Thursday, May 27, 2010

File under "raccoon"

On my drive home from Michigan today (smooth, easy border crossings, book on cd, reasonably speedy, Thai take-out), I got a message on my phone from one of my housemates. Poor woman, whenever I go away it seems that some of my chickens meet messy ends and they have to deal with it. It seems that a marauding raccoon killed Clara and Edna yesterday, feathers all over the place and general carnage. We think it's a raccoon because one was sighted in the yard this afternoon.

I called my farmer friend Thor to get some advice re: raccoons and chickens: when active, how to prevent more attrition, uselessness of roosters, opposable thumbs, application of big flashlight and shotgun, etc.

As we were talking, I suddenly remembered an odd little snapshot from my past. I have spent a lot of time working on a farm in Florida (ECHO), learning about international agricultural development and pulling some weeds, but mostly being artistically useful...illustrations of rooftop gardening techniques and such. I lived on-site with the interns, many of whom are still my best friends. One weekend afternoon I was hanging out at the picnic table by the guys' house, enjoying a book and a snack and a peaceful moment in the shady sunshine...then Charlie appears. (Charlie was an amazing man, in his 70's at the time, a self-described Georgia cracker with loads of big-time overseas experience in Africa and other exciting places. He was also a total hoot.) He slaps a gigantic dead raccoon and a big knife down on the table and announces that THIS is what's for dinner. I was outta there faster than you can say fricassee.

Not sure why I feel compelled to tell that story on my blog, but I'm fascinated by how our minds take photos like this and file them this case under "raccoon." The remaining four chickens are barricaded tightly in the coop tonight, and we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Baking and biceps

A few years ago I spent a memorable few weeks here at Au Sable working with my dear friend Jean Elizabeth. We were kind of a force to be reckoned with around the saucepans and coffeepots, and coined the phrase "kitchen hotties" to describe ourselves. We were also kind of a comedy team, and I laughed every day to within a whisker of acute embarrassment.

Every year now I work with a different crew, and they all carry on that flame.

After all this talk of baking and biceps, here's me in action with my locally-famous cinnamon rolls. I'm out of practice, since I don't eat that gluten stuff anymore, but my past bakery jobs still have left their mark in my muscle memory.

Tomorrow is the big drive home again. I'm always sad to leave, but after all the travel from this winter I'm ready to be settled at home with just minor camping trips and local adventures for most of the summer. I'm going to shift my mind to making some new paintings for a show at the Kitschen Sink in July.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In which I use the word "festooned"

I'm on break from the kitchen, waiting on the cinnamon roll dough to rise. And it's too early to make the peanut sauce for dinner. Which all goes to say that I'm still at Au Sable, and on the verge of cooking a Thai dinner for 30 people tonight. They are getting pad thai, chicken with ginger, fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce, Thai iced tea, and tropical fruit with sweet coconut milk. And tomorrow morning they get homemade cinnamon rolls. Just to make everyone miss when I go back home.

Meet my favorite birch tree, over there to the right.

Usually I spend a lot of time in the woods when I'm up here, but this year....well, there's a tent caterpillar infestation going on, and walking or biking on the narrow trails in the forest is an extremely sticky and unpleasant affair. All those little caterpillars hanging over the trails by little threads, glistening in the sunlight like...oh I don't know, a metaphor escapes me right now. One comes out completely festooned with webs and bugs and bits of leaves. I'm not all that squeamish, but still prefer to avoid caterpillars in my hair.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The thing on the stick

In case you wondering what a berimbau it, here's a photo of mine. Or part of it at least, the stick is about 6 feet long and completely covered in beautiful woodburned designs and symbols. Mine was made for me by my professor (Graveto, see video below) and is a sweet and beautiful thing with a lovely voice. I have a long looooong way to go before I can play it well doesn't sing for me yet.

Berimbaus are the main instrument that run a capoeira roda. They stem from traditional African instruments, but are now specifically tailored for capoeira music.

Here's a clip of a slow, light-hearted game to give you an idea of the sound and the look of capoeira angola.

Monday, May 17, 2010

St. Christopher

I spent all day in the car yesterday, driving to Michigan for my annual volunteer kitchen work/vacation at Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. Au Sable is one of my favorite places in the world, which balances out how I'm becoming less enamored of the kitchen work every year. It's a long drive, took a little over 11 hours yesterday (including stops for snacks and stretches). Two border crossings to spice things up too, and a Patrick O'Brian book on cd. One the way back into the US yesterday at Port Huron, the border guard asked me about my berimbau ("What's the thing on the stick?") which made me laugh for the next 10 miles or so.

Gary sent me on my way with a little St. Christopher-style piggie for my car, and I also tend to travel with one of my favorite little paintings from Ben (yo Ben, you could market this). And the naked mole rat always stays in my car to watch the road.

