Thursday, April 29, 2010

29 April 1956 “My Place in the World”

I seemed to have lost my steam for the rant. I think, perhaps, the joy of Spring has wiped some of the indignation from my mind. This, of course, makes me realize how easily we, as a people, are swayed. Give us some diversion, wave a trinket and we are the cooing satiated baby.

I will find myself now teetering on the edge of sad and angry reaction to our over manufactured world of consumerism and the quiet reclusive escape of my solitary life. So often I find I want to just turn my back completely and slip into the ‘past’ and go on as if the modern world isn’t really there. For me it is rather easy, being at home and being rather unplugged. But, again, I will feel that pull and anxiousness of the reality of our world.

Hubby recently read ‘The Story Of Stuff’ by the same woman who had made the video I shared with you. She spent over 10 years literally traveling all over the world to the factories and villages etc that are impacted by globalized industry. She at one point was a member of Green Peace but found their politics to almost be so self-involved and more concerned with the whale than the human. Not that she did not care about the plight of the animals, but that our own plight, the human animal, was as sad. It again made me realize how everything is just so packaged for our delusion to keep quiet. How easy it is to simply say, “I am outraged by animal cruelty” because it is the popular thing and then to still do and live in the modern world in a way that continues to hurt the environment, the animals, and the human animal.

Diversion. The implied or presented diversion of mass produced culture that has us care for or hate or love or loathe whatever it is at the moment whose direct and exact response is through shopping and spending money. Even in our desire to help: we  donate money. It makes us feel good, or so we are taught. Here is $20 for PETA now I will go buy more plastic items, throw out my water bottles and sit in my car waiting for my child, friend while I burn up the gas/petrol. I will buy this pleather product to not wear leather as I support the petroleum consumption.

Hubby told me how much petrol it takes to make an aluminum can. We are not told this, of course and I think of how many aluminum cans are made and used just in our country alone. I will have to ask for the exact number from him, but to make one can it takes a certain number of gallons. So, even if we drive less, just drinking from an aluminum beer or soda can is contributing to the use of the natural resource.

There was a sad statistic in that the amount of ore’s and natural mining that has to take place to make our electronics is amazing and because the areas these things come from are often small warring republics, actual life is lost. During the launch time of the Play Station II there was an actual coup where in a village was literally stormed and yes people raped and killed (things we seem to think stopped after WWII) in order to control the ground rights to mine something that goes into the chip to make the game. Actual people had to die and suffer at the hands of real guns so that over fed bored children could shoot aliens!

So, the more my eyes are opened, the more I curl into my little protective shell. But, honestly, I don’t know how true even that shell is.

The increasing digitization of our world both fascinates and repels me. The digital book/information (to which I am currently contributing) is both interesting but also rather scary. When more media is simply available for our hand held i-pads (the type of product, I believe, which will be the next cell phone. Right now it is new in three years we will say, “how would I live without my digi-pad?). Are entire markets and jobs and industries to fall with this? That is part of Capitalism, in that you simply lose entire area’s of business to the new thing, the survival of the fittest. It is probably they closest monetary model to our actual animal base instincts out there. But, what does that mean for our country?

So, I hate to only be a peddler of doom. I don’t want to only focus on the bad, but it is hard. And when I slide more into the contentment of a time gone by, am I turning my back on my fellow man? What matter it, if I use less and spend less in the over all scheme. Is my need towards self-sufficiency just my own reaction to the current trend? Is it MY keys to be rattled before my crying face to settle me down and placate me? I don’t know, really.

So, I find myself in moments of blissful happiness as I continue to learn and do more for myself and use less. It is odd that my personal ratio of happiness seems to increase with the decrease of things and buying. I used to believe or was lead to believe it was the other. “You deserve it” was often the mantra I or others would say while standing in the long lines waiting to buy another decorative useless item, a Chinese remake of something that might have had real value in its original state. You deserve that video game, that new computer, that new phone, those pre packaged meals and treats.  And with every purchase, the initial high and then the eventual crash as you came home to your cluttered house and wondered, ‘Now, where will I put this’ only to often leave it in the bag and put it in a closet.

Even my old approach to gardening was more spendthrift. I found it easier to just buy the plants in an already well established state. The cost is easily 10 times what it is to start from seed, but instant gratification was the word du jours. Now, with my few dollars worth of seed packets, I have had so much actual joy and accomplishment from simply sewing seeds in soil and caring for them and watching them grow. Again, that imaginary graph in my head showing the increase of happiness with the decrease in spending or over stimulating myself.

Well, what have I learned? Where is the silver lining? What is the RIGHT thing to do? Honestly, I don’t know. Is it a balance of self responsibility and self-preservation of mind? That seems to be my own reaction. Not having children also makes it easier for me to slip into a world of my own making. Is that good or bad or also self-indulgent? I honestly don’t know anymore.

I am sorry if this post seems rambling or even rather sad, but the pure anger of righteousness seems to have ebbed to a sort of numb realization of the modern world and my own helplessness against it. I may have felt St. George to the Dragon, but now I wonder if I simply drop my sword, hide behind my shield to stop the occasional fiery breath of the beast, but lose my will and power to wield the sword to bring him down.

