Monthly Archives: September 2014

The head on the floor*

I’ve been working on much more of the same around the house – endless patching of uneven walls, sanding said patches, painting walls and ceilings, and sanding, sanding, sanding, floors.

endlessfloors

During a particular viciously monotonous ceiling sanding job in the largest room, I found an entertaining distraction in doodling with the shop vac in the dust on the floor.

headonthefloor

And half of the house still looks infected with a nasty pox or schmeared with calamine lotion.

wallpoxhall

wallpoxbedroom

(The original owners never properly taped and filled the wall seams and screws, among other things…)

We moved the bedroom into a smaller room that I originally thought of using as such, but I feel too maddeningly claustrophobic sleeping in there…

I’m not sure if it is even possible to be claustrophobic in one’s sleep, but I am.

The smaller room will be my studio instead – hopefully the feeling will become cozy once I cram my piles of shit in it.

nofanlightyet

A certain electrician will soon go on my shit-list if he doesn’t come and give us light soon…  And a certain former owner is already on it for wiring things in a unique way – a perfect example of unique is usually good unless it totally isn’t.

(And yes, the knotty pine is still there – I decided to stay on the fence a bit longer – I don’t quite love the shade of yellow that turned out on the walls, though it’s okay enough for now, so I’ll revisit painting the paneling in a couple years when I want to re-paint the room a deeper mustardy color, or something else entirely.)

unpacking

We’ve finally started to unpack, though everything can’t go in its place since there isn’t a place for everything yet…

tomatoORhuskcherry

(Can you tell which is which?)

And I keep doing the dumbshit thing of mistaking yellow cherry tomatoes for husk/ground cherries… a few always get mixed up in the bottom of my bag at the CSA.  A tomato surprise bite in a big bowl of sweetish coconut yogurt, bananas, almonds, and husk cherries is another unwelcome uniqueness…  but a husk cherry surprise in a tomatoey dish might be okay…

 *

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Of basil, beans, and blankets

borlotti finger

My garden (I can hardly call it my garden – it was a patch of dirt the previous owners planted tomatoes in, and I just threw some seeds in there in the spring) bore much more than I expected, especially after I entirely ignored it (let’s hope it just doesn’t have low self esteem and thrives on neglect).

And two of my favorite comfort foods did exceptionally well.

We had enough basil for multiple pesto dishes.

basil in garden

And some entirely lovely borlotti beans – but just a few plants’ worth since I threw just a few seeds in not expecting anything.

borlotti beans

(Yes, they are surrounded by lots and lots of weeds.)

Basil pesto reminds me of home – I grew up with the stuff over homemade spaghetti while the closest thing my classmates had to pasta was elbows and powdered cheese from a box.  I’m pretty sure one of my teen boyfriends (a boyfriend I had as a teen, and who himself was a teen) only hung around as long as he did for the food.  When I moved into my first few apartments, pesto was one of the first dishes I’d make so the place would immediately smell good.  And then I could sound even more pretentious and say the smell of fresh basil and garlic and boiling pasta immediately takes me back to my halcyon days as a college student in Firenze.

pesto dish

I didn’t think you could acquire new comfort foods as an adult, but borlotti beans came in to my life several years ago and nestled into that role.  I spent nearly all of my twenties as a vegetarian, so all beans wore out their welcome, but when N came around and started whipping up beans and greens with the speckled beauties, I became a fan.  And they also remind me of our semi-annual trips to Abruzzo.  Next year I hope to plant a gigantic bed of them so I can dry pounds and enjoy them through the winter.

borlotti-dried

And I finally finished knitting a [large-ish] baby blanket for a new member of the family.  His mother started it and I offered to finish it – boldly thinking I’d have it done in time for his birth in July, but at least it’s still technically summer.

babyblanket-dry

Though I was uncharacteristically monogamous with the project, and while knitting it made a mental list of all the other things I wanted to start (or finish) when I was done, I’m feeling a little itchy to knit a new blanket for us – one to snuggle under while eating some beans.

Isn’t that just cozy?

(Actually, I hate eating around textiles and prefer dining properly at the table…)

But wait, haven’t I already been knitting a blanket for over a decade….?

newhampshire-blanketinprogress

I finally got it back out to finish – it’s nearly done, but the cotton is still doing some ass-kicking to my wrists, so I’m dreaming about a new one in wool…

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Jersey [wool] baby…

NJsheep-bored

Folks are always in a tizzy about Rhinebeck and the Maryland Sheep and Wool festivals, but smack in the middle is the small and very manageable Garden State [aka New Jersey] Sheep Breeders festival.

I went several years ago and bought a large amount of  raw alpaca fiber.  I think it was before I owned a spinning wheel, and had just learned to spin on a Turkish spindle…?  And I also thought I got a really good deal, but I didn’t – though it’s in beautiful natural fawn, grey, and black colors, the fibers were shorn at a very short length, so I’m not able to spin it (at least not without experiencing anger).  I need to felt it, blend it into something else, send it out for commercial processing, or just sell/trade/gift the mess.

