Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mystery To Me

I have a little bit of a different post for all you dear readers today.  A bit of a Pabloesque mystery to help me solve.  Now, in my daydream world, if I were to decide not to be a counterfeiter, my next choice would be a detective or private investigator.  In fact, if it were not for the fact that you have to go all through police academy and actually work for a time on patrol, I might have seriously considered being a detective in real life.  I'm not much on reading most fiction, preferring technical or how-to books, but I love whodunits and any sort of unexplained phenomena.
So, here is my little mystery....Nothing earth-shattering for sure but a bit curious, to me anyway.  At the road end of my drive, near my mailbox, is one of the largest sycamore trees I have ever seen.  It towers well above the surrounding trees in the canopy and the circumference of it's trunk must be 10-12 feet.  A smaller red maple grows under it and both are a favorite of the local squirrels.  Chigger and I were out for our daily stroll to get the mail and as we approached the gate near the mailbox I noticed something seemed amiss.  Looking over underneath the giant sycamore I saw this:  (you may need to enlarge the photo to really see)

The bright green maple leaves from a newly broken limb caught my eye first.  We had not had any recent winds strong enough to blow that down and the leaves were quite crisp and fresh.  It had to have been very recent.  Patches of a blackish, powdery substances were splattered all about and blending into the gravel just a bit was the fresh body a young squirrel.  It looked as though he had fallen from a considerable height.

My first thought when I saw the blackish stuff was that some passing redneck had spit out his dip but as I looked around I realized it was a very, very large amount.  I seriously doubt that even the big-mouthed knuckle-draggers I know could hold that much Skoal.  Plus, there was no Skoal odor.  Perhaps some type of tree rust or mold?

Upon inspecting the small limb it appeared that the broken end had actually been gnawed.  The marking were very similar to the large teeth marks that beavers make when cutting trees.  It was like that but in miniature.  So, gnawed branch, flat squirrel, black junk.  My brain tumbled it all around for a few minutes while Chigger proceeded to sniff everything but she was careful not to disturb the evidence.
I returned to the house to get my camera. I concluded it had to be one of a couple of scenarios.  A. the little squirrel was being pursued by one of the local hawks and had broken a weak limb in it's scrambling to get away, falling to it's doom anyway.  But that didn't really explain why the end looked chewed or gnawed....And wouldn't a hawk have returned for it's prize?  Surely it would have seen the little squirrel laying there.  B. the little squirrel, lacking worldly wisdom, was simply on the wrong side of the limb it was chewing and essentially sawed itself into freefall.  But why would a squirrel gnaw on a tree limb?  Nuts I can see... and what about the black stuff?  I looked all around the large sycamore for any other sign of this black grunge but could not find any.  No other old decaying limbs anywhere that it might could have fallen out of.  After collecting my photos and evidence, and not wanting to see the hapless squirrel become anymore "messy" shall we say, I conveyed it's small body to a peaceful area of the forest to let nature finish it's process.
So, what do you think?  What was that black stuff and why was it splattered everywhere?

Double brownie points to any who can also tell me, off the top of your head, the band that the post title refers to.  One hint; this title is an album and not a specific song.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn Changes

Happy Autumnal Equinox everybody!!  A little late maybe, depending on when you read this, but you get the idea.  Today was one of the very few first days of fall that actually felt like fall, in my recent memories.  In fact, the weather here the past few days has been gorgeous.  We've been enjoying not running the air and cooling the house by just opening the windows.
The weather has the animals feeling full of piss and vinegar too.  Mr. George has turned into a fine looking rooster and has been trying to put some moves on the ladies lately.  Mostly he has only succeeded in getting the crap bitten out of him.  The girls have been a long time without a male bossing them around and haven't cottoned to the idea of him doggin' them around, so to speak.  Can't say as I blame them.

Little T and Pumpkin are loving the free ranging too and are fitting in better with the main flock.  Not sure what is going to happen when Little T becomes Big T but I hope he and George can get along.  Little T is quite a character.  When he is out in the yard he is still sweet little T, loves to snuggle in your lap and get a good rubbing.  Come time to go to bed though he's like most youngsters....he does not like to go in.  In fact, when I go to pick him up and put him and Pumpkin in their little apartment, he will bite the living crap out of me!  He is serious!  He does not want to go to bed!  Fortunately, since he is still young, it doesn't really hurt.  Not yet anyway.  It's really kinda funny in a way.  I can just hear him saying, 'No Mama, I wanna stay out a little longer!  Imma big boy now!'