The more I slip into the feel and need for the sanctity of the past, at least my own idealized version thereof, the further back I often daydream of going. I would not want to give up the advances in medicine we have, by why do we have to have the good be so wrapped up in the over all bad? Are they mutually exclusive? I don’t know.

I was poking about in my barn building this past week, trying to organize and collect up all my ‘stuff’ to have  a large yard sale this summer. To cleanse myself of all that I don’t need nor want and to simplify my life so I can focus on creating without the connection of buying. In so doing I found this little drawing I did when still living in the city. I love pen and ink. I have always loved the 19th century and even as a small child would copy out or get my inspiration from the old engravings and etchings of old books.

mermaidkids These characters were simply odd mermaid-children I had invented one day. I had found them in a box of my city studio items packed away. I had forgot the simple moment in time when I put pen to paper and let my imagination just go. In my mind I wrote out a story of these children and an adventure, very 19th century adventure. I had intended to make them into a children’s book. But, again, my point of reference is all nannies and nursemaids, adventures in crowded 19th century cities, ladies who leave calling cards. How relevant is it today? So, I ask you, in my own simple and pure joy unfettered by what I ‘should do’ or how I ‘should be feeling’, could it result in something that could and would be a contribution to the world? Are aimless scribbling for my own purpose relevant, or do their need to be admired or even purchased by people at large give them value? Am I such a product of my modern world that true value really only exist in the item or idea’s direct value in dollars? Or, is that merely a way of showing you what you have to say or draw does matter because others would wish to give up their money for it? Yet, we are all so quick to give up our money we all are always looking for ways of spending it, does even that equation of money for goods=relevance or value also become devalued? Have we lost the idea of real value? What is our own place in the modern world?

All I know is I don’t want to allow myself to completely lose touch with the modern world but what is my own relevance in it?

Well, this was rather an odd and pointless post, but I felt the need to share. Having all of you (those of you who have found my bizarre enough to follow along on this odd journey) has made my friend base more interesting. There is a bit of the old ‘imaginary friend’ in all of you. I have not created you, but am so happy to have all of you. And, of course, there is that bit of magic in having ones ‘invisible friends’ come to life and talk with you. Rather scolding or praising or merely coming along for the ride, it is a fine and good thing. It is one of the best bits of the modern world, for me. Thank you for listening to my nonsensical ramblings.

As always, happy homemaking and enjoy the Spring! It is all too fleeting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

26 April 1956 “The New Princess Grace, A Busy Week in The Veg Garden, Statues, And A Sewing Corner You Can Build”

On the 19th of this month in 1956, our beloved film star, Grace Kelly, became Princess consort to Monaco by marrying Rainier III, Prince of Monaco.

As is customary in some countries, Kelly and Rainier had both civil and religious weddings. The 40-minute civil ceremony took place in the Palace Throne Room of Monaco on April 18, 1956, and was broadcast across Europe. To cap the ceremony, the 142 official titles (counterparts of Rainier's) that Kelly acquired in the union were formally recited. The following day the church ceremony took place at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral. helen-rose Kelly's wedding dress, designed by MGM's Academy Award–winning Helen Rose, was worked on for six weeks by three dozen seamstresses. The 600 guests included Hollywood stars David Niven and his wife Hjördis, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner, the crowned head Aga Khan, Gloria Guinness, Daisy Fellowes, Etti Plesch, Lady Diana Cooper, Enid, Lady Kenmare, Loelia, Duchess of Westminister and Conrad Hilton. Frank Sinatra initially accepted an invitation but at the last minute decided otherwise, afraid of upstaging the bride on her wedding day. The ceremony was watched by an estimated 30 million people on television. The prince and princess left that night for their seven-week Mediterranean honeymoon cruise on Rainier's yacht, Deo Juvante II.

I love the bridesmaids dresses. They show that when things are done tastefully with a clean restraint, though it might seem very 1950’s, it still has an almost modern quality about it. I know today’s weddings would rather have a more sleek wearable dress, but the frothy glide of these gowns must have been lovely.


I realize that it has been exactly one week since my last post. I should beg forgiveness, but I know that all of you are also busy. Spring has sprung and since this is our first summer in this house in years, I have so much to do to get the structure of my gardens in order. If I had only to pop out and weed and rake and plant, I would have more time, but as it is I have been installing fence, digging holes, moving rocks etc. I am so happy to be back at our lovely little house, but am also excited to get the form of my yard in order.

I have been involved in a recycling project here with fencing. I have moved old picket from one section of the property to become the ‘new’ veg garden fencing.

gardenfence1 This is the side yard with the Southern exposure. It is the perfect spot for the veg garden. Here you can see I have already begun digging the post holes and some of the fence is laying about. I love the way a fence gives structure to a garden. And I love my post hole digger. I have put up so much fencing, but here it feels good as we know we will always, in some capacity, own this home. It has a permanence to it that I enjoy and using the old weathered fence gives it an instant feel of settled antiquity. As the house itself is almost 300 years old (in 2018 it will be it’s 300th birthday and we should have a party to celebrate, I think) with old weathered cedar shakes, the turns and warping of the old fence seems more appropriate than say a modern plastic fence.

vegfence2 Here is another angle before the fence goes up. The archway with gate I also moved here from the back part of the property. It is also older and will receive a new interesting gate, when I get around to it. I wanted it to frame the main entrance to the veg garden and to line up with the window and the old colonial bench I moved there.vegfence3 You can see the off kilter quality of the bench, the arbor and the house. I like that and though I eventually leveled off the arbor to the ground with my level while attaching it to the fence, the very settled crooked look of the house still gives an overall appearance of settled age. I think every garden, even the utilitarian veg garden, needs a good place to sit and dream and plan. It allows you the place to collect your thoughts and admire your labors.

