Sunday, March 3

The art of asking.

There's got to be some way of getting back into blogging that isn't a painfully awkward one. One of the problems inherent here is that this is a public space. Though I doubt anybody reads anything here anymore, it is still... out there... on the internets.

I was imaginative as a child and after bible class on Wednesday nights I would wander through the empty upstairs rooms and sing songs into them to hear the acoustics, not knowing that there was a likeminded individual who had a hiding place for reading, and who would listen to me sing and try trills I couldn't manage and notes I utterly despair of now. Three years before I found out. As a thirteen year old I was mortified. I have a greater respect for singing into empty rooms, now, and I also care less what people think of me. It is the clever people I'm worried about; this isn't a work of art as much as it is one of self-expression.

Anyway, I broke one of my favorite china cups tonight. My sister gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago and I only use it when I'm having a bad night and now the lid of it is broken into a hundred tiny pieces, with all the gold filigree and pretty porcelain raised bluebells all shattered and sharp. It has been a bad day so breaking the cup was enough to make me tear up a little. It is only a cup. I have other cups.

I need to move to Wordpress. Blogger's intellectual property rights aren't my favorite. Or maybe I'll go back to Mindsay. But there has to be some writing in my life and blogging seems like a pretty easy way to get back to it.

Recently too I've found that my capacity to daydream is resurfacing:) And that is all to the good.

Friday, April 27

Excerpt from a letter to a friend, written about three weeks ago

You know when you were thinking about going into permaculture and I didn't really get it? I mean, I thought it was moderately interesting and a responsible discipline but I never truly adopted any independent enthusiasm for the subject. But now! My latest dream (a pipe dream, probably, but still--everyone needs a dream) is to be a homesteader. I want a small farm

I've already decided on some sheep (probably not more than a dozen Leicester Longwools or American Jacobs--maybe a Romney or a Cormo or a BFL later on), some chickens, a goat or a cow (undecided, but a Jersey if a cow), and a few hives of bees. The fiber from the sheep would be sheared twice a year, and could easily be processed at home or by a mill (Zeilinger's, preferably). I could then spin it into yarn to sell or use for the house or its occupants--spinning on a drop spindle when walking outside or checking boundaries and fences, then spinning on the wheel for long hours inside in the winter months. I've been processing some raw fleece here at home in Suburbia and I think it would be an easy chore to do out in the country. The cow I'm not entirely sure of--even one cow would be too much milk for just me (as if such a thing could happen!) and it seems that you have to have a calf to go with the cow, and feeding both of them takes lots of money; a goat wouldn't be so much of a money drain unless it was a persnickety type and ate the garden veg. Both would need some kind of outbuilding, though, to keep in the wintertime. And from both I could make butter and cheese! The bees I think of as a more responsible thing to keep in light of the whole colony collapse disorder ordeal--not that I wouldn't mind the honey, but I'm not very learned when it comes to bees... maybe soon. I will read some more. And I'm completely out of the loop when it comes to chickens--I suppose I just want decent laying hens. Eventually they will have to be killed, but I'm not sure I really feel like tutoring myself on chicken butchering just yet.

I want a wood-burning cookstove (with a water reservoir and a warming shelf) to heat the house, but I still want some hot water for showers--I think it is possible to pull that off with the minimum of external help, though. I'll have a cellar for wintering things (or in case of natural disaster--the best that could possibly be would be to have a spring running through the cellar, I think), and a freezer for preserving things (which could be kept running by solar panels on top of the house; at least until it is too cold to need a freezer). One composting toilet ought to be enough for just me or one or two others, but maybe if there are more of us, we might want another--and an external bathroom/outhouse. I haven't thought of what kind of house yet, or how to build it. That may be too many details for a pipe dream:) And we'd have to have some electricity because I think a computer and cell phones would be pretty necessary to keep in touch with the wider world, and to help sell products. And no electric laundry machines, though--there are hand-cranked ones that are just fine and using a drying rack in front of the wood stove would be just fine, anyway.

The garden would be lovely. I could grow most of the food I eat! I would probably have some kind of crop rotation fitted out so I wouldn't be tiring out the land--and I want to have a year of jubilee so that the land will have its sabbath. There could even be a time for wheat--I would have to get one of those hand-ground mills to make flour.  I could have rain barrels around all the house and outbuildings, and plant fruit trees and berry bushes on the property. At the end of summer there would have to be a huge canning-and-freezing party, but that would be fun:) I already do a good week of that here. 

My skills are not so awful as one might expect--I keep our compost pile, have a decent garden of my own, carried all the wood for two fireplaces for the past six months, am able to can and preserve fruit & veg & meats, cook for myself and a family, use cast-iron cookware, am used to processing my own fiber and knitting with it... and I like the work. I hate running on a treadmill for exercise, relying on Safeway or Giant for food I could grow, and cooking on an electric stove. It would be a comfort to be more self-sufficient than I am here. In my wildest dreams, this plan is attainable--but even a few months ago I would have not been this enthusiastic due to allergies, eye strain, and general weakness of body. However, just at this moment, right now, I think I could do it. [...] Oh, and I'd need a dog.

