on jurying the work and I personally never do one if the entry fee is below $75.  This insures most all the entries are going to be from serious artists and craftspeople and you are not going to have to deal with somebody next door selling foam lizards on a stick.  (been there, done that.)
I know a number of successful craftspeople who make their living solely from their art, so it is possible.  One fellow, who lives not far from me, makes furniture and has for most of his life.  Now, one chair or small table can go for $2,000- 8,000, so it is art, not just any ol' stick chair.  But he makes his living with it.  Yes, he has to travel and be very selective about where he shows but once you make a bit of a name people will begin to seek you out.

The thing is, even if you just make quilted potholders or clay jewelry; if your craftsmanship is good and it is a quality product, there are places and people who would love to carry your work.  Think big, forget the flea markets.  The environment in which works are shown determines their value.  That doesn't seem right but it is so, I guarantee you. Don't sell yourself short.  Don't be shy.  Most shop owners are happy to look at stuff because they are always looking for that great new product or artist.  I will say one thing though; don't lug a giant box into their store or gallery without asking first.  Many galleries ask that you submit your work electronically these days but you can walk in and ask about their submission policies.
And of course, online is okay too but I find that most people still want to hold the object in their hand before purchasing when it comes to craft.  I do sell some work online but for the most part, in person is the way to go. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Free Bird

 Well, of course they are not completely free but for them, it's close.  The Cornish Rocks are doing pretty well but bless their little chicken hearts, they are dumb as a box of hammers.  However, they are happy as little 2-legged clams when they get out on the grass and get to run around and scratch a little.  It thrills their soul to be out in the sunshine too.  They are the first to storm out of the coop at dawn and the last to go in at night well after dark.  I hope their short little lives are enjoyable in a chicken kinda way.  I would like to let them roam the yard but since they are not the sharpest knife in the drawer, we are afraid they may not be able to find their way back to the coop at night. 
Thanks for all your comments on the last post.  It's all kinda funny sometimes when you think about how people are and that mainly, most people just don't think about how or why they live.  I have taken a bit of heat over these chickens too.  How could I be so CRUEL as to raise these precious things and then eat them?  But, it's somehow okay to eat chickens that come from a store that never see the light of day or a blade of grass and that are abused their whole lives.  Go figure.  I'm not trying to be a smartass really; it's just kind of astounding that people never think about that.  And I know that what they often mean is, how can I personally, end these creatures lives?  Well, it's not easy.  Jack and I don't enjoy doing that.  But it's a burden I'm willing to shoulder in order to not participate in the horrid abuse of other creatures.

So, on to better subjects!  We got our first double yolked egg!  Bea lays enormous eggs and it was one of hers.  After I first started advertising about selling eggs I wasn't sure if it was going to work.  Several days went by and I got no response at all.  So, I emailed a few more people and now I'm flooded with people that want them.  You what's funny though?  The rural people around here where I live don't want them.  You would think that these would be the people that would understand the benefits of homegrown eggs but other than Fred and Allen, nobody will touch them.  The people that want them are the city folk and they are even telling me I should be charging $4-5 /dozen!  I'm not going to do that necessarily; we just wanted to make up our feed cost.  So far we are only getting about 5-7 eggs a day but hopefully all 12 hens will be laying soon and there will be more coming in.  After talking to some of the people who were really excited to get the eggs I'm thinking that maybe I cold expand a little.  Maybe start my own little teeny CSA.  I don't know, it's something to think about.  I know one lady was real excited to hear that I have meat birds and was very interested in perhaps buying some.  We just got them for us; I didn't really think people would buy them but I guess it all depends on the people you market to. 
Well, I've got bread to bake and pottery to make so time to get off this computer! 
I hope ya'll are having a great weekend!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Cold Days To Come

 We didn't get any snow the other night but it has turned considerably colder since then.  As you can see, Chigger's favorite rope toy was a little stiff this morning!  She played with it anyway though.  That dog is a never-ending source of amusement.  If people could be so content with such simple pleasures we would all be much better off.  There was such a heavy frost last night that when I awoke this morning it almost looked like it had snowed.  I thought it would be a good morning for a little walkabout and Chigger is always agreeable to such.  She knows the word 'walk', so you have to be careful saying it in front of her.  She starts jumping and dancing around in anticipation.  she has free run of the place but won't go down the drive or some other places by herself so she really gets excited if she thinks you are going to take her down to the creek.

