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Living out on the ranch is truly inspiring us to get our hands dirty and get a garden going.  Sean has been connecting with his inner carpenter and building our garden infrastructure.

 

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This was what it was like in the back yard in September when we moved in.

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The Autumn rains started greening things up.  We got some cow manure compost from the land owner.

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The first big task was to tackle the evil weed (not sure what it is called, but it is viney with purple flowers and completely invasive and tough as rope.)

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Then to tear down that silly fence and connect the side and back yards.  And keep tackling that evil weed.

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Sean had the brilliant idea of using scrap pallets to build a functional walkway.

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From the other direction  – before…

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…and after.

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So beautiful.

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He also built a compost bin.

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Then he built some raised beds and we sifted the rocky soil into them.

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Then we got a mountain of free wood-chips from a local tree service.

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Sheet mulching is a process that uses layers of cardboard and wood-chips to smother weeds and create a thick insulation for the soil to keep in moisture.  The wood-chips also help attract healthy fungal and microbial life to the soil to build up a healthy foundation to a garden.  Healthy soil equals healthy plants.

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more beds.

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and more beds, including a modified hugel-type bed (in the middle surrounded by bricks), which contains lots of woody materials actually layered into the soil in the bed for more water-holding capacity.

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We eat a lot of squash and Sean started saving our squash seeds to start our garden with.  Just to see what would happen – since he hadn’t planted a seed before – he planted one squash seed in a tiny pot on our windowsill.  It took off.

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And so did many others.

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That squash seed planted in the ground.

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Then we bought many many more seeds and seeding trays and started planting them too.

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Then potting those seedlings up into larger pots.

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After setting up a table in our house and having seedlings taking over our tiny home we decided to get a small greenhouse.  Sean built the base for it.

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And assembled the structure.

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It’s cozy in here.

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and he made a little step for it.

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It sure feels good being here.

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Staghorn love

I love Staghorn ferns, and for this past Winter Solstice I decided to try mounting them on scrap wood pieces as gifts.

I ordered eight baby plants on amazon, followed some google tutorials, and threw my first one together.  Basically I made a circle of nails, nestled the fern in a pile of Sphagnum moss, and tied it all together using fishing twine.  As it grows it will eventually adhere to the wood on it’s own.

double staghorn

 

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I can’t wait till the “antlers” grow on this skull.

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I potted up the extra babies and will let them grow larger before mounting them too.

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A new year, a new home…

our new home

Yes, it has been a little over a year since my last blog post.  I unintentionally took a sabbatical because I was unknowingly getting ready to make a big move.  One month missing a post turned into two, then three, then a year.  I kept telling myself that I needed to use the time that I was not blogging or crafting to start getting rid of years of accumulated stuff in preparation for moving out of the city, which we intended to do someday, even though we were not actively looking at the time.  But I felt the urging.  And did I heed that urging?  Not even a little bit.  I just kept looking at my garage full of boxes of who knows what and thinking I must shed, but not one box did I open.  Nope.  Not until the day in August when we went to look at a cottage for rent on the property that friends of ours had also been renting at – a large cattle ranch in unincorporated Novato, Ca.  That day we knew that this was the place that would get us out of the city, and we had two weeks to pack up everything and make the move.  I guess I need a deadline to get things done.

Sean and I

We’ve been living in Novato since September 2014 and are loving it beyond our imagining.  Getting really settled of course took a while, but now it feels like we’ve been here forever.  In terms of indoor space we did have to downsize to make the move, but even so there is actually a tiny room big enough for a lovely craft space.  And let’s be clear, in terms of outdoor space, we have monumentally upgraded!  We have access to 900 acres of rolling cow pasture and native woodlands.  Right out our back door (the buildings in the picture at the top are where our house is.)

out our back door

out our back door

We also have permission to tend and care-take the immediate space around our cottage, and I have a feeling many future posts will be about this space and the work we do there.

the back yard

Another deadline that I set for myself was to get my craft room up and running by January, and get the blog posts going again.  So here I am honoring my commitment to myself and getting things in motion.

craft room

My new craft space.  It hasn’t been actually utilized yet, just getting organized and ready for use.left side craft room

I was worried about both treadles fitting, but they just do.

gourds craft room

gourd art made by my mama. basket by me.

serger craft room

The treadle-powered serger is quite the contraption.  There have been many steps in the process of getting it all together, but it is still not working yet.  I have all the hardware needed – bought the thread stand online – but I was only able to get two of the threads successfully threaded.  The third is a mystery.  I will have to search out a sewing machine expert to come and help me figure out the threading.  So complex.  There will be a whole blog post in the future all about the serger saga.

The photo of the hands was taken by my aunt Amy Cantrell and is of my grandmother’s hands when she was slowly being crippled by Alzheimer’s disease.  Lillian was a prolific sewer her whole life, and I have a blog post about her here.

treadle craft room

The framed image on the right is a Seasonal Color Wheel of plants that grow in the SF Bay Area used as plant dyes, during different seasons and with different mordants.  You can read a nice blog post about the artist who made it here.  ‘Make Art Not War’ is a print of a piece by Shepard Fairey.

craft room corner

right side craft room

I recently got my dream sheepskin from Meridian Jacobs at the Fibershed booth at the Temescal farmer’s market

shelf stuff craft room.

