Tag Archives: autumn

New Feathers, New Flights

My chickens are molting.

And frankly, they look ridiculous.

Feathers are scattered all over the chicken yard, and from some angles our buff orpington, Took, more resembles a bird you’d find in a bag in a grocery store deli than a healthy, living, laying hen.

As the new feathers grow in, they appear first as hard shafts sticking out of the skin awkwardly.  They don’t provide warmth or shed water yet, they have virtually no color, and if they are cut or torn, they’ll bleed.

And, of course, while the chicken is putting all her nutritional resources into growing new feathers, she doesn’t have the energy to spare to lay eggs.

So it’s a time of deprivation for us as the farmers, and uncertainty and hardship for our vulnerable, naked little birds.

Watching the chickens shed their old, damaged, dirty feathers and take the brave an unceremonious step to grow new ones seems appropriate, somehow, for the election season.

A change in leadership is like a change in plumage– possibly just cosmetic, possibly dramatically transformative, but always resource-intensive, inconvenient, and awkward.  And, even if it appears to be a cosmetic change only, the fact remains that molting every so often to refresh the feathers helps them function as they should, keeping the body warm and dry, and on a good day with a prevailing tailwind, carrying us upward and forward.

We’re well past the halfway point in this arduous process now.  We just have to keep going, get through it, and we’ll be better off for it.

And then a little while after that, we’ll have our dividends coming in again, eggs and governance.

WIP Wednesday

We haven’t had one of these since July!  I missed them!

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start date: 15 September 2016
time elapsed: 34 days
completeness: 50%

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that Númenor once again needed a new hoodie and coat for the winter.  I don’t know how this happened, because he JUST got new ones last year, but during the Dance of the Hand-Me-Downs, I noticed that his wrists and forearms had made a break for it and replacements were urgently needed.

We talked about his hoodie, and he described this fantastical vision for a T-rex skeleton costume piece, complete with tail and functional teeth and glow-in-the-dark bones.

I said, hmm.  And uh-huh.  And yes, that would be super awesome.

And then I said, here’s what I can do: fuzzy appliqué bones, full ribcage, upper limbs, and skull.

And he said, “Oh, okay.  That will be easier to sit down in the car and play on the playground.  Plus then I can sneak up on people in the dark.”

Such wisdom, from one so young.

So now I’m studying the skeletal anatomy of the T-rex in astounding detail, and desperately trying to adapt what I learn to a hooded sweatshirt for a human-shaped child, because it turns out that if I had wanted to buy this garment in a store, I would have been totally SOL.

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It’s been an interesting process.

And the end result will be imperfect and definitely homemade-looking, but pretty cool, I think.  If nothing else, Númenor and I can look back on this project and laugh, and he will at least know that I love him, and I’m willing to try audacious things to make him happy.

Here’s hoping that’s what counts.

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Organic black sweatshirt fleece from Organic Cotton Plus, white bamboo rayon/organic cotton velour from Etsy, the pattern and technique are my own and not recommended.

Three Things to Do for Indigenous Peoples Day

if you need background on why Christopher Columbus doesn’t deserve celebration, click here for an approachable primer


Tomorrow, Monday October 10, is Indigenous Peoples Day.  If you’re thinking “Gosh, that doesn’t sound like a holiday one can or should observe by shopping the sales at the mall!” give yourself 10 points.

If you’re wondering what you might do instead, read on!

Research your local Indigenous people

Maybe you live in a place that was wrested from an indigenous group by force during a protracted military conflict, maybe you are living in your people’s traditional homelands, maybe you’re somewhere in between.  You can find out.

Research the ethnic groups and languages that were present in your area before colonial control solidified.  Learn about the history of those people, either before conquest or after.  Imagine how your area would be different if the cultural frontier had been more amiable.

Find out what indigenous people are doing in your area now.  Where is your closest reservation?  What issues matter to native communities near you?  How have their cultures influenced the dominant culture (consider language, cuisine, holiday and seasonal observances, etc.)?

Consume art about and by Indigenous people

On Youtube, watch this.

On Netflix, try Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Songs my Brothers Taught Me, or Strange Empire.

Read something.

Stand in solidarity with a cause that disproportionately affects Indigenous people

Donate or sign to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux against an oil pipeline that would threaten their water sources and has already destroyed a burial site.

Sign to support the efforts of the Gwich’in Nation to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Donate to the National Congress of American Indians, which recently won a landmark legal case against the Washington R*dskins concerning the defamatory nature of their name and logo.

Donate to the Endangered Language Fund to support research and revitalization of indigenous languages.

Sign to demand BIA recognition for the Celilo Falls (Wy’am) Indians, the indigenous inhabitants of the oldest continuously-inhabited human settlement in the Americas.

Urge President Obama to free Leonard Peltier.

Donate to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition to further their work pursuing reparations and peace after the horrors of Indian Residential Schools.