Several of the older girls are going through their fall molt so we are not getting a huge amount of eggs right now but that's okay.  A couple of our regular egg customers were so taken with the fresh eggs they ended up getting their own hens!  So, mainly we just give the extras to family and some friends.  I still sell a few dozen here and there.

And Pumpkin is getting to be a big girl too.  She is very sweet and the prettiest little thing.  I'm really not sure when she will start laying because I wasn't sure how old she was when we got her, but I suspect she will be another month or so off.

I finally managed to get a few photos of Susie sitting in my lap.  The young Buffs get very jealous when they see Susie or PeePee in my lap and usually rush over in mass to fuss and push them out.  In return, Susie and PeePee take any chance to bite the young 'uns when they are out in the yard.

Chigger gets a little jealous too sometimes but not often.  She is so good with the chickens.  I wouldn't say she is fond of them (Ramona was the only one that was kind of a buddy) but she knows it's her job to protect them.

So, that's the news with the critters.  The garden and flowers are not doing a whole lot right now, as with myself.  We are working on changing that however.  I'm going to take the opportunity during my next firing, when the studio is really too hot to work in there, to do a good clean up in the main garden and possibly get in a few greens for the winter.  Or at least get things cleaned up and put away.

I'm working on a few changes for myself also, at least for as much as the pain in my body will allow.  I've got to get back to working on the house and may relegate the weekends for that or maybe Friday through Sunday.  Secondly, I've got to start producing more work and income.  I feel my pottery has become rather stagnant in design, so I am working on finding some new glazes that I will be excited to work with and new designs.  I was always able to make a good living in construction and take care of myself but now, since that is not an options anymore, I've got to get my art work up to an acceptable level of income.  If I can come up with some designs I really like, and that show promise in sales, I may consider methods of producing on a larger scale.  Not to say the work would be mass produced but maybe not completely hand thrown.  It would still be all completely hand made though.  I have to consider the fact that I may not be able to always build every single part of the rest of the house and so to be able to hire out a few things would be nice.  Like maybe the roof on the other half.  I would like to finish this house before I turn 80 also.  So, I've got to get serious about this and quit screwing around.  I need a cohesive set of styles and colors that reflect my work as a whole.  As I've said before too, I'd like to expand a bit more into the restoration work also.  I don't really expect that to ever be a big deal but you never know.  One may work out better than the other and I enjoy both lines of work.  Or one may be my main job and then just do a little of the other on the side.  I guess I'm open to either as long as I can make a decent living with it and enjoy what I'm doing.

Any changes out your way?  Has Fall made an appearance yet?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lightnin' Strikes

A couple of posts back I was mentioning the fact that we had not had any measurable rain in some time.  Shortly thereafter we started having a number of rain storms come through.  Some were just light showers but there were a few heavy downpours mixed in and we ended up getting a decent total of water.  Things are not nearly as crispy as they were.  The grass actually grew enough to need mowing and besides the creek still being a bit low, it doesn't seem now that we were ever that short of rain.  I don't know that it was enough to let us have a colorful fall this year, as many of the trees started dropping their leaves early, but perhaps it won't be too bad.
One night a thunderstorm came by us but not close enough that we got any actual rain.  I had been working late in the studio trying to get caught up from taking time out for the restoration job.  I was pretty much finished with what I wanted to do, so I turned out most of the lights and just sat in the open doorway watching the lightning from the storm off in the distance.  I had a little James Taylor and k.d. lang playing in the background and with the storm just close enough to still bring us the cool, stiff breezes, it was quite a sublime experience.
A lot of people don't like thunderstorms but I have always enjoyed them.  Other than their low pressure systems often bringing me some remarkable headaches, I find them quite enjoyable.  Some theories for this attribute the "high" many people feel around or after storms to the high levels of negative ions released by the lightning.  Same reason almost everyone enjoys going to the beach or vacationing in the mountains, especially around waterfalls and swift moving streams.  It's not just that these scenes are pretty, they release huge amounts of negative ions that work on our brains to produce a positive effect.  It's also why a nice, hot shower always makes you feel better. 