I will be planting my grape vines along the inside of the fence in this garden and will train the vines over this arbor. I had originally thought to train roses over as well, but am trying to use as much dual purpose plant as possible. The grape is pretty AND it provides for the table. I really want to plant roses along the front of the fence outside of the garden for show, but may plant plum roses, so that they are lovely but also proved me with their rosehips for jam and preserves. We shall see.vegfence4 Here you can see that I took the time to 1)first dig the post holes, 2)then lay garden fabric. Then I put the poles in, being carful to cut a hole for the post to fit through the fabric and then cemented them in. then compost went over that. I have a love hate relationship with this fabric. Sometimes I don’t like to use it, but it does break down eventually, it is breathable so the soil is still arable and it really does stop weeds. I laid it so it covers both inside and outside the veg fence. This will allow me to simply cut a hole when I am ready to plant my grape vines inside the fence and my Rosa rugosa outside the fence. The Rosa Ragosa is the best Rose to use for Rosehip jams etc. Here is an example of the bloomrosa-rugosa and look at the lovely bright rosehip you get in fall.rosehip So, the fabric and mulch will allow a weed free area for them to grow in. With all I need to do this year and the various aspects I wish to add to the garden, any way I can reduce the amount of weeding I will need to do, the better! I am also going to use this fabric in the rows of the garden between my plantings, so I don’t have to worry about weeding the paths I will only tread upon to get to the various rows.vegfence5 So, here is the present state of my week long handy work. The mulch is mostly in, the fence posts are cemented and the old fence attached. It still looks a little rough, but it will improve as the plants are added, the mulch area edged etc. vegfence6 Here is another angle. you can see that i have also made a secondary gate here in the foreground. This will lead to the front door. I will be installing a brick path with salvaged old bricks probably next year. This year it will get, at both gates, a trim gravel pathway. The old gate now is simply one from the back of the property but it will probably get some new hardware. I think I will make the gate for the arbor out of old twigs and branches collected from an old Rose of Sharon that needed some major trimming this year. I like the idea of using the old and new growth of a tree that didn’t quite make it but was always part of the property. It feels more genuine some how. I just love the rustic beauty of twig gates and even twig furniture. boywithtwiggate twigarbor twig-gate-by-the-sea

Speaking of gates, I recently also installed quite a few feet of tall stockade fencing to privatized the back portion of the yard more. In so doing, I needed to make a gate and used some old lumber to create this. gate1 This is what we see from inside the fenced yard. you can see the odd blue painted piece, but I wanted to use up scrap wood and this fence will either get painted crisp white or else a more subdued Cape Cod Gray, I have not decided as of yet. Here is the front.gate2 Again, old boards. But you can see the fence to the left (Which I hung last week) is also old fence we had on the property. It is simple stockade with the pointed tops, but I have hung it upside down with the flat at the top. Then i will build out a top piece of lattice and trim to give it a more decorative look. When I priced out this type of fencing with the built in lattice panels it was around $75 a panel! As I have hung about 20 panels, that would have been very expensive. When it is all done, I need to decide to I want it all crisp white or more subdued grey, like the natural fading of cedar. Any suggestions? You can see my trusty drill resting in the metal urn. These urns may end up at the entrance to the veg garden planted with two large tomatoes or else in the back at my stone wall (still to be built) planted with evergreens. The eagle on the gate is an old metal one that once was attached to the old front wooden storm door of the house. I have wanted to use it some where and I think it rather cute here.

So, you can see, I have been very busy this week, and therefore unable to get to my blog as usual. I have also planted up some of my cold hardy veg seeds. I put in my carrots.Carrot-Tonda-di-Parigi_lg These are an Heirloom carrot French 19th Century. They grow quickly and are perfect for planting in pots, if you can only garden on your deck or porch or terrace. They like cold, so plant now if you are still in a frost area and you can plant throughout the season into early fall. My French Breakfast Radish french radish These are so delicious and have been grown since the 18th century (perfect for my 18th century house.)I also planted my Green cabbage seedsCabbage_copenhagen_lg Also an Heirloom seed. I love that planting and keeping alive these old variety of plants is not only important to our ecology, but also a bit like time travel. In a way we can taste and eat what earlier generations did.

For my tea garden I have started my Chocolate mint and apple mint. I will have in my tea garden, Fennel, Bergamot (bee balm), Echinacea, chamomile, hyssop, anise, lemon balm, Borage, Rose Scented Geraniums. I may add more. All of these also have medicinal value and are very relevant to plant in a garden in my Colonial era home. In fact, when putting up my fence this past week, we sacrificed part of an old tree in order to make more space to be fenced and used in the future as food gardening. Not only is it good for our budget and our diets, it is more relevant and true to what would have been done around this house in the 1700’s. Ornamental gardens are lovely and I shall certainly have many flowers and such, but when what you grew meant your survival for the winter, it was a serious business. So, I can appreciate the true to history aspect of slowly giving up my front lawn over to fruit, veg, and herb.