In the colder months it takes a little while before the sun begins to peep inside the house as it first must make it up over the ridge behind me.  Once it's over though, the sun floods into the house.

The creek is up a good bit right now due to the recent rains and it normally runs a little more during the winter.  I was trying to get some good shots and I just happen to find another piece of broken ceramic in the water.  It has a beautiful rich, green glaze on it.  I think it's curious that I find so many pieces of broken pots in this creek.

So, I think I'm getting back into the blogging swing.  I have to make another small confession.  I had gotten a bit discouraged while working out of town and had not felt as much a connection to the whole homesteading/ sustainability thing.  I think I did okay considering that I was living in a hotel, but it's very difficult to maintain a certain lifestyle in that environment and work schedule.  But mainly, people are by far the most discouraging aspect of the whole thing.  Now, my guys at work tease me unmercifully about eating tofu and all that but we have a lot of fun and I don't mean them when I say people are discouraging.  A few of them even told me over the course of my time there how lucky I was to be able to live like I do and not be a slave to a corporation.  But it's just the general attitude of the public and the white collar people that we interact with in the course of our work.  I was not prepared for that, especially in a university setting.  I don't go around telling people how I live because I know by now it is considered very weird but I will say a little something if someone asks me.  And people will ask because they know I only work at times and they see this or that.  I had a few ask me about how I ate and they just laauuughed, like I had told the funniest joke.  I'm sitting there thinking, "what did I say that was funny?"  They scoff and snicker a little if I said I would be glad to finish my work and go home.  Their eyes bugged out and they sputtered incomprehensibly when I said I didn't shop at Wal-Mart.  Or they would just stare at you and kinda slink off, like I had something contagious.  Over the past few years that I have been really trying to live with more of a conscience, I have been called various, unflattering names.  I've been accused quite often of thinking that I am better than everyone else. (This makes no sense to me)  And like I say, I generally don't talk about stuff unless someone asks.  Guess I should stop doing even that.  Anyway, I guess it kinda got to me and I began to think, "Is what I do really of any importance?  Does it make any difference at all?  Is there really any point to any of this sustainability stuff?"  Well, coming home, of course, reassured me that it does make a difference, even if just to me.  And I realize that people who make fun or criticize others for trying to do right are only doing it to cover their own guilt or shortcomings they feel and are not willing to face up to.  Well, really this is a whole 'nother post, as I often say but I had to write a little about that.  It just confounds me that people will be so ugly to others when it really doesn't make a hill of beans to them what I do.  Do any of you ever encounter these issues, or is it just something about me?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ten Green Bottles

The other evening I spent a bit of time putting up and organizing many of the herbs I have grown over the summer and had drying.  Wooo!  the excitement of my life is just too much sometimes I know!  I take it a little at a time so I won't be overwhelmed with it, you know? lol!  Anyway,  I have been working from the beginning here to grow as many medicinal and culinary plants as I can and have a fair collection going now.  Most of them are perennial, so once established I really don't have to worry about them anymore.  Just make sure I harvest and dry plenty before winter to make it through.  I ran through my clear jar collection before I ran out of herbs, so I must go searching for some more jars.  Ooh, and I made some way cool labels for the jars on Word and printed them out on individual stickers. You can kinda see if you enlarge the photo.  If you have any available dirt it just makes so much sense to grow your own, rather than buy all these herbs.  Most are super easy to grow and of course, fresher if they are just outside your door, therefore the taste is always superior.  As of now I grow or wild harvest peppermint, catmint, catnip, lemonbalm, passionflower, feverfew, echinacea, dill, parsley, vitex, oregano, basil, chives, sage, mountain mint, beebalm, lavender, red clover, thyme and probably a few more.  I use these for cooking and teas, usually medicinal or just relaxing.  For example, sage tea is a great cough suppressant.  I hope to add many more herbs to my collection in years to come.
I thought it would be funny to label a few jars Eye Of Newt, Bat Wings or some such because it never fails that when newcomers see my pantry they say, "wow, are you some kind of witch?"  At least, I think that's what they're saying......witch?  b......?  Anyway!  It cracks me up that so many people think that if you use stuff like this you're like, "really out there"!  woooowoooo and all that.  Pfft!  Of course, I guess in all fairness, the animal skulls laying around don't really help my rep but they are just decorations.  Seriously.

