Friday, May 11, 2012

Sheep and Wool and Soap News

Maria has asked to pretend we are at Maker Faire so she can practice what she wants to say and do when she is sharing her wool demonstration. She wrote step-by-step instructions for making felted wool bracelets, and yesterday we practiced felting, by felting bracelets, and bars of soap. I am so impressed by her desire to be prepared, her eagerness to have everything ready... skills, as an adult, I am still trying to fine tune. So, yesterday I was a visitor to Maker Faire, asking questions and inquiring about the bracelet making project. She managed her answers quite nicely, and then together we made bracelets. Actually there is one question we don't have an answer to: Why doesn't the sheep's fleece felt and shrink when the sheep are out in the meadow, getting damp, and rubbing itchy backs on a post?
The package from Sandie, of Wild Rivers Wool Factory, arrived and in it were at least twenty unique samples of different wools. Each sample was labeled, in a clear, sealed bag. Sandie also sent copies of "Sheep Reader," for young readers, from the American Sheep Industry Association. Maria and I read every article, and then we studied all the different wool samples from the different sheep breeds. They are so beautiful! We were loving the textures, and colors, even the smell! It was Maria that first made us realize that natural roving has a sweet-sheepy-woolly scent.
Did you know... there are more than 1,000 different sheep breeds in the world?!
Did you know... there are 40 different sheep breeds in the United States!
Did you know...some mother ewes can have as many as five lambs at once!
Did you know... the fleece from one sheep can make a full suit!
Did you know... one pound of wool can be spun into 20 miles of yarn!
Did you know... wool is flame resistant, and will not catch fire!
I did not know, until Maria read me the Sheep Reporter!
The second package to arrive from Oregon... wool roving! Maria's Grandma was visiting Wild Rivers Wool Factory, where she met Sandie, and she chose three beautifully dyed bundles of roving for Maria to share at Maker Faire.
Just look how big these few ounces of wool roving are... and it feels so light and soft and huggable!
A little wool roving goes a long way. We will have plenty to share, thanks to Delia.
Okay. At Maker Faire, Maria is going to demonstrate felting wool roving to make bracelets. But today, we are going to show how we felted these bars of soap. The process is similar... it's about measuring fibers larger than the finished project, gently pulling them apart from the whole roving, submerging them in water and then using friction to get the fibers to bind and shrink to size... that's felting! And if you want to learn how to turn a nice bar of soap into something really pretty, then click this link and visit us at Love and Rockets Make!, where Art and Engineering meet to play!

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Maps and Road Trip{s}

I love maps.
I love road trips.
I love to read maps, and imagine road trips.
Maps are beautiful story telling puzzles, with endless beginnings, middles, and ends. I pick them up, read them like a novel, sigh when I imagine the protagonist pitted against the elements, and the scenery I envision catches my breath. Marvelous, portentous maps.
Maps make me cry out, "I want to go to there!" My finger, and imagination, trace the lines, follow the roads, and I sigh.
Some roads are so familiar, so intrinsic to my cells, that I can feel the turns, see the trees, know the stops where I will feel welcome and home...almost like being there. Almost.
Some road trips are waiting for me. They are only imagined, highly anticipated, waiting for me. I want to go to there. Other roads I could take again, and again, and again. It doesn't matter if it's familiar, because no two visits are alike. The story is always new.
Seeing the game I was playing, Maria lit up and said, "The Eiffel Tower! The Eiffel Tower! Say you want to go to Paris, and the Eiffel Tower, because this time I want to climb to the top with daddy!"

Are you tracing maps, imagining roads and stories? Where do you want to go to?

Dear Google Maps, I love you. Thank you for showing the way.


Natalie, the Chickenblogger

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Good Intentions Blossom and Grow

We have two trees full of apples.
I've already forgotten their names.
I keep meaning to paint quaint, informative markers, so we know the variety of each fruit tree, and when it was planted. I am so much better organized and clever in my mind, than I am in real life.
Our Fuji apple has begun to blossom. A happy thought: I wanted to have different apples, so we could stagger the harvest, and it would seem my plan is working. A plan that is working... what a wonderful concept... what a pleasure to see this progression. When the children and I stand in the orchard, admiring our little trees, we count each branch of the apple trees and call them pies. With as many as seven, maybe eight, apples hanging on each limb, we think of the pies we will bake this summer... another plan, another happy thought.
Speaking of plans... it's time for a list, a declaration of good intentions, and other necessities for progress. Because, however futile my efforts feel sometimes, I still make lists, and plans, and I still resist the urge to surrender. Maybe that's why I planted five blueberry bushes, because I have a bit of faith. Maybe that's why I have a drawer full of greeting cards... someday I may write a letter, and address the envelope, and find a stamp, and bring it to a post office... hope lives.
The List