My seedlings are coming along nicely. Here is one of my tomato planted in a pot.tomatoseedling It never ceases to amaze me that a tiny little pin point seed grows to make such plants. I was considering how much I am saving by growing my heriloom tomatoes by seed. At our local garden center, they have heirloom tomatoes only available as a large plant around end of May. They are around 8-10 dollars. I counted up all my seedlings I have growing and realizing they will be around that size. I have $400 dollars worth of heirloom tomatoes growing in my little living room!

I used to be the lazy plant buyer and am now happily the seed starter. I promise myself to build my own greenhouse for next January seed starting. I have been collecting up old windows for some time. I have a new friend who also has been saving windows for such a project and we may use the Amish trick of sharing labor to help one another erect our greenhouses. I will share all with that when it happens, but that is not until Autumn.

While out in the garden this past week, I began to consider statuary. Statuary has always been an important part of my life. I have always been drawn to the human figure. Again, sometimes I associate this with my own solitary childhood. The very lack of people about me may have, on some level, left me to wonder at the creatures more. What are these walking breathing replications of myself: people? Or, because of my solitary, the staid voiceless human form trapped in stone and marble may have almost seemed more relatable; more relatable. Who knows? But I have always been drawn to the human form.

In my own artwork, the figural has always been my first initial act. Drawing and painting the figure was always more exciting to me than a landscape. I loved figure drawing and the 5 and one minute poses often practiced in such classes were my favorite. I always found my own result the most active or true when only given a one minute, a piece of charcoal and paper to render the still figure.

So, it stands to reason, I am drawn to statuary. I have a variety of busts and figural sculpture I have collected over the years. Hubby often refers to them as my ‘Lady heads’ (a quote from a funny sitcom of a few years ago called Arrested Development. )

My garden, which I also treat as an extension of my home and therefore see it as rooms,  are the  recipients to my love of the figure. Here are some shots I took the other day.

statue2 This little  lady still has not found her permanent home, but I love how the weather has chipped away at her exterior exposing her earthen core.statue1There is a very real human beauty to this, for me. The crack in the eye, the wear of the ‘skin’. Time passes, we age, and all that. There is a tranquility in their being affected by time. Even they, in their stoic poses, cannot out run the ever elusive Time. Sappy, I know, but true. statue3I love getting in close so one has to look twice to see the figural form. The eye, the turn of the nose, the lichens blending with the green of the background.statue4 The turn of an old stone jug cracked with age and seasons.

Even the plants themselves can have a figural or representative quality. My little “hens-n-chicks” plants are spreading with the warming Spring.hennchicks2I love suculents and these are the perfect variety for our North Eastern climate. They are easy to share, as well, as one has only to break off some of the little “chicks” to give to a gardening friend and they will soon be over run with the little darlings.

Speaking of chicks, I thought I would share with you what, hopefully, my own chicks are looking like.chick10days They already are looking very bird like, though a bit alien as well. I wonder if their little eyelids blink yet? It is amazing that in 21 days the darling little chick is formed and born. I am crossing my fingers that most of my eggs do hatch.

The business of my Spring will have to continue, as I will begin building my chicken house next weekend. I have a good amount of time before the chicks will need their home, as they have two weeks until they are born. Then, they need to live in their brooder for about 5 weeks or so, but I plan on finishing their home before that. I will share that process with you.

I was considering the other day the first time I heard of the ‘Honey do” list. I laughed, when I learned what it was, because quite honestly, I tend to do many of the things that would end on that list. I feel as if I had to wait for my hubby on his days off or after work, I’d never get anything done. I also feel a part of what a 50’s homemaker was capable, was construction. My magazines are full of ‘how-to’s’ with pictures of the lady of the house wielding the hammer. Rather or not this actually happened, it seemed the magazines and books of the times considered it normal for the woman of the house to be able to hammer, saw and do basic building either by herself or alongside her husband. It makes me laugh when I think of the modern conception of the 1950’s housewife, all dolled up, mindlessly bringing the slippers. When, really, one was expected to be all facets of an individual. Something to which I can relate.

I think modern people, most likely through advertising which finds it easier to sell to ‘groups’, have found themselves pigeonholed. If you care about the earth, then you are hippy crunchy and you dress and buy this. If you care about looking nice or dressed up then you would not be caught dead getting dirty and then you do this. I don’t know why or when we lost the power of a well-rounded life. I love dressing up. I adore being pretty, but I also like to know that I can build if I want or plant a garden. I want to know not only how to cook and eat the food, but how to grow it.

As my time in the 50’s continues on, I have found myself less and less being really aware of the differences as I find myself more immersed in simply living and constantly learning. I hope my posts have not suffered for it, but I feel less like two people (modern me and 50sgal) and in fact more a well rounded individual. As I depend on the modern world less for entertainment, diversion, and ease, I find my life fuller and happier. This may not be true for all personalities, but it certainly is so for me.