I don't particularly like high rise buildings, but I have speculated that being at the beach, a few floors up in a room with a balcony during a thunderstorm would be about as close to Nirvana as I could get.  lol!  It's something I'll have to work on!
I have especially enjoyed the storms this year around here though.  I guess because I have often felt so crappy and uninspired, the occasional storms and their mood-altering ions have been a most welcome lift and respite from my normal fog.  And yes, I have checked out the electronic ion generators that you can buy.  After a bit of research I also discovered that the compact florescent light bulbs that were being pushed so hard produce positive ions, which have just the opposite effect, often giving folks headaches and contributing to depression.  I know it may horrify some granolas but I have always been wary of the CFLs because of the mercury they contain.  Not so much during the use of the bulb but what happens to it if they are not disposed of correctly, and you know many of them are not.  I think that may also be why people people are opting for LED lights now.  At any rate, I switched out all my CFs and after a couple of weeks there may have been some reduction in the number of headaches I have.  I really want to build a cool water feature that contains a waterfall on the patio area behind the house also.  Nothing huge but still more than a couple of gallons.  Just have to keep the chickens from pooping all around it!  Maybe the back yard will eventually include a fence. Ha!
So, we'll see.  Not a tremendous amount of stuff going on around here but I'll try to be back with some photos and such before long.  Or maybe just some more rambling.  I hope everyone out there is doing well and enjoying whatever kind of weather you need at the moment.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Like It Never Happened

 Ya'll will have to excuse me for doin' a little braggin' but, since I had shown ya'll the beginnings of that restoration project, I wanted to show the final results as well.  I was quite pleased with the way things turned out.  The first image is a before and after collage of a couple of areas and then the finished pieces on the end.  The individual photos are just larger versions of those in the collage.

 I do have to admit though, unglazed ceramic is probably one of the easiest materials to repair.  The non-shiny surface is easily matched with paint and so repairs become virtually undetectable.  It still requires good attention to detail though.

This is the only restoration job I've ever done where the artist was still alive and I was able to communicate with them.  That was cool.  I emailed these images to Mr. Fleming with a little note and he replied with a very sweet response.  He said he was amazed at the quality of the repairs and forever grateful that I took the time to do such a good job.  That was really nice and I'm glad he seemed pleased.

The school also seemed very happy with the work and quickly accepted my second bid on another broken sculpture when I got it sent in.  This next one though is going to really test my mettle.  It's a large chunk of cast glass, something I've rarely worked on, and has to be done just so, or else the repair can be easily seen.

When I was still in construction I joked often that I could fix anything from a busted ass to a broken heart and there were a couple of times that I was really sweating bullets to pull some repairs off.  Ha!  But I always managed to do it.  This is gonna be one of those times too, I think.  But I enjoy it.  It's a challenge to restore these objects to their original appearance.  Jobs like this pay pretty good too and I think I may treat myself to one or two modern textbooks I found on restoration.  I have several books on the subject but most of them are quite old and many of the materials and techniques are not used anymore.  I may not be able to attend a school for restoration but I can certainly buy their books and keep myself up to date.

So, not much going on around the house right now.  We are trying to get the garden cleaned up for fall and maybe plant some stuff.  I am way, way behind on fall crops but I might get something before winter.  I hate to not have something growing at all times.  Even salad greens can add a good zip to meals.

The little Buff Orps are not so little anymore and we are letting them out into the yard now to try to get integrated with the big girls.  The youngsters are still pretty shy but they are doing good and really having a blast being out free-ranging.

We are finally getting some rain now so maybe I won't lose any of my dogwoods.  I've got to get my flower beds cleaned up too.  I've just let everything go to poop lately.  Oh well, needing to get everything cleaned up is just a good reason for me not to sit around, which is still incredibly painful to do.  Hopefully everything will be resolved by winter.
Hope things are cooling a little where you are.  I walked outside this morning and it was almost like fall.  I admit, I really hate to see summer go, but the cooler weather is delicious.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

What's (S)he Building?