Pictures of my parents and grandmother.  Leaf bowl by mama.  Collage cigar-box by Judy Beck.

back door craft room

Let’s hope the space will be as functional as it was fun to decorate!

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Body Butter

My Solstice gifts this Winter were tins of a very special body butter – literally.

The simple ingredients are:

50% coconut oil, 50% grass-fed ghee, beeswax, and lavender & vanilla essential oils.

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I first melted the coconut oil and ghee separately.  Then mixed them together 50/50 and added the beeswax into the warm pot to let it melt.

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Then added the essential oils and poured into the tins to cool.

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It is a very sweet yummy smelling balm.  It can be slathered lavishly on any part of the body.

The ghee provides plenty of important fat soluble vitamins for direct absorption into the bloodstream through the skin, as well as enhanced healing on the skin.  Coconut oil is high in anti-oxidants, lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides.  Lavender is calming and vanilla is warming.  And the beeswax is magic.

Electromagnetic radiation and wireless radiation are now ubiquitous.  It is almost impossible to entirely escape them, and most people could not imagine why you would want to.  But particularly as the wireless radiation proliferates, more and more people are becoming sensitized to the negative effects of these technologies.

I particularly noticed my own sensitivity when the doctor that I work for changed her entire computer desk setup to wireless – a wireless monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer and a cordless phone.  Within minutes of sitting there my face would become hot – cheeks pink and flushed – and I would feel wiped out, exhausted and ill.  She also started experiencing symptoms and eventually she changed everything back to their wired versions, and now I can sit there for hours at a time.  This is a pretty dramatic example, but I think that the effects – though subtle and unnoticed most of the time – are impacting most of us at the level of our cells – creating deep chronic inflammation and irritation.  And chronic inflammation is being recognized by science as an underlying indicator in almost all disease.

As my own awareness of the dangers of this constant exposure has grown, I have also become aware of some ways to mitigate the exposure.  My friend Elan (techhealthy.com) has recently gone through part of the training to become a building biologist – someone who can evaluate the health and safety of your home based on specific criteria and help you to mediate areas of toxic exposure.   He also is and has for many years worked in the tech industry, so is intimately familiar with all sides of this technology.  I was lucky enough to be his first client after his training.  He came over with his suitcase full of new meters and measuring gadgets.

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It was a very methodical process – the ultimate goal being to create a bedroom space as close to the natural environment as possible so your body can rest and heal while sleeping.  This includes reducing body voltage exposure and wireless radiation exposure as much as possible.  I sat in my bed holding the body voltage meter, watching the numbers fluctuate, while he ran around the house turning fuses off and on, putting up shielding fabric here and there.  Seeing and hearing the concrete measurements shift was very eye-opening.

Apparently I am surrounded by 8 or more cellular antennas within a half mile radius.  Also, the wiring in my home is old – called knob and tube – which is common in San Francisco and causes high electric and magnetic fields throughout the house.  And my next door neighbor has a cordless phone directly opposite my bedroom wall.

To reduce the negative impacts of these exposures he suggested the following steps:  to paint the walls in a carbon-based shielding paint (which is black and needs to be painted over.)

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We painted the walls chocolate brown, with cream ceiling and trim.

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The walls are grounded through a grounding plate connected to a cord which connects to…

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…a grounding rod in the earth.

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I also have shielding fabric as curtains over my windows.  And then I have an added layer of protection using a shielding fabric canopy over my bed.  The shielding fabric is silver and copper thread covered in polyester or cotton.  On top of these measures I also shut the power off to the bedroom at night. The final meter measurements under the canopy had body voltage levels as if I were far out in nature and not in the middle of an urban center.

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It has only been a few days now sleeping this way, but I have already noticed a reduction in symptoms and profoundly deeper sleep.  I am hopeful about the long term beneficial effects of giving my body, for at least 8 hrs a day, a respite from the constant effects of wireless radiation, and high and low level electro-magnetic frequencies.

We are electromagnetic beings, and I don’t think this fact should be underestimated.

An excellent documentary about this subject has been made and is available to watch for free online - Resonance: Beings of Frequency

As things currently are, much of the ambient electrical fields around us is actually trying to ground itself through our bodies.  Compile this with the fact that most of us rarely bring our body into direct contact with the earth, the body voltage we are carrying is extremely high – when it ultimately wants to be at Zero.

This is why grounding or earthing your body can be a significant health aid because you are allowing your body to discharge the extra voltage, as well as absorbing from the vast pool of negative electrons that the earth offers – creating a potent free-radical fighting anti-inflammatory process in your body.   Earthing is accomplished by getting as much surface area of your body as you comfortably can in direct contact with the earth, being sure to remove any insulating materials, such as rubber-soled shoes, that may be in the way.  20 – 30 minutes is an ideal amount of time to reap the benefits of this practice.   caveat – please be cautious that the earth you are grounding into is safe.  High EMF environments, like cities, may have levels of voltage moving through the ground.