Now, I will end here while on the concept of the homemaker being as involved in the construction of her life as the casual beauty of it with this fun article from a Better Homes and Gardens. It shows how easily we can put a ‘sewing room’ into our homes. There are plans for the roll out version shown so you or your hubby could easily copy and build it. I think this would work as well for a craft corner as it would a sewing corner.sewingcorner1 sewingcorner2



Monday, April 19, 2010

19 April 1956 “Seedlings, Eggs, Apple Blossoms, Introspection, and Cookies”

Though I have not been as ‘Contrary as Mary’ it seems my garden does grow. My cucumber and tomato seedlings are doing so well.
Here is a close up of the cuke leaves and you can see we are onto the 4th set of leaves and they are already developing their little curly cues.cukeleaf1I just find that patterns and shape of them so lovely. Here is a close up of one of the tendrils.cukeleaf2I think this would make a lovely photo framed and hung on the wall as art or even reprinting the pattern of fabric. I am just always so amazed and in love with natures colors and patterns.
Here is a little view of the darlings all jumbled together. They are impatient to get outside, but here in New England that must wait.cukeseedlings2This year, rather than planting many seedlings per pot for tomatoes and then thinning them out, I decided one per pot. And I have to say they all look rather healthy to me for it.tomatoeseedlings2They smell wonderful and I can’t help but brush my hand along their little green heads when I walk by and then inhale the intoxicating fragrance of it. They smell, already, of tomatoes.
Here is my entire tray of Basil. I think one can never have too much of the stuff. You can freeze it fresh, dry it for seasoning and of course make buckets of pesto! It is wonderful on fish and lamb everything! So, I wanted to start a lot inside this year. I think it looks rather healthy and too has its distinctive fragrance already.basilseedlingsI only have a few windows to access for light so the seedlings live on a wheeled cart and it gets pushed around to follow the sun through the house. I cannot wait until I can build my first greenhouse. To think of all the things I could start in January for the coming spring, the mind reels!
I am trying something new this year, Quinoa.quinoaseeds I have always wanted to try my own grain, but never more so since I have learned to make my own bread and cakes etc. To have enough area to grow wheat is not possible for me at this time, but I found out that Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) is a grain that can be eat like rice or ground and used as a baking grain. It is a striking beautiful flower that grows from 4-6 feet. So, one of my front flower beds are going to be full of these flowers, as they are lovely AND useful. I have started the seedlings inside and this is what I have so far.quinuoseedlingThey have a beautiful red stems which I have found out was due to their not having enough light. But they are still holding on, so we shall see how they transplant. I am also going to direct sew some in the same garden bed to see how they do that way. chiveseedlingsI started some chives the other day as well. I am going to make a separate herb garden from the veg garden. I am also going to be making a Tea Garden with Fennel, Bergamot (bee balm), Cone Flower (Echinacea), Lemon Balm, Mint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, Hyssop, Anise etc. I love all these fragrances both for cooking and to dry for tea. Many of these are perennial and so will come back again and again with vengeance (especially the mint!) I will share some photos of my before and after of the garden when I get them.
I brought two apple trees with me to transplant here and they are doing well. I also have an old espaliered apple that somehow managed not to be destroyed by various tenants and it is in bloom. I took these photos and I think they almost look like peony blossoms (though much smaller, but you can’t tell in the photos)appleblossoms1appleblossoms2 I also bought a fig the other day, but may take it back and exchange it for another grape vine. I love figs, but in our climate they have to be wrapped and really protected here in the North East.
I receieved all my chicken eggs. I cannot recall if I shared that I will be hatching out all my chicks this year. This of course means I will be getting some roosters, but I will either sell them off or they will be destined for the table, depending on how we feel. I decided I wanted to try and have all ‘blue’ chickens. Many breeds of chickens have been bred to be blue (which is actually just a soft grey color) so I thought the idea of having an all blue chicken flock would be fun. I also decided to get True Ameraucanas this year. It is a breed of chicken that lays blue eggs. There is a mish mash breed that is off sold as Aracaunas or Ameracaunas that are actually just a mix of a few breeds and they can lay a green egg, blue egg a pinkish egg, or a brown egg. This year I wanted a pure bred Ameraucana so that I would know I was getting the blue eggs and also if I chose to show them at our local fair ( You cannot show the other ‘easter egg’ chickens as they are not pure breeds).
Here is the color of the egg. This picture does not do them justice.ameraucanaeggs1They are the perfect blue that I love and when I redo my kitchen I am going to have one of the eggs matched as closely as possible at the paint store (With their computer scan) to get the color.eggsinincubatorHere are all the eggs in my little incubator. It only holds 42 eggs, so a few extra Silkie Bantam eggs had to go on the side. They are sitting in an automatic turner. I treated myself to this last year, as before that I have always self turned eggs. But I have never tried to hatch 42 eggs before and having to turn all of these twice a day by hand would have been rather hard. I hope we get some good chicks.
