Clearing it Out

This is going to be a very short post, I need sleep. ;-)  This week I began watching my grandson while his dad is in school. This means I am woken each morning at 6:45 when my son carries a sleeping child into my home.  Disrupting my sleep isn’t a good idea and I’m more of a night owl than an early riser so when little one wakes before 9 it’s not the most pleasant of moments.

I found myself considering the quote by William Morris “.”Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” this week.  I have two items that are useful, just not to me at this time. The first is my juicer.

Juiceman Juicer

Juiceman Juicer

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Guest Post: The Ridiculous Benefits of Riding Your Bike

I’ve talked about the benefits of living car-free when I gave away my car.  Today, John from Practical Civilization, shares the benefits he’s received from riding his bicycle.  Thank you, John for sharing this with us.   I’ll turn this over to John.

 

bike

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

~Albert Einstein

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The Best Weekend Ever

This past weekend we took care of things around the garden and outside of the apartment and even took time for a bit of free fun.

Sunday an independent radio station wanted to thank its listeners for supporting them by throwing a party and opening it to the public.  There were four bands that played 70s rock music, one per hour in a covered barn, the same barn that holds the weekly farmers’ market for our town.

Live entertainment

Live entertainment

Food was abundant and delicious.  Provided by the station were stacks of pizza from a local pizzeria, trays of baked chicken, cake and pots of coffee and ice water.  The picnic was potluck as people were asked to bring a covered dish to share and their own drinks.  The food that arrived was amazingly delicious.  There was the perfect mix of salads, appetizers and main dishes.  The desserts were fresh from the oven and as you can see below people brought kitchenware nothing disposable with the exception of paper plates.

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Blog Hop Around the World

I was asked to join a blog hop -my first- and after seeing the lovely posts already written I thought “why not” it would  give me an opportunity to define for myself the winding road that led me to where I ended up creatively.

Before you read this you may want to check out a guest post I wrote for John at Practical Civilization titled 4 Simple Ways to Save the Environment.

Now back to today’s topic: Crafting.

Wendy, (Quarter Acre Lifestyle) invited me to join the blog hop. As you know from last week’s guest post I greatly admire Wendy for many reasons. What more can I tell you about this wonderful woman.  If you missed Wendy’s guest post (you may want to stop and check it out), she and her husband live in a home with only a quarter of an acre of land but in that space they have been able to create a lovely home through their love of repurposing and are building towards self-sufficiency through growing and preserving the foods they eat.  They even dug up their driveway to feed others.

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Don’t those foods make you want to tear up your drive too?  But this hop is about crafting and Wendy and Roger have that down as well from the rustic heart lovingly hung on the wall Roger made from barbed wire to the restored finds Wendy has filled her home with. You can read Wendy’s blog hop post and learn more about her.

wendy

I don’t think of myself as a crafter, yet when exploring the idea I realized that we are all crafters in our own way every time we make something whether that be a meal or a way to solve a problem in our homes. So maybe I am a crafter. ;-)  I have four questions to answer today, they looked simple enough until I gave them some thought and realized there was much more to my journey than I had realized.

WHY DO I CREATE WHAT I DO?

The simple answer is for sanity and practicality, but it’s never simple is it?  I always wished I could be an artist.  Do you remember those advertizements intended to get you to enroll in an art school where they had a simple drawing and asked you to make a copy and send it to them?  I did, I sketched each one I found, I think there were three total images used in their series, but I never submitted them.  I told myself I wasn’t an artist and the only reason my sketches looked good was because these were designed to be easy to take my money.

My other dream was to become a hairdresser.  I loved creating with hair, especially with color. I began cutting hair at age nine and by twelve had my own clientele and a nicely growing savings as a result.  I studied with the best and specialized in specialty and corrective coloring.  I also redesigned the way I gave perms.  Instead of using only perm rods to wrap the hair around I experimented with everything from rags to juice cans and that need to create was satisfied, for a while.

It turned out that my skin couldn’t handle the chemicals and constantly being wet and I had to leave the industry.  I realized I still needed an outlet and found it in interior decorating.  Again I carved out a nice little niche for myself and supplemented my meager earnings while in college raising my two boys.