Hey!! We are supposed to get snow tonight!  Snow!!  in November in Alabama?  Must be that global warming... Really, I don't believe I ever remember it snowing this early in my time.   Hey, I think I said that last year around the first week of December??  Hhhhmmm.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

You Talk

I've know I've rambled on lately about how busy I've been and bad connections and such, and that has definitely been the case, but I have a small confession to make too.  I've been a little burnt out on blogging lately.  I think it's been a combination of all the above and well, sometimes you just run out of things to say, I think.  Any natural conversation ebbs and flows and I look at blogging as a bit of a conversation.  But don't ya'll feel like you're going to disturb me if you ramble on at me a bit or ask questions or just have stuff you want to say!  And I think ya'll know that often times, when I have stuff brewing in my head, it takes me a little while to put it into words.  I think working out of town, away from my home, has made me confront how differently I live (and how different my belief system is) than most people and that has thrown a lot of thoughts into my head.
I'm sorry that I have not always answered ya'll's comments lately either.  I appreciate your feedback very much but really did often have trouble getting online while out of town and then by the time I got home I would forget or such.  But I'm back now and am trying to remedy that. 

 I have also not been making the rounds of your blogs as much either.  This is simply due to time constraints, I swear.  By the time I got home I had so much to cram into two days that I just didn't have much time for reading.  I also know there are some blogs I read that are not on my blog roll and some old ones that need removing.  I hope to update all that soon.  I will admit though, due to time constraints, I have narrowed my blog list down to those mostly dealing with homesteading or similar.  Plus, I don't know if it's been the routine of hard work again or what but I have been quite motivated to finish many projects around here lately and have been working on that.  I plan to start the kitchen soon; just as soon as I can get these pottery orders out to the stores, so that will cut back on some 'Net time.  But I am still out here!
I know ya'll are probably sick of chicken pics but ya'll also know I hate to put up a post without photos!  and, I couldn't remember if I ever showed ya'll the nesting box arrangement we built.  It has worked well I think.  We have 5 boxes for the girls and they have all taken to them great!  We put a fake egg in each one but I don't know that we really needed to.  I was concerned since we let the chooks out in the yard for the day but they all come back to the house when they get the urge and lay in the box.  Most of the young hens are laying now so we are getting lots of eggs.  From right to left is Sylvia, Pretty Hen and way down you can just see Emily's butt sticking out.  The cage area beneath is for when we get bitties.  They stay in there and have a hatch out to their own yard so they are never mixed with the big chickens.  Oh, if there are any local people that might want fresh eggs we are selling them now.  Just email me or such if you would like to purchase or stop by if you see the gate open.  They are $3 a dozen or $2.50 if you bring your own carton.  Of course, they are fresh and completely free range.  No drugs, hormones etc.

I might sell a couple of these too, when they reach harvesting age.  They are much more active than I thought they would be.  They can fly and jump around and enjoy roosting.  I like to see them snoozing in the sunshine.  They seem to enjoy that so much.
Okay, so back to work!  I don't think my kiln has cooled off for the past 3 days and won't for another few!  That's good though; the money is going towards my kitchen cabinets!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fowl Weather

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!  However you celebrate, I hope today finds you in good company with a full belly.  I am very thankful to be home on this weekend and to be able to stay home until next year.  I am thankful that I did have the work though because of that big box you see sitting on the back on my truck.  That is my new stove.  They were having a very good sale the other day so I went ahead and bought it.  I had been hovering over this thing for about a year now, hoping for a sale or something.  It is a Whirlpool Gallery series.  Not the Viking that I wish I could have but hey, it looks like a good range! lol!  Now, the big push to finish my kitchen begins!!