The eggs had to be shipped so there is always a chance that none will hatch because of how they get treated in the mail, but we shall see.
I sometimes wonder if my intense need to grow and make new life, albeit seeds and chickens, is really just that human element of procreation finding new paths. I have always loved planting, plants and animals. I was the little kid with the worms in the pocket, the pet cricket in the old matchbox. I once held a funeral for a pet ant that was destroyed by my over zealousness in feeding it taco meat (it rolled on it and killed the little darling).
Where does this need to create come? It is the same impetus that compels me to paint or draw or even mess about with photos. My mind is fixated and continually obsessed with it through out the day. I am never happy with a recipe I have found. I must change it, add to it, combine it with something new. Perhaps that is why I took so quickly to homemaking. I often feel that homemakers are, indeed, artists at heart. One would have to be, really, to continually make and create a home, meals, family entertainment and all still feel satisfied at home. Although I know some people have said, “Oh, I wish I had that much ‘free time’” I wonder if they really do. It seems many people are not happy being self directed and really like the ‘work place’ where they know or are told or expected what to do and then when they return home they have ‘leave’ to veg out and ‘relax’. I have never been happy in that position. At any job I have ever been I have always thought how could I do it different or better? In what way could I make this into a situation that would allow me to be home more or to work it from home.
Sometime I think, too, it comes from being for all intents and purposes an only child. There were no arguments with siblings or spur of the moment games elicited by others in my childhood. Much of my young years were spent alone. And, when those coveted summer months would arrive and my best friend (who happened to be my niece only 4 years younger than I) was allowed to stay for the summer, my over excitement at having an outlet for all the games and scenarios I had played out alone often left me the ring leader to our fun. When I look back I must have seemed a bossy little mite, for I often was the ‘leader’ of our summer time fun games.
I have often considered that what we have or how we live when we are young, as children, really colors and affects our adult lives and decisions. I don’t mean in an obvious way, but very subconsciously. I think, unfortunately, this sometimes manifests itself when a child has grown up with an overbearing father, they often find themselves married to someone rather similar, as on some deep level this represents the early years of ‘home’ and safety. Even though it may not have been actually ‘safe’ it was what happened during those early years. Like the little ducks that see the first thing upon hatching, they imprint on that and despite their being a duck, you are their mother. It doesn’t matter what is good or bad for them, they see you and other humans as safety and nesting.
So, as I sit here, older and childless, I wonder how much of that is really just a normal response to what I knew as a child. Even my ‘career’ as homemaker and even as artist, they are both such solitary paths. There are hours upon hours in my day where I am alone, I might speak to myself out loud or in my mind, but besides the dogs, it is just me. Am I lonely? I am not even sure, in a case of an only child, lonely can mean the same thing as one who was raised around cacophony of noise and siblings. Our perceptions of that concept are so different.
I certainly know my thoughts are my companion and have always been. I can find myself, now, in the middle of the day, humming along as I water my plants or laying out ideas for the garden or dinner and I stop and recall. The small child alone in her room, toys, or drawing or bugs, but in my imagination I have travelled worlds and had adventures, but all so silent. To anyone one the outside looking in, a quite contemplative child sitting alone in her room humming along.
Again, I think that might have much to do with my instinct towards the living things. In fact I have a very good repore with animals. I often understand dogs in a way and animals are often drawn to me. Perhaps in my quiet contemplation I have seen and understood them in some way missed by those who are always talking and busy amongst other human beings. So, I grow the plants and they respond. I have another dog and it seems normal and natural to me. A fish tank. An incubator full of eggs. A compost bin full of worms. Are they my companions? I even have many times (I think many artists feel this way) considered my images and my drawings and paintings my children. They are, to me, alive in that I created them and I want the best for them.
I suppose I am not really sure where I am going with this post. I think maybe I feel bad I have not posted much lately, but I have allowed myself more time to slip back into my ‘alone time’. My writing here and creating the site, I truly love, but there is a taste of the crowd in it. So, sometimes, though I have only now started to feel it more, I have begun to just naturally slip away into myself again. I don’t want to lose sight of the blog nor to not continue forward, but I suppose I just need, sometimes, to be with my thoughts without sharing them. Silly, I know, but they are my old friends and sometimes I get selfish with them; I want them only to ‘come out and play’ with me.
Well, enough of that. I will close today with my recipe for delicious Maple Oatmeal sandwich cream cookies. I don’t remember if I shared this recipe before. The cookies are wonderful, I think.
3/4 c. butter