:: Clean my office... all the layers
:: Drop off boxes for donation
:: Write directions for house sitter
:: Send Mother's Day tokens of love and affection
:: Create logo for Love and Rockets Young Makers Club
:: Make business cards for Chickenblog~Love and Rockets~Lady Betty Orpington
:: Finalize plans for Alex's graduation celebration
:: Clean, organize, service, and pack RV, for Maker Faire
:: Help Maria rehearse her presentation for Maker Faire
:: Confirm reservations, double check all the paperwork
:: Figure out the master plan for summer trip to Tennessee, then execute preliminary steps
:: Buy food for trip to MF, including camping food, and Saturday and Sunday lunches
:: Get Alex to AP Physics B exam and drive and chaperone Maria's field trip
:: Register Max for summer Algebra
:: Inquire about graduation ceremony for Max
:: Other stuff
It's certain that "other stuff" is a lot of seriously big stuff that I am not even willing to admit has to be addressed, because it is so onerous and malodorous and quite stress inducing. Nothing like planting zinnias, or counting apple pies in trees... more like vet appointments, bills and paper work, ridding the yard of snails, and... and... other stuff! ~~Shudder~~

What about you? Are you working off a list? Is there something there, perhaps lurking, that makes you shudder? Can we encourage one another? Let's declare our good intentions, and nurture our happy thoughts, together.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Benjamin Franklin Wild Thing

We call him Benjamin Franklin Thundercat, Cowboy and Explorer.

He is a wild thing,
except when he is cradled in Max's arms,
or sleeping on the clean laundry, in the dryer, on my chair,
then he's a fluff,
a woodgie-woodgie muffin of love. And we love him so.

But when he's cornered a lizard, brought home a mouse, a bunny,
wrestled a gopher,
when he nips the hand that feeds him,
then he is a wild thing,
and we love him so.

“I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more.” ~Maurice Sendak.

Farewell, and thank you for your art and stories, Mr. Sendak.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Chickenblog Monday

Hello, and welcome to Chickenblog Monday.

Some days I sit at my computer and I have as much trouble thinking of what to write, as I did ten years ago, when I first began blogging. When I had no idea what a blog was, or why anyone would publish their ideas and pictures, like a coffee table diary, for the world to browse. This line of thinking frequently leads me to the notion that Chickenblog has run its course, that I've said about all there is to say, that in fact there is no call for leaving this personal journal out on the coffee table. Then I make a unique connection with someone out there in the world, I share a laugh, a comforting cry, and I feel like, obscure as I am, strange as this new medium is, it serves some purpose, somehow. William and I were talking about how ten years of deep thoughts and other musings really is a rather significant thing... maybe not for history's sake, but at least for our own. Which is why, I suppose, that even when I cannot think what to write, I still sit here and share something... for our own sake, for our story, for next year, or ten years from now, when we wish to recall the Monday, in May when we were here.

Here, balancing and playing, on our teeter-totter. With our goats. Making things, sharing ideas, facing our challenges, and celebrating whatever success and occasions move us.

This partition used to be against the garage, where there is a shower head. It's battered, and inadequate to most tasks. When we moved here, Geoff took it out and was sending it to the dumpster heap, but I took pity on it, and we've been using it as a tool corral. The unsightly heap of tools and gardening detritus was slightly improved, hidden behind this semi-square. And now it's enjoying a third incarnation as three fourths of a goat corral.