The meat birds are growing and doing well.  I am thankful that I have the land and ability to grow my own healthy, clean food.  Jack sowed an adjoining pen with grass for them and they are in there today.  I'll try to get some pics.

We finally took the big step yesterday and harvested the excessive rooster population here.  They were just really getting out of hand as there were just as many roosters as hens.  They were eating tons of food and being a general nuisance.  It took most of the day but we have 12 chickens for the pot, a bunch of necks for making stock and I saved the livers, hearts and gizzards to make Chigger food.  Things are MUCH calmer and quieter this morning.  I think the hens are much happier now and it is much easier to keep the coop clean and orderly.  We did keep this Rhode Island Red, Rodney, and one other.  We'll see how they do.  Rodney has a crowing disability.  I like that.  He basically sounds like a broken squeaky toy.  We try not to giggle in front of him.

The broccoli is doing well and already starting to make heads.  I have been picking off some of the lower leaves to feed the meat chickens.  They LOVE them.  I hope they, the broccoli, mature before the really cold weather begins because I am not going to go to the trouble I went last year, building a tunnel over them etc.  For what I got it was just not worth it.  I would just replant in the spring.  So, there's short update for now.  I'll try to post on a more regular basis now that I'm home.  I've just been swamped with stuff since getting back and trying to get my head above water.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Topped Out!!!

 Actually, we topped out a couple of weeks ago.  That is to say, we poured the final roof slab at the highest point of the building.  So, according to ancient traditions, we had our Topping Out party to celebrate.  I'm serious when I say ancient too.  As you can see, we drug a large evergreen up to the top of the building and strapped it in place and placed the university flag nearby.  I thought we should have had an American flag too but we do have those on the cranes.  This is an old Scandinavian tradition going back at least 1,000 years.  The tradition was brought to the United States several centuries ago and we try our best to keep it going although this is the first full Topping Out party I've ever been to.

Now, due to the time of year, many people would assume that is supposed to be a Christmas tree but it's not.  The tree, being an evergreen, symbolises good luck and growth.  Actually, it's there to appease the woodland spirits that we may have pissed off when we chopped down the trees to clear this site.  But you can't say that in public anymore.  LOL!  Sometimes the tree will be decorated with streamers.

 Anyway, there's lots of speechifying by several people that really have nothing to do with the job actually getting built (except for Daddy Rabbit) and food.  The food was okay.  Normally it's pretty good and we stuff ourselves.  Then they give away door prizes offered up by tool rental companies and such.  That was really good.  I won a gift card to Lowe's, a hat and a pair of safety glasses.  I gave my hat to one of the fellers that didn't win anything.  I have a bunch anyway and it wasn't a style I liked but he did.

So, it was fun and we got off with pay about an hour early.  Some jobs you get free lunches several times through the course of the building and some you don't get squat.  Just depends on the owners.  This will probably be our only free lunch for this one!  We had a real pretty day for the party too, which was nice.

So, I have today off because Jack is still out of town and somebody had to be here for the animals but he'll be back tomorrow and I'll go back to work.  I am going to cautiously tell you though, that I should be coming home after this week.  I'm not going to point fingers or such but it seems that the project managers on the job have let me run out of steel to weld up and they are not willing to pay my wages (their words) to do other, less skilled work.  So, I'll be coming home for a break and am supposed to go back after the first of the year when a new batch of steel comes in.  We'll see.  I'm happy to have the holidays off and this will allow me to catch up on many orders for pottery.  I have not forgotten ya'll if you ordered something so bear with me!  I am working on it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Scenes From Home

Hey Everybody!  Didn't mean to be away quite so long but it seems my Internet connection out of town has just about become non-existent unless I take my laptop out somewhere and this past week I just have not had much time.  I know, same ol' story.  Time at home is packed full of chores and such and just trying to rest a little.