1 c. maple syrup

3 c. uncooked oats

1/2 tsp. soda

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 egg
1 c. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon
2tbs. vanilla
Beat together butter, sugar, syrup, vanilla and egg, until smooth. Add oats, flour, soda and cinnamon, and mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes at 350 degrees on upper oven rack. I always like to undercook them a bit as they continue to cook when you take them out. Then they hold their chewiness.
50 Gal’s Maple Cream Filling
One package cream cheese
one cup confectioners sugar(add more if not stiff enough add more liquid if too stiff)
2 TBS cream
1 Tbs Vanilla
1/4 maple syrup
Mix until spreading consistency. Spread on cookie and sandwich with second cookie. Eat them, so good!
Until next time, happy homemaking.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

15 April 1956 “Out in the Garden”

gardenwomen Sorry I have been wretchedly lax of late. I have been, as the title says, out in the garden. I have felt the call of the increasing warmth and that New England rush one gets after the long cold winter spread out in shortened daylight and waiting. Once that touch of Spring hits us, it is all we can do to stay still. For, particularly where I live, Spring is often very short and Summer will soon be upon us. There is soil to be turned, fences to be erected, plans carried out, seedlings nurtured. So, my excuse for less time here is more time in the yard.

I often wondered what it would be to garden in a place like California where it is warm the year round and one could, presumably, grow things all the time. The anxious rush of spring, the distant dreaming and planning of winter, the sadness of August tinged with the flutter of Autumns coming coolness. How would it be? How would I be? Would I be less anxious come Spring? Would I consider it Spring? If I could grow tomatoes the year round, how would that affect me. I suppose it could make one more realistically closer to self sustenance, but how would it make me feel overall?

There is a quality to the life here, in New England, that has its poignancy in the seasons. Do I appreciate Spring and Summer more because of Fall and Winter? Would that early bird song, or the first moment I track the sun across the wooden floor now to the piano, making me realize the Earth’s tilt and the coming Spring, feel as important? Would I be more at ease and enjoy the Garden more if it were there to be all the time, or does it being blanketed and like an austere sculpture garden in winter make it more a blessed thing come high Summer? I honestly don’t know.

I love gardening. I love the act of planting seed and watching them grow to a food on my plate or flowers in my home. I love the soil, the touch and smell of it. I love the scratch of the chicken and the scratch of the chicken wire, as we struggle to keep out the rabbit or deer. So, were I to have this year round how would it be?

Since I haven’t any plans to move to a place such as California or Florida, I suppose I won’t know. I was thinking the other day, if I had endless wealth, where would I choose to live? I immediately pictured a lovely old estate in Oxfordshire England. And, what would I love there besides the wonderful architecture? The Gardens. And again, there are the seasons. So, perhaps they are such a part of me that to take myself out of them would make me feel odd. As if I was always forgetting something; wandering about wondering at all this Summer not quite sure why and wondering of winter as if I had worried I left the stove on but couldn’t quite recall.

So, I suppose I have no answer really. I imagine those who have grown up in a year round warm climate would be as curious about the seasons and hate and loathe the cold days of winter. I think, having the advantage of ‘being at home’ makes a difference. To me, a snow storm is a marvel of fireside reading and coaxing the dogs to sit at my feet to share their warmth. The cool spiced air of fall only adds to the smell of the baking apples or the pungency of the pumpkin.

I do have the seasons and it is Spring, so I am out and taking advantage of every moment. Yet, I see we are to come upon three days of rain starting tomorrow, if the weather man can be trusted (nefarious things, weather men)and so then, I shall return to you all, tail between the legs, begging your pardons and wondering why you are not anxious to read my silly thoughts on scrubbing a floor or rather or not a petticoat can take the place of prozac. Yet, I shall return then, with a more informative post, but until then, I beg your leave, for the garden does await. The birds do sing, the sun has traced its path from the floor to the piano and my hands are aching for the soil. Until our rainy day, then.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

10 April 1956 “Unplugged Challenge, Challenge Dress, Cupcakes, and Chickens”

Well, this past Wednesday, we had decided to do an ‘unplugged’ day. Really, for me, it only meant the computer. I have been unplugged from the tv and modern radio for over a year now. Even the bits and bobs of news I receive is merely second hand from hubby, who either reads it in a magazine or hears about it (he too is unplugged from the radio, choosing to only listen to music of his choice).

We are, I have discovered, a very quiet household to the norm. I have increasingly discovered that noise is a normal part of the modern world. Though I encounter it sometimes in modern stores, my local grocery is as quiet as a church mouse with no piped in music. When did POP hits of today become background music for shopping? Does Lady Gaga promise to ‘get me hot, show me what she’s got” conducive to buying Cap’n Crunch and artichokes? But, I digress.

Therefore the ‘unplugging’ in question remained with the computer. And the computer, to me, is a tool of writing and research. I do not ‘chat’ or even really so that much in the line of entertainment. My computer work is much of what this post is. Editing photos, corralling up my thoughts, looking up photos and articles, compiling scanned images and writings from my coterie of old magazines and books. So, when I ‘unplugged’, that is what I unplugged. It, unfortunately, has lead me to be rather lax until today.

I have come to see my blog and the site much as committee work or voluntary work for a local paper. I receive no compensation for my trouble but do it out of both interest and a feeling of obligation to what I have started with my little ramblings. But, and here is the rub, having given myself a day off from this work gave me so much more time in my day that I became hungry for it. I was amazed at what I achieved in one day and looked at trepidation at the day’s end. The following days became something to fear or even feel guilt about.

The day after my unplugged day, I went out to lunch with an old friend. That gave me the excuse of merely being to busy to ‘get back to work’, but really it was still there waiting for me on Friday. Now, here it is Saturday and here I am, well past my normal ‘working hours’ forcing myself to get to it.

I don’t want any of you who still bother to read my blog to think I am begrudging writing it or that I think I am doing you a favor. It just, very plainly, has been hard to get back into a pattern I set in motion over a year ago and then was able to set aside  without guilt for one day. I shall honestly try to get back into it, as it were.

Now, on my unplugged day, I was able to finally finish my March challegne dress. I had so much time that day that I finished my dress, had time to make a matching headband, put up some of my garden fencing and still make dinner, dessert and do my usual ‘housework’. It was an addictive proposition to have endless days before me so unplugged. But, of course, then I would not have all of you. That would make me sad and I would realize how foolish to throw it all away.