As my disability worsened I found my days of interior decorating were coming to an end when I could no longer climb the stairs to see spaces in clients homes.  It left a huge void in my life until a couple of years ago when moving back to the university town I had raised my boys in I grew dismayed by the amount of good furnishings curbside destined for the landfill.  My instincts told me to save them purely from an environmental motivation.  But once home I found myself excited to try new ideas, give these pieces a new modern twist on their humble beginnings.

Little one has a creative streak as well. She picked out all the colors and helped me to restore this dresser.

Little one has a creative streak as well. She picked out all the colors, the entire design is hers, She also helped me to restore this dresser.

HOW DOES MY CREATIVE PROCESS WORK?

I never really thought about this. I don’t intentionally set out to create until I have spotted something needing a function.  I don’t just have one craft, I’m more the jack-of-all-trades where I can do many things but am not an expert of any one.  Working on furniture, it’s usually the cleaning/sanding process in which ideas start to come to me.  I let the piece talk to me, show me its lines and personality then I try to show off the aspects that make it uniquely different from other pieces.  I work with color, a natural progression from my days of hair color.

My projects start either with a need that needs to be met or an item needing a useful purpose.  It might be extra fabric I want to use up, which was the case with the children’s aprons.

C's apron

Or as with the case of an older entertainment center, a new purpose to continue its usefulness now as a place to store toys with a reading nook to relax in.

entertainment center no more

In either case, I envision how the item could be useful. How can I make it fill a need in a way not thought of before.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF IT’S GENRE?

First of all, everything I do is self-taught as I have had no training, formal or otherwise.  When it comes to furniture restoration the biggest difference I’ve seen is that I use no strippers to remove paint or varnish, everything I do comes from my love of the planet and my desire to use the simplest tools and the least amount of chemicals.  I use sandpaper instead of strippers, I will cut up old blankets to use as batting in new quilts, and all the paints I use are given to me by people who would have thrown them in the trash. In the garden, I needed trellises for some of my plants but didn’t want to buy new. I used pieces of furniture being trashed and created my own.  I work within the constraints of what I have on hand at the time. Does this make what I see mostly as my hobbies different from others, maybe some.

WHAT AM I PRESENTLY WORKING ON?

I am currently working on several things at once.  The children and I are making new birdhouses for next spring from items saved from the recycling bins; I have a desk chair I am recovering; I finally have all the materials needed to reupholster the loveseat I saved for my home; and I have a dining room table and four chairs being delivered today that need work and a new look.  Finally, I’ve been asked to create a sleeping nook for my grandson to give him some privacy in his new apartment with his father.

Here’s the fun part of this blog hop, sharing some of my favorite crafters.

I think I have pretty much ruined the hop from continuing as the bloggers I contacted about participating are so busy right now they aren’t able to participate.  I was so focused on these three bloggers I didn’t think past that to who else I could invite.  I decided I would share them with you anyway.

Katherine, blogs at Pillows a la Mode and lives right here in the US.  Katherine had to be included here based on her series called “What Can You Make With A…” In this series Katherine takes old clothes and makes completely new items from the material.  From an environmental point by sharing her ideas and inspiring others to think before they throw out or donate their old clothing we can reduce our trash and fill a current need without using new resources. My absolute favorite repurposing post was the wedding dress she cut up to make a child’s first communion dress.

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Janette (The Green Dragonfly) lives in New Zealand and is a mother and all round busy woman who’s creativity knows no bounds. From her about page she describes herself this way:  “Mama. Maker of stuff. Crocheter. Closet Hippie. Creative. Hugger. Artist. Musician. Cook. Greenie. Painter. Drawer. Driver. Chief kisser of booboos. Photographer. Writer. Inventor of boredom busting games. Gardener. Poet. Dreamer.” And it’s all true.

Head on over to the Green Dragonfly where you will be amazed by the free projects Jeanette offers. You will find tutorials for crochet projects, kids crafts, sewing and even her own handmade coloring sheets you can download for your own little ones -they are way more beautiful than anything you can find in mass produced coloring books.  If you enjoy cooking don’t miss her recipe section.  One note, I have not added any pictures from Jennette’s creations because her images are copyrighted and I didn’t obtain permission to use them prior to writing this.