 

Of course these lists and suggestions are not intended to be authoritative or exhaustive– these are just some ideas to get you started.

 

A Touch of Gray

I found my first gray hair yesterday.

There it was, shining out in radiant silver on my brush, immediately obvious among its dark siblings and the near-black bristles.

It was 21 inches long, and according to Robert, it came from right above my left eye.

I was incredulous.  How could I have not seen it for the years it had been growing there, so near my face?  How had I not seen it while braiding my hair one morning?  How could Robert have only noticed it last week?  How could he have NOT told me about it, leaving me to be blindsided by it getting shed onto my brush?

I cried.

I’m not sure why– I wasn’t really sad or scared or feeling another negative emotion– but it happened.

Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to my hair turning so that I can dye it without having to bleach it first.  I’ve been hoping I would be one of those people who grays in dramatic stripes at the temples, for maximum badassery.

But I suppose it was another reminder of my failure to force my life to conform to the plan.  The first indication that I might run out of time to buy that farm, build that house, learn to use my spinning wheel, find purpose for all the great things in my upcycling.

There’s plenty of time yet.  I’m not even 30 yet.  But though the days are long and practically innumerable, the years are short and oh-so-finite.

This is a season of transitions.  The election is coming, this is our last year of “unofficial” homeschooling before Númenor has to be registered with the state, today is the first day of autumn, next week is the start of Robert’s school year, and I’m aging.

Well, I mean, we’re all aging.  Everyone and everything is aging.  Hell, the universe itself is aging.  But you know what I mean.

It’s a little bittersweet, no matter the benefits that might come along with it, this dance of out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new that we do each autumn equinox.  I love the bustle of harvest and holiday preparations, canning the applesauce, snuggling in bed in the mornings, mulching the raised beds, adding new insulation to stuff the cracks, the dance of the hand-me-downs with the smalls, the creeping nightly frost, boiling down the salt, cinnamon and leaf mold in the air.  But I’m going to miss the feeling of summer sun on my bare feet, spending the warm evenings at the drive-in, taking my knitting out to the backyard and letting the breeze play with my hair, fresh berries and sun-ripened tomatoes, the smell of warm earth and cedar sap.

I guess the bigger transitions are like that, too.  You look forward to the new things, but leaving the old ones behind means sharp reminders of how good they were.

I never really enjoyed being young.  Being young, you want so badly to be older so you’ll be taken seriously, so you can have your independence, so your life can really begin.  But now I’m seeing it as a time of beautiful potential– you could be or do anything with your life, when it’s all stretched out in front of you like that, but by the time you’re older, you’ve already made choices and spent time and set yourself on a path.

Ah, well.

To grow up will be a very great adventure.

Especially once I have enough gray hair for it to show up when dyed purple.

10 Things I Need to Make this Fall

Now that we’re mired in the part of summer that’s too hot for much of anything– certainly unseasonable for having a big pile of flannel in my lap– but about to leave the last heat wave of the season, I’ve been looking forward to some cool-weather crafting and giving some thought to what needs to happen.

Here’s my list, necessities and fripperies in no particular order, of the top 10 things I need to make in the coming season:

  1. Tea towels.  The flour sack towels that wrapped a few of our favorite kitchen gadget wedding gifts are finally sprouting holes and wearing out.  I’m thinking the new ones are going to be mid-weight natural linen, but the same dimensions as the old ones.
  2. Coat for Númenor.  Another year, another coat.  This one is definitely going to be lined with some of that gorgeous Portland bridges fabric I picked up a few years ago, but I’m not sure what the outer fabric will be like or what pattern I’m going to use.  I might draft my own pattern.
  3. Hoodie for Númenor.  Something fun and slightly funky, as usual.
  4. Twin-size comforter for Ithilien.  In the depths of winter, the nursery gets pretty cold in the middle of the night.  At the moment, we have only one twin-size comforter, and that can cause strife.  I’m planning to whipstitch together a couple of old flannel top sheets, fill with some fluffy recycled fiberfill, and tie it down to quilt it.  The only trouble will be that the sheets I have are green and green-red plaid, and Ithilien is a red-loving kid who might object to the forest tones.  But it’ll be warm regardless.
  5. “What Lives Here?” picture book.  This is one I’ve been puzzling over for some time.  The smalls are always asking what kinds of animals live in our area, especially when we go on drives.  I’m currently working on a collage-style picture book showing different ecosystems and settings and filled with the different animals that might live there.  It’s a huge undertaking, even limiting myself to a 20-mile radius around our house, since we live in a transitional zone between at least three climates.
  6. Toy ankylosaurus for Ithilien.  I made a stegosaurus for Númenor a while back, and Ithilien demanded an ankylosaurus.  How one knits an ankylosaurus I am not sure (possibly with lots of bobbles?), but I’ll figure it out.
  7. Autumn leaf babies.  If you’ve been around a while, you might remember my spring raindrop babies.  I’ve been trying to work up to a whole four-seasons set: snowflakes, raindrops, fruit (or maybe sunshine?), and autumn leaves.  I love dollmaking, and these little felt-and-wood sweeties are downright addictive in their simplicity and appeal.
  8. Altoid tin boredom busters.  We recently inherited a big box of mint tins.  They are the perfect size to tuck in a pocket or purse and you can fill them with anything.  So I’ve been trying to develop a set of toys and activity kits inside Altoid tins for when we travel or waiting at restaurants.
  9. More petticoats for myself.  Hopefully at least two more cotton ones (black, I think) and if I can find room for it in the budget, I would love a woolen flannel one for winter wear.
  10. Halloween costumes.  This year the smalls have both decided on light-themed costumes, which means getting creative with LEDs and possibly wearable circuitry.  Númenor’s might yet be merged with his hoodie, but we have yet to have our first formal design meeting, so it’s very much still TBD.