I thought that this year’s festival would be bigger, and I think there were a few more vendors, but as a whole it’s small and I love it – no crowds, no pushing in booths, and plenty of time and space to enjoy the animals.

NJsheep-judging

And it really is about the animals – I know those other large festivals are too in theory, but the wooly nirvana shopping frenzy is the annoying take away.  I like watching the judging, even if it’s for the meat breeds – brings me back to my 4-H youth, and I can still spot the nicest hindquarters most of the time.

There may have been fewer breeds on display this year too, but I’m not sure.

N’s favorites are the angora goats.

NJsheep-goats

And I’m a fan of the Jacob sheep.

NJsheep-JacobRam

NJsheep-Jacobs

This little one – not sure if she’s Shetland or one of the small Cheviots – was bleating her cute little head off louder than anyone in the barn.

NJsheep-bleater

It seemed she just wanted attention, or she was nervous about an approaching late summer thunderstorm, or her buddies were in the ring and she was lonely, or she knew she was in the wrong state and the others were going Jersey on her ass…

NJsheep-bleaterportrait

But she calmed down once she got to pose for snaps.

[And for those who think they have an idea of what NJ might be like, they’re most likely wrong – this part of the state might as well be the Midwest, complete with more reasonable drivers and farm smells rather than malodorous chemical plants.  Actually the farms are really well-managed around here and rarely give off odors unlike the factory farms of PA].

On our last vacation, I managed just walk on by two decent-looking LYSs, and we drove right past WEBS since I knew that wool festivals were coming up. I’ve also been good about passing up sales at my favorite indie dyers and deeply discounted full lots of yarns over the last year, so I could spend a little on some fiber directly from the source.  I love so much of the beautifully dyed yarns out there at festivals though, and always kick myself for not picking up a skein or two of something gorgeous, but at nearly $30 a pop for most, I can get more [and more unique] fiber instead.  This would have been the time and place to pick up a few of those skeins though – some of the same booths at Rhinebeck are virtually impenetrable.

The fiber-bearing-animal-keeper folks around here seem to prefer Romneys and Alpacas, and I’m done with both of those for a bit – I’ve spun plenty of Romney, and though I love a “rustic” yarn, I’ve already got enough, and I don’t love knitting with it.  And the Alpaca is lovely, but the good stuff is pricey and I still have some waiting to be spun, so I’m mostly looking for different breeds to try, especially if they have a name and a face.

NJsheep-Gustave

So a few ounces of Gustav the Gotland came home with me.

NJsheep-Gotland

He lives at Cloudberry Sheep and Wool farm in central NJ and is a lovely pale to medium grey.  I’m not sure how I’ll spin him yet, or if I’ll combine some of the various breeds I’ve collected into some sort of sampler project, or make small accessories of each…

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Gettin’ wiggy…

I’m embarrassed to admit I hired a carpenter.

I really like to work with wood, I know how to use a variety of tools, and in theory, I know how to measure and cut accurately.

But I hate measuring and cutting accurately.

I hate doing anything absolutely accurately – especially in sewing and knitting – though some have accused me of being a perfectionist in other aspects of my life.  I suppose it’s true in my paid work involving information and searchability because some things really don’t have wiggle room, but in my visual life, I like the wiggle.

Unless it actually wiggles.

(And I’m not talking about jolly worms, or custard desserts, or the delicious Wigle whiskey which doesn’t actually wiggle unless you too heavily imbibe).

So when it became apparent we couldn’t live much longer with the missing balusters and five broken steps in our staircase and their various murderous wiggles and cracks that pitched us forwards and back when we least suspected it, I knew we needed professional help since I’d either waste too many lovely red oak treads trying to get them right, or they just never would be right enough.

But it’s odd to have someone working in the house with familiar sounding tools – I keep thinking N might be home and tinkering.  But then the carpenter uses something particularly loud and wicked-sounding – like something from the opening song to American Horror Story – and once again, I feel the stairs are attempting to murder me – or rather, the stairs convinced the seemingly slightly unhinged carpenter to do their bidding.

But if I did in fact live to tell the tale, our staircase is now smooth-stepping.

stairs-full

Now I just have to oil the new steps, and sand and oil the old (along with the nasty floor below them).

stairs-detail

(It also didn’t help that the carpenter told me he keeps some old oak balusters by his bed for protection…  I’m kicking myself for not coming up with a witty retort in time along the lines of: “um, most people use condoms.”  And I didn’t ask if he’d be adding some of ours with their rusty nail spikes to his collection.)

Thankfully N is an ace at measuring and cutting various trims and moldings, so we should be on our own merry way from here on out.

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