Finally, an artist whose work I have hung on my own wall.  Jennifer (Winter Owls) is a mother, teacher and one very creative individual who lives in Australia.  Along with her lovely prints, Jen uses vintage and salvaged materials in her creations such as this owl pillow created with vintage chenille and doily.

 

We all have a creative streak what is yours?

 

Don’t forget to head over to Practical Civilization to read my guest post.

 

Good News Monday

Yes, I know today is Sunday, but I have something different for tomorrow and wanted to still share some good news with you.

good-news-monday

You would think because I was off a week I would have a large list of news for you today. Not the case, I have been drowning in bad news for days now.  Here’s the good news stories I found for this week, please add your good news to the list in the comments.

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Guest Post: Something To Admire

One of the best things about blogging are the things I get to learn.  Last week Wendy mentioned her friends from Vanuatu. I was curious what this island looked like, the above image is what I found.   Wendy’s mentioned her friends before but this time I felt a bit more brave and asked her if she would write a guest post and not only tell me more but allow me to share what she has received from knowing these particular friends.  Wendy was gracious enough to accept my request!  Wendy, for those of you who might not know, blogs at Quarter Acre Lifestyle and is such an inspiration to me.  Let me introduce Wendy now.
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Thanks Lois for inviting me to do a guest post on your wonderful blog!

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Indecision

nighttime in downtown

I’m back home but have mixed feelings.  I wanted to title this post Stress and Fun or something similar, but realized stress wasn’t the right word.  It was more of an inconvenience and indecision.

I left home Saturday to meet my bus which was supposed to arrive at 1:20 in the afternoon.  When 2:30 went by I called the closest office and asked if the bus left on time.  It hadn’t, the bus had broken down and would be delayed.

No problem, I could wait.  It was raining steadily and chilly but I was prepared and had a small shelter of a bus stop.  I also had a book and a new crochet project with me. By 3 I called again and found it would be close to 4:30 before the bus would get here.  Not wanting to inconvenience anyone by asking them to pick me up and close family having gone out for the day I decided to wait it out.  To make a long story short the bus arrived shortly after 7 pm.  Six hours sitting outside in the chilly rain.  My son arrived to pick me up at 9:30, rather than the 4:30 I had previously scheduled with him.  But he was good natured about the whole thing even letting my granddaughter stay up past her bedtime to see me for a bit.

Of course things didn’t go much smoother on the ride home last night. We hit road construction which set us back delaying my arrival time by an hour and a half.  Luckily, for me I don’t let inconveniences bother me. I got where I needed to be and that was all that mattered.

baby shower

My visit was lovely.  The baby shower was a blast and I had some quality time with my granddaughter — and her mom and dad ;-)

During the baby shower my daughter-in-law asked me to stay for another week, her best friend shrieked and asked her why she would want me there so long.  My daughter-in-laws answer was she loved me.  Her friend knows me well and knew I wouldn’t be offended and I wasn’t.  If anything it reinforced to me how close the two of us are.

That didn’t stop my sweet daughter-in-law.  Once most of the guests had left and it was just us and three of their closest friends she made a push to convince me to move down there.  This isn’t the first time, maybe it’s pregnant mommy feelings but she has become pretty insistent.  She began by telling their friends I lived in a studio without a separate bedroom and didn’t have a refrigerator or a stove.  One friend was stunned, while I informed her it was by choice.  We then delved into a conversation on how few foods actually need refrigeration.  My daughter-in-law had to stress I didn’t have a stove either, the response was surprising.  All three of their friends felt living without a stove is easily do-able, but a fridge, no way.

Some of how we spent our early mornings while mommy slept in.

Some of how we spent our early mornings while mommy slept in.

When I had to say good bye, my granddaughter told me no and began to cry, it broke my heart.  On the ride to the bus stop my son and I had some alone time.  He stressed he would love for me to move there as well and had plenty of reasons why it would be good for me. He even stopped and dragged me into a couple of apartment complexes which would be in my price range.  I left telling him I would give it serious consideration but not to count on anything.

The pressure was on. His reasoning was:

  • I could always move back when I wanted to spending a few years in each city to have the bonds with all the grandchildren.
  • I’ve spent six years with the oldest grandchildren and now the youngest should have some quality time with me.
  • There would be more to do in his community.
  • Snow, there is considerably less so I wouldn’t be stuck indoors all winter like I am where I currently live.

