Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Welcome Winter


    Solstice.  Winter.  Yule.  
What do you call it?  The longest darkness, the beginning of the return of the light.  A pattern evolves for us at this time of year for family and farm.  We snuggle in at home - less outside time, lots of layers, fireplace, candles - all quiet since Spring gave us a long respite.  The cold and the dark make the house a cozy haven with more chess playing, more books, and baking.
     The farm means frosty breath clouds over the heads of the sheep, snow on the llama's back and rime around his mouth.  Rushed chores, wet gloves as buckets slosh. The whoosh of hay being thrown from the loft to the feeders below and the quiet sounds of contented animals safely enclosed in their winter pens give a sense of accomplishment and our own moment of peace.

     A poem for solstice, (copied and pasted from someone else's blog) for your reading pleasure:

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Susan Cooper

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Socks, worms, and clowns

     This is turning out to be a typical week.  As I type this there is a pair of socks on the computer table next to me.  My husband's?  My son's?  Hard to tell these days.  I am guessing they are my husband's and he put them down while making an early morning call to a second vet, trying to find Banamine,  an anti-inflammatory drug to give to our llama.  We are out of luck. Apparently it is on back order with the drug companies, so NO ONE has it. And we need it.       This is our second llama to be stricken with meningeal worms.  Our farm is wet, so we breed lots of snails which carry the larva and are ingested as the llama grazes.  We lost a llama about a year and a half ago to this same worm.  We need the drug to reduce the swelling in the spine so he can stop listing to starboard, leaning on walls to stay upright.  But no go.  So today I got several bottles of aspirin (remember aspirin?) so we can grind up ten to twelve at a time and feed it to the llama.  I have molasses to try to cover the taste, and if that doesn't work, we have a medicine syringe, and we can squirt it down his throat.  That should help the swelling, and hopefully the large doses of fenbendzadole will help kill any worms that have not already crossed the blood-brain barrier.  Fingers crossed.  
       With this in the background of our day, we also got news from one of our students that she was offered a contract to be a clown with Ringling Brothers.  She is over the moon with joy, as she has wanted this, and worked for this for years.  Her excitement is infectious, and the entire theatre department is thrilled for her.  It feels good to see our students achieve their dreams!
     Now, the evening meal will be eaten on tray tables in the living room as I have taken over the dining room table with my grading.  I have papers and projects covering the entire surface.  This weekend I will reward myself by starting to decorate for Christmas.  Hoping your week is as interesting and filled with wonderful news, and joyful surprises.  Oh, and no worms!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A thankful post

   We reflected with family members over Thanksgiving dinner about things we were thankful for. Family, and shelter, safety and nutrition were all up there.  I spoke of being thankful that two recent deaths  were able to bring so many friends and family together to celebrate lives well lived, and to reconnect with those of us remaining.  We are so lucky.
    Without being negative, so please do not comment so, I want to say how grateful I am to have been able to be an American citizen with these wonderful people in the White House.  I do not care if you like or dislike their policies, the current First Family has given us lessons in poise, kindness, humility, and love.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Let's get through midterms

   I am referring to the tests at my college, not elections!  Getting through this week means I will finally have time to get some "at home" work done.  You know the type (or maybe you don't) - sorting through the Mount Everest of clean laundry and not only folding and putting it away, but getting rid of all the clothes that our youngest outgrew, the socks that no bleach will whiten, and the hole ridden tee shirts.  There are only so many "farm shirts" any one person needs.  After the 80 degrees of two days ago, we are headed to the 40s by Saturday, so perhaps the shorts can get transferred out and the turtlenecks can be switched into the dressers.
    Last weekend I took the super off the bee hive and checked the girls before closing it up for the winter.  I am debating wrapping it in tar paper this year - we are supposed to have a pretty rough winter in the Northeast and it does help keep out some of the wind, and absorb any of the winter sun's heat. When I peaked in, they had filled their frames pretty fully, so I believe they have enough food to make it through.
What you are seeing is the capped honey(that is the bright yellow and dark stuff in between the frames) and the rectangular shapes on the top are propolis that they used to glue the queen excluder to the frames.  Generally the more propolis they create, the more prepared they are for the winter.  It acts as a glue, but also a caulk to keep out the wind.  
     I did manage to get a bit of dyeing done this weekend. Here is some wool dyed with goldenrod.

 I have more dyeing to do, more baking, some Christmas presents to create, seven gardens to put to bed for the season - you see the pattern.  This fall I only have one show to design (scenery and costumes) - An Almost Holy Picture, a one man show which my husband is doing in Dec. so I may actually have a little time to get a few of these things done.  Then Spring brings the fun of costumes for Peter and the Starcatcher.
     Hoping you have time to do your baking, gardening, and crafting as well!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It's Been a While

   There are times when the work I do gets to be all encompassing, and things like blogging seem to just eat into the time when I might be sleeping!  This summer was like that.  It started with a four show summer season of designing costumes for Chenango River Theatre.
    The first show overlapped with a conference I was attending, so I had to tech it a week early.  Luckily Stella and Lou was a three hander, so this was possible.
  The next show, Last Gas, was regular folks, needing to look normal in their environment so the outsider could stick out in an obvious fashion. Fat padding and ranger uniforms are how I will remember this show!