So, on with the dress:

For March I had included in my challenge the making of a dress form, which I mentioned in the last post. It was VERY helpful and I am happy to have it. It allowed me to cut out the patter and pin it to the form and see what adjustments needed to be made before I cut the fabric. I did not even cut out a muslin version of it first. And by pinning the dress on the form before sewing in the darts, I was able to see how deep to make them rather than just follow the pattern blindly.

I decided to try this pattern simplicity 2444 which is not vintage. But, I really liked the vintage sensibility of it and I have been trying to find a pattern with that type of stiff raised collar I often see in 50’s early 60’s dresses. This pattern is nice, as it gives you many different sleeve and neckline options.simplicity 2444b This collar required the use of interfacing. This is the first time I have ever used it. I have heard of it, but again being very new to sewing, thought it would be hard to use. Well, let me tell you. Once I used it my mind was racing! When I think of all the things I could make. I am going to try and make some of my own design hats, as this would allow me to make a stiff fabric hat. So, April’s Dress challenge is going to include a hat of my own design and construction, we shall see what that looks like.

I was so inspired by it, that I used it to make a headband to match my dress. I often have trouble wearing headbands or scarves tied like a headband, because my head shape often leads to it slipping off. A head scarf tied normally is fine, but in the ‘headband’ manner, it always slipped off. So, with the interfacing, I was able to make a firm look headband with a soft tie back. The picture of me wearing it is not very good, as the sun is directly on it. But, you get the idea.

marchdress4Here is the top of the dress sewn and placed on the form for any touch ups before the skirt and then zipper goes in. marchdress3Here she is in all her glory. I really love this fabric and it is so comfortable. It is all lined in 100% cotton muslin. I need to get better pictures of me in it. This was without the headband, my hair is a bit messy too. marchdress2And the head band.  marchdress1  I think this is the first time I have shown any of you my new hair color. It is much closer to my natural shade and I rather love it as many have told me they too like it. I find it makes my skin seem much paler, which I rather like. So, every time I make another dress, I am happier with it than the last one. This pattern is going to be a starting point for many outfits. I am going to make the top of it in reverse (With the front seam being opened) and adding buttons and bias tape at the bottom to wear with pedal pushers and skirts. I may use this pattern for my April dress, but with a different collar and skirt. Oh, and the best bit was that the dress has pockets! This is the first time I have made pockets in a skirt and I am rather proud of it. It is a nice look. You can see in the picture that I have my hands in the pockets. So, overall, fun and happy to have my dress form, I highly recommend it and also recommend this pattern.

I made some lovely chocolate cupcakes last night.

choccupcakeThey were nicely dark and moist and the frosting was very good.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp
2-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup cream

2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Beat the butter until it’s softened. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, that should take about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well combined. Measure out the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk it to combine. Measure out the milk, cream, and vanilla and stir to combine. Add about one third of the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add about half of the milk/vanilla mixture and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between the wet and dry and finishing with the dry. Scoop the batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Bake the cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes. Let cool and ice with chocolate frosting and top with coconut.

Chocolate Frosting
  • 2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

I am going to be getting chickens again this year. I had found out I was a week late in getting my Aracauna chicks (which will lay colored eggs.) They are a fun and docile breed. So, after various investigation, I have decided this year to hatch out all my chicks myself. I am going to be getting pure bred Ameraucanas (not the hybrids I had before) Cochins, Opringtons, and Silkie Bantams (for fun). Why I decided to do this as opposed to getting the sexed chicks locally (so that I would know they would all be hens) was that I decided after further investigation, to have all blue chickens. Blue is a color variation in poultry that is a soft greyish color. It is lovely. I found that all the breeds of chickens I wanted were available in that color, but I would need to get them from small private breeders who breed for that. The eggs are being shipped to me, so I hope that they will have a good hatchability. I shall set 42 eggs in my incubator, of those that hatch, some will be roosters. So, after those are found homes, I will probably be left with a small flock of about 10 or se viable hens. It will take longer to get eggs (as they will be born in May) but think that to have the color, the eggs from small farmers/breeders and to have them hatch and be bonded with me important. I want my ‘small holding’ to be not only functional and beautiful but also have a contentment of sorts. I should rather have a few hens that may not lay like mass produced chickens, but are happy to see me and like a good cuddle from my little Chihuahua.

I have come to find, as the year is progressing, how much quality of life has come to mean to me. I had always thought it important, but really since my project am only now really getting to know what the ‘quality’ should be. The connection with my food and the small bit of land I have. My plants and animals and home wants to be in touch and in sync with me. This, I believe, shall also be apparent in my art, which I have of late begun to think of again as more than some ‘doodles a day’. I shall share some of my sketched ideas for a series of paintings in my next post, for this one is becoming far too long and again, I am longing to be out and amongst my yard and home etc.

I hope all of you still find my ramblings interesting enough to pay me an occasional visit. I know I have come to treasure all of you immensely and often find myself thinking of things I could share or that I am trying that you might like to know about. It is a good thing, this form of digital community. It, too, can add to the quality of one’s life if we use it in proportion to our day and do not find ourselves lost staring at a flat screen all day while the whole of life goes on around us.

Until next time, Happy Homemaking and enjoy these images of some of the types of chickens I shall be hatching.

blue-cochin2 A blue Cochin chick and an adultcochin  a blue Orpingtonblueorpington and finally a blue silkie bantambluesilkie

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