My answers were:

  • I need outdoor space where I can play in the dirt
  • I need a farmers’ market
  • I need accessibility and the greater metropolitan area where he lives isn’t known for being accessible.
  • I had no answer to his remark about quality time with his children or a comeback about winter.  This past winter is still fresh in my mind and the cabin fever was pretty bad when winter finally departed in April.

I did some research and found he was right, there are many more things in his community I would like to participate in that aren’t available to me where I currently live.  There is a farmers’ market less than a block away from the apartments I liked the best, the library not only has a larger and better selection of books and resources available (including free movies which mine doesn’t offer) but has evening entertainment such as live music where people can bring their homemade beer to share once a week. There is even a farm that offers a CSA (community supported agriculture) where I could play in the dirt and get a weekly box of food.  Basically, it’s a small town with amenities only a larger city usually has without the winters I have accepted as part of life.

On the extended ride home, I had time to think,maybe too much time.

Why was it as a teen fresh out of high school I was more than willing to live away from my home town? I had no compunction about leaving family behind and felt no homesickness.  Now as an adult, with no dependents living with me, I have the hardest time making changes that would upset the relationships I have with family.  Something fundamental changed in me when I became a parent.

I am so close to the oldest two grandchildren I know it would break their hearts if I were to move and see them on the irregular basis I now see their cousin.    At the same time, it breaks my heart to leave the youngest after only a few days’ visit.

playing with Nama

playing with Nama

Then there is my apartment to consider.  We are regularly thrown curve balls here.  There was the listing of the property for sale, then it was taken off the market.  Next we were told we could not use the field, then we won and regained use of the field.  The day before I left on my trip we had a visit by the county inspector (our county inspects rental properties for hazards and to see no landlord is a slum landlord).  This inspection surprised all of us. There are numerous problems with the building, most not visible or affecting the first floor apartment (where I live).  My landlord has 90 days to make the necessary repairs, much of them electrical, or the apartments could be closed by the county leaving us without homes.  I don’t see the owner letting the property go, but who knows in this economy if he can come up with the funds to make the improvements.

Do I keep on this roller coaster? Or do I move to another city and live in a green-built apartment where I can see the youngest grandchildren more frequently?  I have no idea what I will decide to do.  I ran the idea by my oldest son and asked if I decided to do this could his children visit me for extended stays, such as a week at a time. He agreed this would be possible but I could tell the idea of my moving didn’t please him.

So you can see my trip was lovely but has left me with much on my mind.

How do you make decisions like this?  Do you find it’s hard dealing with family that lives in different cities?

Change the World Wednesday, Plastic

I lost a day this week. I thought it was only Tuesday so this is a bit late.  Small Footprints decided to focus on Plastic bags.  Before I share this week’s challenge, I did follow up in searching for butcher paper to replace the food saver bags in my freezer.  I found them, but I didn’t purchase them.

freezer paper

What is the point of buying paper, of which has its own environmental impact if it’s going to be coated with plastic?  I don’t know what the answer is.  I could look at the problem as one of finding something reusable. That wouldn’t be real hard, a bit pricey, but not hard. I could use glass mason jars like Small Footprints does or take her suggestion and buy stainless steel containers that might stack better.  But if I am trying to keep my footprint as low as possible it takes resources to make those stainless steel containers. Glass then would be the best option I can think of.

Now that I have shared my latest disappointment, how about a challenge that ties in nicely with Plastic-free July?

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Nature in Distress

Things are different this summer.  I have gotten a couple of mosquito bites, the first ever here in my little sanctuary. The reason is that we lost our bat colony.  We had hundreds of bats that would fly out of the pines each evening. It was a sight to witness.  The most we’ve seen at any one time this year has been four.

My grandson found this dead bee. There was damage to the one wing.

My grandson found this dead bee. There was damage to the one wing.

Then there is the field. Where are the bees?  It used to be that I would see my plants covered in bees.  They were every where in the gardens and around the wild plants.  This year I added some bee loving plants such as lambs ears. Nothing. I know we’ve had to have had some bees visit the garden because I have a couple tomatoes forming. Yet I worked in the garden for several hours Sunday and saw not one bee.