   The Smell of the Kill was my third show, and I got to dress three lovely actresses in nice clothes, pretty underwear, and  a shirt covered in deer blood!  These ladies were a joy to work with!
   Finally I was designing the last show - at the same time i was designing the first show for SUNY Oneonta's season.  neither show was particularly difficult in the actual design - but getting  WWII uniforms to fit 2016 bodies was a trick for Taking Sides, and the quick changes for Stop Kiss (something like 20 for one actress, and seventeen for another) meant the lists and paperwork required to organize the changes took nearly as long as shopping the show!  Still, both shows are up - tech for Taking Sides  only overlapped tech for Stop Kiss by a day and my fabulous crew made it possible for me to not have to be in two places at once.  Photo call for Stop Kiss is tonight, so no pix yet, but here are a few of the cast of Taking Sides. 

   Now I can focus on my next show, Peter and the Starcatcher, and helping my husband finish the barn - but that's another post...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My take away from Finding Dory - a movie review, of sorts

      SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing the whole movie, including the ending, so do not read on if you have not seen the film.

       I took my youngest son and his friend to see Finding Dory a few days ago.  I was not expecting much - a re-hash of Finding Nemo, or at least a movie filled with Nemo references. There are a few nods to Nemo, but they are not belabored. I was told it was not a great stand alone movie. Some of this is true, to younger fans.  It does not have the same sort of "action" that Nemo had, no sharks, for example.  I was not expecting to still be thinking about it today, going over the nuances that the writers  tucked in here and there, and wondering if they did it intentionally or if I was reading more into it. It is still resonating in a positive way.
     To start with, aside from being cute, Dory has a disability.  Her memory loss is not inconsistent with some issues people with Traumatic Brain Injury  may suffer.  Her disability makes her annoying, hard to live with at times, unpredictable,  and dependent on people with patience and love to help her with situations that the typical fish have no problem with.
    She also has a positive attitude. She has no clue that she can't handle certain situations on her own, so she dives right in.  Her open and honest demeanor is engaging, and the other fish are willing to work with her, and put up with a lot, to help her lead a happy life.   Whether it is Marlin, or Nemo, or Mr. Ray, she has friends who have her back.
      The film shows us that much of this positivity was instilled in her at a young age by her parents.  They give her simple task and games to teach important lessons to her, and repeat them innumerable times until they stick. "Follow the shells, they will lead you home."  "Just keep swimming."  Does this not sound like the actions of nearly every parent who has a child living with a disability that requires them to cope in a different way from the other kids?   Autism pops into my mind, because that, along with ADHD are the two issues in our family.  But TBI also  comes to mind, as does social anxiety disorder,  and I am sure there are others.
     Dory's single-minded need to find her parents dominates the film, as does friendship and her need for it, and quite frankly,  other fishes' need for hers.  "What would Dory do?" asks Nemo, when he and Marlin are in a tight spot.  He knows she would just try something, jumping in with both fins, not over analyzing the possible dangers.  Sometimes doing SOMETHING is better than just sitting around thinking about your situation, and Dory has taught this to Nemo.
      The ending shows us that parents never give up hope and will do anything to help their children. The early lessons they taught Dory are all her parents have to work with, so the path of shells radiates out in all directions from their home.  A metaphor for their love for her?  Yes.  An affirmation for all parents of special needs children that the lessons do matter, and some things do stick? Most definitely.   Finding Dory appealed to me far more than I expected and I applaud Andrew Stanton for the screenplay and direction.  I also thank him for the reminder that all the hard work really does help your child to "just keep swimming."   Go see it.  It's worth the price of admission.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

To weed or not to weed...

    Several years ago, behind the garage, I planted about half a dozen currant bushes.  They do pretty well in the partial shade of our neighbor's trees.  A few years back, a pokeberry bush started  to insinuate itself there.  They are large, nigh on impossible to get rid of, with red berries in the fall.  I would hack it back, but each year it returned.  That area is also overrun with jewelweed plants - much easier to pull but far more prolific.
a pokeberry plat with mature berries
      The toxicity level of this plant varies, with the roots being the most toxic, next the leaves, the stem and finally the berries.  This is NOT a plant to have in a garden with small children who like to eat things. It can kill them.  Like monk's hood and foxglove, it is for the mature gardener.
     This year, due to various factors, like a warm winter, little rain, etc., the currants produced about 12 berries between them.  The poke is HUGE and covered in berries.  To parents of small children, this would mean "get it out of here" but to me,  it means I am going to have a good dyeing year.  Poke berries are wonderful as a dye, making a rich maroon colour for my wools.  To me, it is a bounty of dye stuffs.
      The same hold true with my patch of jewelweed.  It will dye fabric a peachy tan.  In fact, I used it on a show  in which I was creating some costumes for native American characters.  Now I doubt the Havasupani had jewel weed, but I felt better portraying them using naturally dyed fabrics rather than chemically coloured ones. 
     The more  I explore  natural dyes, the more a weedy garden looks like a dyer's garden and less like a mess!  I am constantly trying  new plants - sometimes with little success (the purple flowers of hairy vetch do not make a purple dye) and sometimes with moderate success.  I recently was pulling cattails out of my pond and  boiling them up to make paper, and noted that the  water in the pot was getting sort of orangey/golden/tan.  What they heck!  I grabbed a small piece of  wool yarn, mordanted with alum, threw it into the pot and waited a bit to see what would happen.  Here is what came out:
Hmm...colour inspiration!

Throwing in s sample

The outcome
I am not certain yet how colour fast this will be, and  lord knows there are enough  dyes that make brown and tan, but this was an experiment worth trying, and I have an unlimited amount of cattails available to me, so I am certain, I will use them again. 
      Long live the weeds!