I wouldn't say I've had writer's block also, but I just haven't been able to get my mind around a specific topic to write about either.  There has been much to think about lately and the fading of summer to autumn always makes me a bit melancholy too.  Things are changing in many ways.

 There is a lot of discontent around.  Not here mind you.  Out in the world it seems though and at work.  Things are changing and not all for the good.  My valley seems immune and I guess I am reluctant to dwell on things while I am here, lest I bring discontent home with me.

 I will tell you more soon however.  I guess for now we'll just enjoy the sights of home.

Ya'll know I am at heart a restless soul, although I love my time at home.  Not sure where the wanderlust in me comes from; certainly not my parents.  Must be from much further back.  I suppose the travel with work has stirred the desire to explore once again but without the opportunity to indulge it.  Go to work; come back.  Repeat.

These leaves have faded now but with the job being a good distance further south, I get to enjoy a second leaf changing when I go back.  Funny that 100 miles would make that much difference.

I need to make some established hiking trails in my woods to better enjoy these sites.  The deer trails make a good starter trail but need a little clearing to make them less trouble for humans.
I couldn't help but to feel my isolation last night as I went downstairs to check the fire.  The full moon illuminated the black forest around me and in the not so far distance the coyotes were singing their awful, joyful hunting song.  I shivered.  I stoked the fire and ran back inside to snuggle in the bed alone.  Things will be better in the morning.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Cold November Rain

Well, I'm on a roll here, posting twice in one week!  Unfortunately, it's mainly due to the fact I've come down with a massive case of tonsillitis and had to take the day off.  I worked all week with it but when I woke up this morning I was just feeling too bad.  The fact I had burned my chest badly again, got something in my eye, so it was swollen and matted up, and got my back acting up again from lifting that heavy steel just didn't help matters either.  And it was going to rain and turn cold, which it did.  I'm waiting on them to find the drawings for my next project so today would have been a sort of slow day anyway.  I hate to sit down here out of town and not get paid but sometimes you just gotta look after yourself or you sure will get run down and injured.
I know from the above description it might sound as though I'm on death's door and I do feel like I've had the hell beat out of me.  It's going to take me a few weeks to recover from this excursion when it's over.  All of this has really opened my eyes to how radically I have changed my life since being laid off this last time and how differently other people live.  It's not that I got soft from not working.  I think the well project proves that!  It is just a completely different type of life due to being so much in the city I guess.  As I've mentioned before, I have tried to eat right while here, and I do for the most part.  I buy partly from a local organic grocer and bring food from home but it's not the same always because I can't cook much.  I get a lot of good natured teasing from the guys about my lunches and snacks and it is worlds apart from some of that stuff they eat! *shudder*  They would die, I guess, if they saw how I eat at home, where I can cook!  Now, I do try to cook several meals over the weekend and bring much of it with me to eat during the week but it doesn't last long and I end up eating out once or twice a week, sometimes more.  I have to be careful to avoid the city water down here.  It is putrid and has given my stomach hell since I've been here.  I finally figured out what was doing it and strictly use bottled water, or bring my water in jugs but it was tough back when it was hot because you have to have cold water and they fill our water barrels with the city water.
The air here is awful also.  There is a stench over everything as soon as you enter certain parts of town and it really gets to me.  I'm so used to my fresh country air.  Plus, for some unknown reason, it seems that 80-90% of the population smokes in this town.  I have found it rare to go many places without smelling the stench of cigarette smoke and that stuff really bothers me.  That and the fumes from welding mess my sinuses up and have caused the tonsil issue.
Well, I didn't mean for this to become a whiny post and I'm sorry if it sounds just like every other post I've done since being here.  I have just been surprised at how much of a struggle this has been for me.  Not the work but the cultural and social parts I guess.  No one lives like I do.  It's hard to find recycling facilities and fresh, natural food.  Wal-Mart and smoky bars are the big spots to go!  The ladies that work at the hotel where I'm staying hold me in curious regard and one has been brave enough to ask me a few questions about what I do.  (Due to the hi-viz shirts we are required to wear we are all branded to the public as construction workers and many people avoid us.)  From their attitude it seems that maybe they were never taught women could do anything but be secretaries or clean. God help if she ever asks me about how I live at home!
My superiors at work hold me in a curious regard also.  They know I didn't ask to come here.  They know I have not enslaved my self to a life of servitude (debt) and therefore don't have to work for them.  They treat the guys like crap but they know they can only go so far with me or I'll tell them to cram it.  And they know I will too.  Interesting the extent of the freedom no debt gives you.  I do my job and I do it well but I can't help but be a little smug about it and flaunt the fact they don't own me. LOL!  Not much though.  I still remember the company ours used to be and out of honor to the guys I tow the line, for the most part.
The bottom line is this job has served to reinforce the idea to me that this type of life is nowhere near what I want or will have.  There are malls and shopping for anything you would want around here but it holds nothing for me.  I admit I have bought a few nice pieces of clothing, on sale, because I got down to not having much in the way of nice things, but other than that, I just mostly stare at the windows and wonder how people can be so obsessed and excited over a new purse?  A life of stifling, frustrating hard labor where you only get 2 days a week to do what you enjoy is out also.  I want to enjoy every day.  I used to enjoy this work; we all did.  We talk about how fun the jobs used to be.  Micromanagement, bureaucracy, disposable society and the death of common sense has killed all that.  It has however, brought to life some images for art that I have had floating in my head for years that would never quite crystallize.  They are very clear now.  That has been very interesting and I am excited to get home for good to start producing these works.  They will be unlike anything I've shown ya'll before.
So, it has been good and bad, as most of life is.  I am making some money though and am actively searching now for the stove I want, as my main goal from this is to finish the kitchen.  I should be ordering cabinets before too long also.  If I get that and get to work with my fellas on a big project one last time then it will be worth it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Here And There