The barn gets cuter and cuter, and I promise an update, soon. It's not finished. Two doors need to be hung, and there's still some trimming to do. Other projects are competing with completion of the barn. And even when the barn is done, there will still be the chicken run and goat pen to build. Honestly, none of this disappoints me, or makes me feel anxious. It's really quite amazing to see all the progress that has been made, especially when I think back just two years, to where we started. Those memories do make me anxious... what a frightful mess I made of my poor farm.
The goats are growing. Why didn't we weight them and measure them when they first arrived? Gah! Now it's been a month, already. That went so fast. We've been laughing and shaking our heads, every day since they arrived. I don't mind admitting that I still feel like a novice, learning as I go, but I cannot say I regret any of this... they are dear, they are fun, and even the chicas have gotten (somewhat) comfortable with their new farm companions. Next up: weaning them from their bottle, before we leave for Maker Faire! Or should we just bring them, and their bottles with us?!
Just a peek, so you can see progress really has been happening. Geoff and William designed and built a Dutch door for the front of the barn. The top is split, and William made a handy shelf for the bottom door... he's leaning on it. Maria thinks it will be a useful ledge for her farm stand sales. I think the whole barn is looking so adorable, I could squeee!
Dill, potatoes, and peas. These are the first potatoes I have ever grown. And truthfully: I didn't grow them. All of the many, many, many potatoes growing around the Bird House are because of "bad" spuds tossed into the compost heap. I'll never disparage a "bad" spud again. Also, thanks to the compost heap, we are growing pumpkins, and tomatoes. Our deliberately planted peas and carrots are doing quite nicely. And the spinach... well, it's been phenomenal.

I remember, my gardening and farming frustrations, eight years ago, when we were renting in the TreeHouse. We had no place to plant our garden, and no idea when we could hope to have a place of our own. I am still recovering from all the strains and frustrations of being a renter, from the damages, and my own inability to stand up for myself. It was... it was. And maybe the crud makes the blessings we enjoy now extra sweet, but please: let's not say that 'the crud was necessary,' or that 'the hardships are the reason I can be happy now.' I was plenty prepared and willing to be happy, and thankful, without all that crud. No, I remember those days, and just feel tremendous relief, perspective, profound gratitude for these days, here. It feels like a constant prayer: thank you, thank you, thank you.
We are still making bread. One more memory: Max and I were planting in a barrel, at Garage Mahal, and Max described a wish he had... to grow a real vegetable garden, to have fruit trees, too, and to make a meal entirely from everything we grew and gathered in our yard. To bake bread, to use our own eggs. Max is descriptive, and his ideas come in great detail, with all the specifics. He created such a beautiful vision, describing his homesteading wish, that I have not forgotten how much I wanted to see his wish fulfilled. I think this summer, we may enjoy some of those meals Max envisioned... a garden to table dinner.

Deep thoughts, and other musings, on a Monday morning.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Cinco de Mayo, Moon, and Movies

I don't know who gets credit for this, but it's a good one. Sorry I cannot sing it for you, 'cause the tune is pop-catchy, and you might like to hear it sung, but not by me.

We had a movie night.

'Cause it was Cinco de Mayo?
Sort of.
'Cause of the 14% larger moon?
'Cause we have a totally awesome Paradox piñata?
Kind of.
'Cause David Bryne made a random, musical, Texas movie, in the eighties?
Yes, that, too.

Dear Mr. David Bryne, Thank you for making "True Stories," for donning Western garb, and driving into Virgil, Texas. Your journey, and the stories told, were a delight and gave us reason to laugh. Also, we fell in love with characters, ideas, the dance. Not a particular dance, just, you know, the dance that is life, and humor, and recognizing the humor in life. That dance.

Natalie, the Chickenblogger

Also, we introduced Henry to Tasha and Ada. Our goats were scared, then curious, then scared. And Henry was determined, and eager, pulling, tugging, and just really set to impress upon those goats how much he wanted to play with them. He spit out the treats Maria brought him, refused any more, and kept his single minded purpose focused on connecting with Tasha and Ada.
Sammay and Nate met the goats, too.
Erika met the goats, and she fed Tasha. And she knew that Henry's breath cloud was visible, when ours were not, because dogs have a higher body temperature. His warm breath condescend in the cool air. It's science. Erika knows science. She's cool that way.
Corina and Chris are going to get goats, and then we are going to excavate a tunnel between our homes, and we'll make cheese, and soaps, and do yoga, and follow our children, wherever they go, because our children are fascinating to watch, and we don't want to miss the good parts.

Did you see the moon? Everybody is talking about the moon, because it was full and extra close, and perceptibly larger. We watched it. When it first appeared it was the color and creamy softness of an orange Dreamsicle, and as it rose higher in the sky it became the pale reflector we know and love, with all the romantic and galactic whimsy that we ponder and delight in.

And now it is seis de mayo, so we'll have crispy tacos for dinner, and we will work on our projects for Maker Faire, while playing music by The Talking Heads. What about you? What are you listening to, dreaming of?