  Unbelievably enough, I'm actually still keeping up with the "word" posts that I started so very long ago and am down to only 2 words left on the list!  One word after this post because we are going to explore the word "architecture" for Rich, who wanted to know how I designed and built my house.  And as you may have guessed, yes, I saved the harder words for last!  Or I guess I should say, words that involved the most time and effort to elaborate on in a blog post and I really wanted to do this one as well as I could.  It's not going to involve all that I originally wanted to but I think it will be fairly complete.
  Now, as far as how I built my house, well, that's the majority of the blog and you can just pick what part you want to see over in the 'labels' column, i.e. foundation, framing, electrical and so on.  And for any newcomers, yes, I am a woman and yes, I built my house.  Of course I had help! or you could say I was the help in some cases as Allen was in charge of framing and such but I did the formwork, the steelwork and all the interior after it was dried in.  I even did a long post on how I saved for and financed the house, which is somewhere in finances.
  Now, as far as how I designed the house, well, I didn't.  Okay, I kinda started out doing it and knew sort of the footprint I wanted but you all know by now that the BFA (big, fancy architect) had a big part in the design of the house.  I did use The New Natural House Book by David Pearson and The Solar House by Daniel Chiras for technical information on passive solar heating and cooling, correct placement of windows and all that and just general inspiration for a naturally built house and I highly recommend both books if you are interested in doing something similar.  I would also recommend any of Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House series for the sensible, actually livable designs and beautifully crafted houses she spotlights.
  So, I admit flat out I used, and still do use, an architect... and I've been really taken back by the amount of crap I've received over that.  I think I can kind of guess why in the blogging world.  From my reading of the popular homesteading/ DIY/ prepper/ doomer blogs I have gotten the distinct impression that if you don't do absolutely everything yourself and/ or you dare to use any conventional element from normal society (like a contractor or architect) you are not authentic and are pandering to "the Man".  Because you know, I didn't manually shred and chew 1,000 pairs of old blue jeans into natural cellulose insulation and I let a real cabinet maker make my cabinets so I'm just faking it all!  So to employ a honest-to-goodness architect!!  Holy shit! I might as well turn in my anarchist card immediately and cancel my subscription to Mother Earth News.  What the hell was I thinking!
I think what it boils down to is the idea that if you actually use an architect, you must have money and no real homesteader/ doomer/ prepper has that kind of money, so you are not one of us.  This theory is backed up by the fact that I've had a number of people ask me, to my face, "what, you think you're better'n everybody else?"  "Why can't you just do like everybody else?"  and let's not forget.."why d'ya even want to use some ol' architect?"  Well, let's ponder those questions for a minute...Some people could accuse me of an ego trip but I can't really see how because I can't say who the architect is and to me, that's where the bragging would be.  And no, it's not Frank Gehry.  Hah!  I'm not a big fan of his designs anyway.  I mention using an architect because it is something more people should consider, it's more possible than many believe and I don't want to give people the false idea that these cool designs are mine!  As far as why?  Hhhm, let's see...I found a notable, very experienced design professional who was willing, and even considered it fun, to design a unique little house in exchange for carpentry/ manual labor on my part...but nah, no thanks, I'll just use some layout I found in a magazine.  Yeah right.  I mean seriously, if I'm going to go to the extreme physical effort to build my own house, wouldn't you want it to be something awesome and reflective of your personality and life, rather than just stick something together that looks like some damn Jim Walter home some half-ass contractor could throw up in 3 months?  Of course, I know there are those out there now saying, well yeah, but the Jim Walter crap would be done by now!!! and you're still slaving away on only half of your fancy-smancy house.  Well, you got a point there I'll admit.  I'll also admit I've had some unusual physical problems and such that have seriously impeded my progress and it has caused me to question what I'm doing more than once, I assure you.  In the end, it's up to the individual and what matters most to them.  Some people want 4 walls and a roof and be done with it and there's nothing wrong with that.

This is an example of why I enjoy the route I have taken.  I could have never come up with this design myself.  Or the large steel beam that holds up my roof, or the rafter tails inside and out and how it kind of, in the back of your mind way, makes you think of a church when you see them.  The column in the drawing above is a recent thing that the BFA came up with and these will support the covered walkway that I've started and will extend further down the house as the next half is built.  The bottom half or less is stone around a concrete base with filigreed steel extending up to the roof.  The cool thing is that the steel design is cut from three flat plates and joined at ninety degrees so that a cross-section would look like a + sign.  It's still very strong structurally but does not employ the normal hollow tube used for steel columns so that you can have this really cool, open design but not have to worry about wasps and other horrible critters making nests up in it!  If the design looks a bit, erhm, intricate to you...then I would agree and we figured this will probably be simplified a bit to keep me from losing the rest of my mind trying to assemble these things.  There will probably be 5 or 6 of them when the house is totally finished.

Now, here is an old, original drawing of the entire house footprint.  You may notice that it's been marked on quite a bit, changed, and that there are no dimensions!  Well, there are some concessions you must make when working with a BFA in a barter situation.  If he had to work hard enough to put actual dimension on there I'd still be a slave to this guy! Ha!  Well, I laugh but those fancy columns just bought me another round of labor and sweat.  One good thing about taking a while to build a house is that you really, really figure out what is essential to what you want in a house and where to put it.  This drawing shows a 3 bedroom house but it will probably wind up being only 2 bedrooms and a really honkin' great craft/ sewing room.  And a much bigger master bath...I don't know what the hell he was thinking on that.  When I'm old and decrepit there's no way I'm gonna try stepping into a tub to bathe.  Hell, I'm half decrepit now.  I want something I can just cruise into and sit down.