Well, I finally got a little time to scratch out a post for ya'll.  Things have been so hectic.  They have cut out our over-time at work but I have had a few other errands to do after work and my connection is still crappy here.  Jack is working on that so maybe it will get better.  Right now I am at a local bookstore where I can get a decent connection.  Weekends are no time to rest either as I have to play catch up when I get home.  One of the stores that carries my pottery has placed a fairly large order for Christmas so I've been working on that in amongst the usual house chores.  The bit I got planted in the garden is doing well at least.  Each weekend I get a little more of the garden cleaned up and such.
However, Jack and I have made time for some fun here and there.  This past Saturday we went to a play and then out to a very nice, cozy meal at a very cool restaurant in Birmingham.  It was fun.
Speaking of food; Jack harvested 4 of the roosters.  Mainly the white Leghorns.  They were not real plump but one of them made a real nice pot of soup that you see here and I see dumplings in the future for another. It was very tasty.  Jack is still coming to terms with and sharpening his skills at dressing chickens but he has done well I think.
Not a lot else to report, just busy, busy, busy and to top it all off, the one other welder that might have helped me some at work was involved in a equine accident over the weekend and is so broken up I don't believe he'll be back any time soon.  It looks like I'm going to get stuck with all this steel no matter what.  They have at least assigned a carpenter to me full time to help me in whatever way I need.  He is a real nice guy too and willing to do whatever to help out.
So, I'll try to be back soon and maybe with some better pictures.  I haven't even had time to take any and the fall colors will most likely be gone by the time I get home again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Still Amongst The Living