We haven’t seen a praying mantis, or a lady bug yet this summer. Where are they? We had one Monarch Butterfly in the field this week, it was the first and so far only one seen this summer.  The milkweed is growing in several spots around the field, I thought it would be good to spread it around.  Am I helping, I don’t know and that’s what has me concerned.

I’ve left more of the field wild than I’ve allowed to be cleared, did we do harm by clearing what we did?  I don’t have any answers.

I think the little ones are picking up on my concern.  They are noticing the lack of insects in the garden.  My granddaughter picked my brain Monday asking me what each insect and animal ate.  She wanted to know which ones were bad and which were good.  Her list began with  birds, including the hawks and crows, bees, deer, groundhogs, snakes, lions, and the list continued to grow.  I explained to her how a bee pollinates our plants, and how birds eat insects (and worms) that keep our field healthy. For example if the birds eat ticks we have less chance of being infected by one. We then talked about scavengers and how their work keeps nature from being smelly and riddled with waste.  She already knew about the worms but wanted confirmation, she got it.

She wanted to know why I put tree branches in the bottom of my garden beds. The best way to answer her was to go into a wild area of the field where we have piled tree branches and I showed her the lovely soil underneath. It was dark, moist and filled with life. The branches were softening and teemed with insects.

But then I need to come back to reality.  The areas left wild so nature can flourish are only partly doing what they should. There still aren’t bees flitting on the flowers.  We haven’t seen any snakes this year other than two dead ones. The butterflies are fewer.

My granddaughter surprised us by walking so silently and slowly she was able to pick up this moth she still calls a butterfly.  She gently held it felt how soft then let it go "to eat".

My granddaughter surprised us by walking so silently and slowly she was able to pick up this moth she still calls a butterfly. She gently held it felt how soft then let it go “to eat”.

I hoped to be comforted by taking a look at my neighbor’s garden beds. She started most of her plants in cold frames so they are much bigger than mine.  Her squashes and pumpkins flowered weeks ago but still nothing beyond the flowers. I’m getting worried.

Then I catch this article on impotent roosters, reading through the article I learn that roosters aren’t the only problems coming to light.

The rooster problem comes from a genetic tweaking that causes the roosters to overeat and become impotent, this has reduced the poultry production estimate by 195 million pounds.

What about pigs? There has been a deadly pig virus that has taken it’s toll on available pork products. It was believed that once a pig contracted the virus it would be immune but that turned out to be just wishful thinking.

Domestic cattle (cows) is at it’s lowest numbers in 60 years. Just when in the US meat consumption has risen.  Add to the consumption burden is the increase in exports of beef to China a country where people want to eat beef but not raise it.

Back to the bees.  California supplies the nation with almonds, 80% of the world’s almonds come from California along with many more foods (see this I wrote earlier on the droughts effects on food supply).  What I didn’t know when I wrote that was that bee hives are traveled across the country to California to pollinate almond trees each year.  This year there weren’t enough hives to do the job.

While I don’t buy meat, I do need my protein from somewhere, one of my main sources has been nuts and seeds.  But what do we do when our crops fail, when the bees are gone and we no longer have fruits, vegetables or nuts?

Aside from the question of my diet, there is the question of the planet itself.  Each of these insects and animals plays a very important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Just like the conversation with my granddaughter we need every animal and insect nature provided. We need wild areas where decomposition can replenish the earth and give habitats for life of all sorts to flourish.

Mainstream media downplays the severity of what’s happening in nature. Children don’t understand the need for bugs they don’t like, who likes being stung?  I believe we need to look at nature differently.  This year my son and I watched Cosmos (new television program) in which one episode it was shown that trees, and every other living thing on earth has the same DNA components humans do, just arranged differently. We are connected down to our DNA but we don’t stop to think about that connection and how much we need nature to survive.

Today my grandchildren asked me about air. I told them how trees and other plants breathe in the air, cleaning it, using what they need and breathing out cleaner air that we human’s need.  They picked a leaf, studied it together for a few minutes, then brought it to me to ask if the veins were what carried the air inside the tree to clean.  They were amazed to think a leaf with no nose can breathe.

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho

 

What about your area have you noticed changes that have you concerned?