Unfortunately this year the vacation aspect of my time here will be kind of minimal. There are SIX art and design projects that need to be finished in the next few weeks, and so my time between kitchen shifts will not be completely spent riding my mountain bike on the North Country trail and reading books on the lake shore.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fingerpaint me pictures of all you see

Ithaca has an amazing booksale. Like, HUGE. Twice a year, multiple weekends, a little slice o' heaven for the used-bookish types. I stopped in on Sunday, and came home with eight more of the Patrick O'Brian novels (almost have a complete collection now, geek that I am), and three beautiful Over the Rhine cds, a goldmine of music I had never heard before by a band I had forgotten I like so much. They've got that blend of good writing, strong convictions, deep emotions, musical beauty, and general aesthetic integrity about them.

Dip your hands in colors
while the young night flutters in on you and
fingerpaint me pictures of all you see

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brewers' Union!

I tend to brag about my brother a lot, ya know the one who runs a genuine British-style pub in Oregon, is a total smartie, and rides a Harley named Chromeo. I'm going to lift a few paragraphs from his blog right now, because interesting publicity things are going on for his pub, the Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, Oregon. Follow these links and spread the word.

"First of all, we made the cut to be included in the National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide for the Central Cascades region that came out late Winter. Right there, on the downloadable pdf file, is the magical mention of the pub. Perhaps we won't get that much traffic from it, but the NG sure does churn out a snappy map.

Most recently, National Public Radio appeared in Oakridge to do a story on the town's efforts to reinvent itself. The radio show is called State of the Re:Union, and they have been traveling the country looking for stories. And found Oakridge, can you believe it. It was fun having the talented folks around for a week, and they captured the beautiful sound of real ale being liberated into a proper pint glass. The entire broadcast can be streamed or downloaded."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tribute to Andy G.

A quick entry this morning before going back up to the studio. As I have mentioned before, Monday mornings are a little slow for me, like a normal person's Saturday. I usually make my to-do list for the week, figure out my social calendar, make my weekly card printing order, do the accounting, mess around online a little bit, and in this particular case linger over some tea while recovering from the previous evening's Scrabble-and-tonic game. I just spent a moment looking through some photos from Hawaii (it seems so long ago already), and wish to share my latest Andy Goldsworthy tribute with you. He's one of my art heroes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thoughts on a windy morning

So I got home from market (and Ben's cool ceramic show reception) yesterday afternoon just before the windstorm hit. After a few hours of watching the pine trees whip wildly around and listening to the clanging of the newly-loose metal flashing on my neighbor's roof, I checked the weather online, saw the S-word, and decided that a Sunday market early in the season with high winds and SNOW were really not where it's at. I am skipping today, and very pleased about that. My paper products and framed artwork don't take kindly to being blown about, and I personally am done with being cold for the season.

Plus I was out late last night at the Second Chance Prom, wearing my original fabulous turquoise prom dress from 1989. My mom made it (happy mother's day, MOM!!! I know you're reading and will mention it later!) and I'm proud to say that it still fits. I'm also proud of all the 80's songs I can still sing along to. It was a lot more fun than my actual prom...

A day off from market also means I can continue working on the huge fun secret project I've been working on all week, the one with the looming deadline! I can't show you anything yet really, until the company I'm working for releases their product line. But I think a little teaser would be alright, a cropped fragment of a larger painting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One of the fruits of my recent labor

Hot off the drawing board...I have finished the ketubah project! Both myself and the couple are happy, and this was very much a pleasure to work on. Here's a detail and a photo of the finished product. Done with sepia ink and a light watercolor wash on 300 lb hot press paper, in case you care about such details. Now I must pack it carefully and trust it to the postal service.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cute blond chicks

Not that I usually stoop to racy titles or posting photos of cute baby animals to bring people in to read my blog...but here are some fresh new Golden Comet chicks! I'm splitting a batch of new chickens with a friend who wishes to establish a small flock, and they are all installed in their cozy brooder box up the road at his house. I'd like two more laying hens, since sweet Clara is too old and traumatized to lay anymore, and Harold the freeloader obviously doesn't pull any weight in the egg department. Looking forward to watching them grow up.

Otherwise, I'm in a big deadline push. Vacation was wonderful, and the return was a little panic-filled once I realized how many projects I have afloat. Am heading out of town again in two weeks, and all of my projects are on deadlines that require completion before I go. One client gets 12 paintings (will post about that in a few weeks), one more custom wedding announcement, and a wedding ketubah (which is almost done and looks gorgeous). All this to say, if I don't answer the phone or your email, don't be surprised because I'm spending all my time in the studio slowly but steadily chipping away.

"Chipping away" makes me think of that scene in the Phantom Tollbooth (love that book) where the faceless time-waster guy has Milo try to drill through a mountain with a pin.