 Yes, I am still here.  I haven't been mashed or givin' up and run off to the circus.  Not yet anyway.  I have really wanted to post several things lately, visit your blogs and leave comments but for some reason my crummy Internet out of town has deteriorated even further these past couple of weeks.  Most evenings I can only get on for a few minutes before it throws me off and then it's just sort of hit and miss getting back on.  I did go down to a local Books a Million one night, where I got an excellent and fast connection but, to be honest, I usually just don't have the energy to do that.  I have even given up dinner on a few nights, preferring to just shower and go to bed after a quick snack.
There is enough steel work on this job to keep 2 or 3 welders busy but so far they seem to think I can do it all, so they have been throwing it on me pretty heavy and with no help to boot.  It takes a little ingenuity to hang some steel by yourself but I have managed it with the help of some equipment.  I finally got a small crew to help this past Friday though and we made good progress.  So, I've been a little discouraged and disgruntled also.  Many on the job feel the same way as I do and are reconsidering their choices of employment.  It has just become a lot of bullshit to put it simply.  They want everything fast, cheap and right.  Well, like the old saying goes, you get to pick two of those items, not all three.  Those of us who've been with the company for years want to turn out a good quality product but they make it darn near impossible nowadays.  I do not want to participate in this lifestyle anymore.  I want to get out before my body is completely worn out and I am discarded by the company as I have seen them do so many before me.
 But, I did not mean for his to be a rant, believe it or not.  I have just been so tired lately and down and when I get down I don't know what to post.  This lifestyle is SO not like what I was doing at home and SO not what I want that it has been a bit of a shock to my system basically.  I am managing to still eat good although not my own food for the most part.  There is a wonderful organic grocery store in the town that I go to for many things so that helps some but it's not like being at home.

 So, just a little update on what is going on here.  The chickens are all doing well.  These Barred Rocks and the one little blond one on the far right are the four that we hatched in the incubator back in the early summer.  They are doing great.  The roosters are very handsome.  The one hen (Scooter) is doing well but looks a little funny.  See, way back when they were bitties, one of the older hens got a hold of Scooter's head and just tore that little chick up.  they are mean that way sometimes.  We had them in a separate pen but Scooter must have managed to get her head through the wire right when the big hen walked by.  It was bad but we nursed her back and she is fine now.  Well, for the most part.  She doesn't have feathers on part of her head and sometimes seems a little slower, mentally, than the others but they look out for her.  At least she doesn't run backwards anymore though.  That's why I started calling her Scooter.  It must have messed up something in her wiring because she would just be going along and all of a sudden throw it into reverse and take off!  She doesn't do that anymore though.

 I have managed to get something of a fall garden planted.  I planted a few things on the deck in pots as an experiment.  This is a lettuce mix.  So far so good.

 Fall is definitely here now.  Our normal first frost is around October 26 but it came about a week or so early this year.  We have been keeping a fire going on some nights when it dips into the 30's.  The mums are all blooming so pretty.  These are all plants that I picked up last year or so when Lowe's puts them on clearance towards the end of the season.  I got most of them for a quarter or fifty cents.  Yeah, they look like hell then but the next year they always come out real pretty.

 I have got broccoli, lettuce and cabbage planted in the garden.  That is one last bell pepper plant still hanging on there.  My leeks and Egyptian onions are doing really well and I have been harvesting a few here and there when I'm home.

The broiler chicks are doing well and growing fast but these are no 6-8 week birds.  I guess they'll be ready at about 10-12 weeks.  These are very active and have completely decimated the grass we had planted in their run so we have been letting groups of them out in the chicken tractor to get fresh grass.  We still have a couple with leg problems though.  Although the majority of these are just fine (it seems) I don't think we'll get these again.  And on a very sad note, my little Katsu died.  Katsu was the little exotic chick that came with these in the order.  They just send you one for free.  Katsu was a sweet little chick and would have probably been very pretty.  I nursed her back to health after these hybrids just about stomped her flat once and she rebounded well.  She was fearless and would jump feet first right in the middle of a pack of these even though they outweighed her by a substantial amount.  She got sick with something though, it may have been thrush and couldn't get over it.  I tried to nurse her when I came home but she was too weak and didn't make it and then I had to leave Jack to deal with it and a messy house because I had to go back to work.  I was upset to say the least.  I have already expressed my intention at work to retire after this one.  I will not live this kind of life anymore, finished house or not.