I am not a total luddite, although admittedly I tend to lean that way.  I just think that we are barreling forward for convenience and profit at the expense of the precautionary principle.  Let’s create incredible technologies that don’t poison us at the same time.  Let’s create living spaces and cities that are actually regenerative and increase health and vitality.  The technology already exists.

 

Felted Vest

I took another felting workshop with Katharine Jolda in August.  This was a full weekend long vest making workshop.  It was held at Bodega Pastures, a sheep ranch in the coastal hills of West Sonoma County.

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We had lots of wool to choose from thanks to the local sheep.

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Katharine introducing us to the process.

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After picking our wool we began the process of fluffing – a long process of separating the fibers by hand or with hand carders or a carding machine.

But this day was extra special because Katharine had hired two members of Kitka to come out and sing Eastern European folksongs to us as we worked.  A truly magical experience.

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A butterfly wanted to help me with my fluffing.

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Katharine’s famous bicycle-carder.

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After a long day of fluffing and carding in the sun, measuring and cutting out patterns from plastic garbage bags, then getting a tour of the barn, we had a potluck dinner and set up our tents in the field.  And had a campfire before bed.

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Then breakfast with the sheep.

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We started early laying out our fluffed wool on bamboo mats.

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After pouring on warm soapy water, pressing gently, then patting, then rubbing, and rubbing rather briskly the wool began to felt.  At a certain point we layed out our patterns.

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Then it was ready to be rolled.

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Katharine demonstrating the proper rolling position.

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Two lovely examples of felted vests.

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Katharine’s vest with abalone buttons.

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The vest takes a couple days to completely dry. ta daa!

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I still haven’t added the gorgeous buttons I got from Wooly Moss Roots.

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But now that it is getting chilly I will finish this up soon.

 

Apron #2

another bed linen apron made on the treadle…

apron

side aoron

It’s a double-layered nice and thick work apron.

I used this pattern from Ink and Spindle (except I didn’t use the D-rings.  I just made a tie at the neck.)

pillowcase apron

I am starting a project of sewing aprons on the treadle made from re-purposed kitchen and bed linens.

This first one was super easy – almost felt like cheating – because the pillow case already had a nice ruffle on it.

pillowcase

I simply cut off the part I didn’t want.

cutting pillowcase

Then using fabric from a cotton comforter cover I cut out the waist tie.

cutting waist band

Sewed it up on the treadle.

sewing on treadle

ta daa!  Little waist apron.

finished apron on chair

It looks kind of like a skirt…

apron looks like a skirt

…but it’s an apron.

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(thanks for taking the pics of me Ma.  That’s her cute patio in San Bruno.)

felted slippers

Sean and I went to the first annual Wool & Fine Fiber Symposium in Point Reyes Station back in November.

Fiber Symposium sign

It was an inspirational event updating the community about the state of the local Fibershed project, uniting artisans, farmers, shepherds, shearers and entrepreneurs.

symposium slide show

local pastures table

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We were inspired by this pair of slippers we saw there.

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We wanted to make our own.  Sean bought some nice brown felt while we were there.  I bought some processed wool from Meridien Jacobs to make a sheet of felt myself.

So first I had to make the felt.  I laid out strips in one direction.

felted slipper wool

Then I laid more strips on top of that in the opposite direction.

alternate wool layout

And a few more layers until I had a nice thick pile.

ready to get wet

Close up.

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Then I dribbled warm soapy water all over it.

sprinkling water

Then I began to gently PRESS the wool, letting it soak up the water and start to squish together.

pressing

After a while of that I started to gently rub with my hands back and forth, creating friction.  I used a little plastic mesh bag to help create friction without disturbing the fibers too much until they really started to cling strongly together.  Then I began to rub pretty vigorously as the fibers shrank and got more tightly enmeshed.

rubbing with scrubby

I actually ended up throwing it in a quick wash and spin cycle of the washing machine to felt it further, then let it air dry.

Once it was all dry we were ready to cut out our slipper patterns we had found online here.

cutting out pattern

all cut out

cutting slit

tools

tools.

 

Sean sewing

Sean and his slipper.

 

working on the heel

the heel.

Sean has only finished one so far.

one done

We used embroidery thread to sew around the edges.

sewing in rocking chair

close up

both done

Rustic but functional. :-)

the heels

Then I added some leather soles.

leather soles

First time I used an awl.

hole punching

sole stitches

ta daa!

yay, slippers.  I love them.

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The whole process took about nine hours, spread out over three days.

I have leftover felt, so I’m sure I’ll be trying some other patterns.

Winter Solstice 2012

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The sunrise was exceptionally beautiful that morning of Dec. 21.

This year I had no tree or decorations other than a wreath and door swag that I made at a community wreath making workshop at the Sunnyside Conservatory in SF.

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Working with these materials was aromatherapy.

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Also, as gifts this year I made little packages of blank photo cards w/envelopes.

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A time of making and gifting.

A time of welcoming solar energy.

A time of endings and beginnings.

A time like and not like all other time.

 

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