This is the elevation drawing from the south side and it is somewhat different from reality in that not that many windows actually went in the existing part.  But that's okay.  Since we were experienced builders we really didn't have a problem building with drawings that were....not quite finished, let's say.  I would not recommend that if you are not experienced in construction.  Most people also have a hard time seeing in their mind what the finished house will look like from some drawings, so I found this actual photo of a contemporary dogtrot house.  Of course, this house does not look like mine is going to but you get the idea.  Their trot area is wider than mine is drawn now, and I'm thinking about maybe making mine a little wider, but overall it gives a very similar feeling.  Long, rectangular footprint, high windows, metal roof and a deck that bumps out on one side.

When you are building your own house, and it ends up taking a while, I think you also begin to think about other scenarios.  "What if I go to all this trouble and then don't end up staying here?"  "What if some giant storm comes and destroys my house just about the time I get it finished?"  Due to circumstances beyond my control in the years I have lived here, I have seriously considered the idea that I may not always live here.  What if I found some beautiful, secluded property with a gorgeous mountain view?  Well, no one knows what the future holds and how things are ultimately going to work out.  Often times it's quite a surprise.  I know it would break my heart to leave this house due to the sentimental value and I'm not kidding when I say I would rip out certain parts to take with me!  But, it is one thing to consider when building.  At least if I finished the house and needed or wanted to sell, I could be pretty certain of getting a good price in order to start over somewhere else.  Because the house was designed by someone who does that for a living, most everyone* that comes here raves over the flow and comfort of the place.  And it's not even all here yet.  People find it very homey and comforting.  It's personable, not some sterile, catalog ordered floor plan. So, it's an investment one way or another.

This post may not have answered your question Rich, if you even remember your question, so if it didn't just let me know and I can hopefully address what you really wanted to know.

*Everyone except my stick-in-the-mud family who hates everything.  Ha!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Something's Got To Give

So, this is the third post I've attempted to write since the last time I posted.  Maybe the charm will do it's thing and all that.  I think every time I tell ya'll I'm gonna try to be back soon I end up waiting even later than I did before.  I don't think that's a conscious effort but who knows at this point.  My ass is dragging and according to many, that must be what's causing these headaches and awful brain fog.  I have a few things to write about, more if I'd put my mind to it, but I just don't have any desire.  I think at this point I've kinda said it all when it comes to my current situation.  I hurt a lot and I'm bored slap out of my mind.  Sometimes the simple life ain't so simple.

However, I'm not gonna let this post turn into a morose quagmire of despair!!  So, I'll keep it short.  Seriously, I've been doing some research into art restoration programs/ education etc. to see what is available.  Unfortunately, there are only about 9 universities in the U.S. that offer any kind of restoration program or degree and none of them are anywhere near me, of course.  I suspect now days you might can take some courses online but I will have to look into that more.  There are a few places that offer short term courses or workshops for certificates in specialized areas and I will look more into that.  Again, they are usually no where near my home but it's not an impossibility to travel somewhere for a couple of weeks or so.  Most of the courses I've seen so far are for building restoration though, and I'm not really looking for that, but there could be some specialty subjects where that might apply.  I've always done pretty well teaching myself in the subject but I would really like to take an actual course somewhere to get some kind of real accreditation.  I think one of the main things is that I really need to get out more, professionally speaking at least.

I'm also waiting on one last MRI of my tookus.  Exciting isn't it?.  Just what you wanted to know.  Blue Cross initially turned me down for the test, which is not terribly uncommon, but the BFD (big, fancy doctor) is working on getting it passed.  I guess Blue Cross didn't feel that 15 years (or more) of extortion level monthly premiums was enough to warrant them actually covering what they say they will.  Oh, I know that they have to check stuff out because there are people who will happily defraud an insurance company but it makes me feel a little better to gripe about them.

Sorry I didn't include photos but I didn't figure you all would be too interested in seeing pics of dried grass and half dead trees.  We did actually get some rain a couple days ago but it did not last as long as we had hoped and was sucked into the earth so quickly you could barely tell it had rained at all by the next morning.  I will say this; the chickens are having absolutely no trouble taking dust baths.  In fact, I think at this point they are digging the holes to mainly try and reach some cool level of earth, more than trying to bathe. 
Hope you all are getting by okay and I will try to post again soon!  Ha! Maybe with some actual photos.