 

 


 

What about you?  What are you looking forward to making as the weather changes?

Autumnal Equinox

Fall is my favorite season.  Warm during the afternoon, cold enough at night for thick blankets and snuggling, the sharp smell of frost and the organic hint of leafmold (even if it does make me sneeze), the turning and turning of the compost pile, covering up the garden beds to rest for a season…all those little signs that we’re moving from the languor and overabundance of late summer to the relief of cold, and rain, and eventually frost and snow.

I’m especially glad to see the weather starting to change this year, because as the rains move in, the wildfire season will finally come to a close.  We’ve been surrounded by fires all summer, and while I celebrate the role they play in rejuvenating the wilderness and keeping the forests healthy, being pinned down first by the Rowena fire and now by the one in the Mt. Hood National Forest has made me a little uneasy.  Thankfully we were never really in harm’s way, but with the crisis in funding and the drought, wildfires have been even less predictable and manageable than usual, and there’s nothing like seeing an edge of a big fire up close to give you that visceral sense of vulnerability.

On a more human scale, I’m enjoying moving back to inside work and warming activities.  It’s knitting season, and wooly garment season, and snuggly toy season!  We recently boiled down the salt from water we collected at Newport in July, and melted down our stash of broken crayons to make new ones, and poured a few new candles.  Soon it will be time to make soap and beeswax food wrappers, to bake with figs and mill applesauce and make quince paste, and to Eat All The Butternut Squash.

But this weekend we’re doing the semi-annual dance of the hand-me-downs, which thrills my little type-A heart to the core because there is organizing to do.  Unfortunately, I think I’m the only member of my family who looks forward to this ritual– Númenor gets weepy and bored after half-a-dozen wardrobe changes, and Ithilien is highly skilled in the art of running around at top speed to express the sheer joy of nudity.  But it is still time for the dance.  If you have small children, you may recognize the steps.

Dance of the Hand-Me-Downs

  1. Gather the child’s current clothing and make a huge pile in the middle of the floor.
  2. Strip the child down and have them try on a few things.
  3. Try not to freak out when the child loses all grasp of How to Put on a Shirt and tries to put their arms through the sleeves elbows-first or to take the shirt off by pulling the neck hole down under their arms.
  4. Attract the child’s attention back to the task at hand.
  5. Bribe the child to try on more clothes.
  6. Sigh in exasperation.
  7. Practice numeracy skills (“Okay, there are only three more shirts.  Can you count them as we try them on?”).
  8. Run after and catch naked, squealing children who want to PLAY and have them try on just one more pair of pants.
  9. Declare that your child’s favorite garment is too small, because you are the Cruelest Parent in all of Meanville, and not at all because putting it on involves a moment where the child in question can’t breathe.
  10. Unfeelingly give the child’s outgrown clothing to their younger sibling, who seems more taken with that glow-in-the-dark bunny shirt than seems tactful given the circumstances.
  11. Break for snacks.
  12. Break for trips to the toilet.
  13. Try not to break anything else.
  14. Get out the bin of clothes for the oldest child to grow into, and repeat steps 2 through 8.
  15. Remember after you’ve told your children that we’re done trying on clothes that you haven’t checked coats, shoes, socks, gloves, sweaters, and hats.
  16. Swear.
  17. Apologize to children and say that they have to try on just a few more things.
  18. Watch children spontaneously try on all of their outerwear with the greatest of delight and voluntarily bring you the outgrown pieces without complaint.
  19. Wrestle piles of clothing going into storage out of sight before they get too played with and disorganized.  Cry about at least one of those things being outgrown, because you remember how tiny your oldest child was when they first wore it, and the progression of time is so disrespectful of your feelings.
  20. Realize that you haven’t done laundry yet this week, and therefore the dirty laundry is full of outgrown but untested clothing.

Yes, it is a glorious season.  It’s my favorite.