Monday, March 12

Return Again, Sacred Harp 335

I used to not care for spring; the air seemed always too raw and full of pollen, the sun too bright and burning, the earth rotting and swollen and stagnant with rains. At that time I was a lot more sensitive to the light and wind because of an illness, and now I am near the end of my convalescence. Instead of planting my garden and visiting it seldom until the milder days of early summer, I am now out in it pottering around as often as I can. Yes, I sing to my plants. And my garden is very nice just at present. 

There are very few things that make it so evident I am healthier than I have been in the past few years than the fact that I welcome the sun on my face and that it actually feels good without me having to bully my brain into thinking that this is so. What kind of person shrinks from a kindly breeze? But I did once, because it felt harsh and brazen, hot and heavy-handed. I see now how hard it must have been to have compassion on me and to pity me without condescension. If I had not felt so powerless I would not understand, now. 

How sad I have been! How cringing, how weak! How utterly wretched I was. How happy am I.

Sourdough Breads

I posted a picture of a dough made with natural yeast; here are the results! There are two different types of bread. With one I made a pretty typical sourdough loaf. It is a little dark for my liking, but once I master the technique I will hopefully be able to produce a stretchy, shiny, golden crust. Taste was not affected. Tastes just fine. Yum.

The second is a sourdough base, risen with milk instead of water, and comprising of more whole wheat than white flour (like the first loaf). I put in spices, currants, and brown sugar as per the recipe. I've made this once before and liked it--next time I believe I'll shape smaller rolls and bake them longer. Maybe let them rise a bit longer.

As of this blog entry, neither of these creations now exist, or at least they exist in wildly different, digested forms...

Now I just have to see if I can make the started behave so I can make more bread.

Friday, March 9

Midnight Baking Special Edition: Sourdough

I love learning how to do early home crafts. I knit and spin and sing and sweep and keep my homely hearths--and I bake bread in the middle of the night:) Actually this one I will set for a slow rise in the basement and take it up tomorrow to be baked. I set up another starter to double to make a sweetbread I've made once before... Oh, that reminds me. I need to soak some dried fruit to put in it. Thanks:)

Thursday, March 8

The Hesperian Harp, 166

This is a test to see whether or not I can actually upload videos. It is also my new favorite song, and a picture of my garden from inside the house. How cleverly I combine them!

I make no apologies and don't claim to be professional at anything; I sung as quietly as I could so as not to wake anyone, and then chose the best picture to match. It is from last year so my peppermint isn't nearly as overbearing yet.

The words to the song as are follows:

Oh, were I like a feathered dove, and innocence had wings!
I'd fly and make a long remove from all these restless things.

Let me to some wild desert go and find a peaceful home,
Where storms of malice never blow and sorrows never come.

Here and here's where I learned it. 

Tuesday, March 6

So I got the best compliment on Sunday: someone forgot my name.

Sometimes it happens I am a little late to church on Sunday morning, and this last was because we had a friend's mother visiting and we were all lingering over breakfast in our sunny kitchen, laughing. I do not think God will begrudge it us, somehow...

 I usually interpret the sermon into something resembling American Sign Language for a few deaf people that are a part of our congregation; we have other people who are better at signing the songs so each of us is given room to do what we do best. Anyway, when I got there, I had to sit a few rows back from my usual spot because everything was so full (a good thing). I saw several new signers, as well as the full complement of members I normally see only a part of--they are all in helping professions and are respectively sometimes away at workshops or too exhausted to come to the morning services after working on the weekends. This made me nervous. I saw that I had a full spectrum of sign systems (think Spanglish speakers from both ends of the spectrum), which is challenging to meet.

"Where is Rachel?" I was eavesdropping now, and could see the conversation from where I sat.

"Where is Rachel?" was asked from one end of the row to the other.

"What? The other interpreter? Where is she? I don't see her."

"Rachel isn't here."

"What about the lesson? Who will interpret the lesson?"

"I don't know."

At this point our other interpreter was going through the announcements of friends and family in the church. She stopped. "It isn't 'Rachel'," she signed, and patiently spelled out my name--again. "She's there, behind you," she said, smiling and waving at me. I waved back.

I know that it is possible to take what just happened as an insult, but to me at that moment it was the best compliment I could have received, especially from such a diverse group of people. They didn't remember my name, but they valued my skill.

For a moment I could imagine that I felt some kind of kinship with my favorite authors and the craftsman and artists whose work I admire from centuries' distance. I remember Robin Wood's conversation about signing his name to his work--this as I stood in stupid dress shoes in a patch of nettles in the door of his workshop--that it somehow seemed a thing of pride to him but not to others who bought from him. It is good to be known for one's contribution to the lives of others and not as a face or a name. It is quite a relief, in a way.

The roses will be white.