14 May 2018

Miracle Grows

Waiting their turn in the ground.

I am an accidental gardener.
I don’t really make plans, I just go with the flow. A few years ago when I tried doing a square foot garden, it made me uncomfortable. I was happy when the plants ran wild and didn’t stay in their allotted space. Except the tomatoes, they were very orderly. No one budged outside their square. Of course they were scrawny and puny, so that helped. The hazards of growing tomatoes in Wyoming. Sometimes the weather makes you plant late. Then the weather on the other end makes you pick early, or lose your crop. Or it gets wiped out by hail. Or locusts, or some other Biblical sized plague.
This year I’m not putting in a great deal of plants, more out of laziness than a desire to cut down on produce. I’m not an attentive gardener, so I need plants that will thrive despite my brown thumb. There is one thing my Italian self cannot do, and that is not plant tomatoes. It is a requirement, like putting fresh grated cheese on your spaghetti. Plant tomatoes or turn in your Italian card. I did take it to extremes this year, buying six different kinds of tomatoes. (Okay, so I lied about not putting in a lot of plants. Tomatoes don’t count.)
Roma tomatoes, of course. Cherry tomatoes, Better Boys, Early Girls, Beefsteak, and some Black Krims a fellow customer assured me were delicious. After my last undersized crop, I wanted to make sure I get some kind of tomatoes this year. My instincts were to plant just Roma tomatoes and go for an all-out sauce canning session in the fall. But one cannot live on sauce alone. I do like a nice slice of tomato with a pinch of sea salt, and maybe some olive oil and vinegar on it. I’m sure if I get bumper crops of tomatoes, someone will step up and help me eat them. Cherry tomatoes are already earmarked for the grand kids. Easy to pick and stuff in your mouth while still sun warm.
The only other interesting thing I’m planting is cabbage, in hopes I get enough to do a big batch of sauerkraut in the fall. Who knows what other vegetables will fall into the fermenting crock? Hence the need to cut back on planting and growing my own. Then I’d need to buy more canning jars and lids and crocks and…. You see where this is going. In the spirit of self-restraint, I’m trying to rein in my desire to Plant-All-The-Things!
On the other hand, the Farmer’s Market opens soon. Pickled green beans here I come!

30 April 2018

It's Drafty in Here

And so National Poetry Month winds to a close. How did your month go? Did you accomplish all you wished? I have an awful lot of poem starts, one to four lines of the beginning of a poem. I found I work quite effectively this way, getting the idea down then coming back at a calmer time to flesh it out. 

I used to believe you had to write an entire draft of a poem in one sitting. And sometimes the poem comes out that way. It's interesting to write in short bursts, because when you come back the poem start leads to another burst of creativity. Except when it doesn't. Those I put away for another day. I found trying to force the poem into being a complete first draft was forcing me to cut it to shreds when I went back to edit. Those first blushes of ideas were often predictable and cliche ridden.  It killed inspiration dead.

I know, I hear you saying, but that is what editing is for. Indeed it is. But I'm the impatient sort. Here's my initial idea, get it down, come back, write more, maybe come back again to write more, then put it away for a while. Which gives me a lot of poems to edit. Which I love to do. I like writing, but I like rewriting much better. Yes, I am wired backwards, why do you ask?

Sometimes the little fragments sit a while. They are kind of like sourdough starter, bubbling and percolating before being formed, shaped and baked. Of course the danger is looking at that one perfect (in my mind) sentence, and never coming up with a worthy poem to go with it. So they become turning points in a different poem. No idea is gold, they are there to be used. An unfulfilled poem line is a sad and lonely thing. 

How do you go about writing poems? Full burst of creativity - a poem in a sitting? Scattered fragments. Divine inspiration? So many ways to do things. I'm sure I'll change my method in the future, because one thing writing has taught me, there is no wrong door.

15 April 2018

Prior Planning Prevents Messy Results

Slots warped for shawl on 25 inch heddle

I haven't done any weaving in a while, in months, really. When I got out my loom there was an unfinished project on it. I settled in to polish it off, not remembering much about the yarn except it was yak, and very thin. Several warp string breaks later I swore to never try THAT again. I managed to finish the project with much grumbling and get it off the loom.

As I got ready to warp my loom for a new project, I made a startling discovery. My living room had shrunk! At least that was the way it seemed. I had to rearrange some things, because my warp peg was attached to my desk, and the warp I had to put on my loom was 120 inches long. 10 feet of warp. That's halfway across the living room. Since I wanted to make a wide shawl, I needed lots of yarn. 25 inches of yarn across my loom and 10 feet long. I measured twice with my trusty carpenter's tape measure, put my loom in place and started warping.

To warp the loom you have to tie the yarn onto a dowel at the back of your loom, pass it through the rigid heddle, a contraption that has very thin reed like structure about 4 inches high, the reeds have holes in them to pass yarn through, and in between the reeds are narrow openings called slots. You pull the yarn through the slots doubled, then cut the far end and thread those yarn ends through the holes. Just know it's semi-complicated and involves math. 
I have 300 slots and holes that need a yarn threaded through them. I do the 150 slots first. I pull the warp thread through a slot doubled, walk my 10 feet to the warping peg and put the loop over it. I walk the ten feet back and do it again. And again. Until I have 150 loops over the warping peg. The warping peg is a piece of thick dowel set in a wood block that you clamp to your table top. I must not have clamped the peg down well enough, because about 26 loops in, the peg came off the table. My precious looped yarn was in a heap on the floor. Many four letter words were uttered, causing the dog to cock his head and beat a hasty retreat outside. I very carefully ran my fingers through the yarn loops, straightening the threads, reset the peg, cranked it down tight, and put the loops back over. I got lucky. It didn't really tangle and fell in a nice pile. 

Warping peg holding yarn loops.

Since paranoia is just good thinking, I tied some spare yarn around one side of the loops, so if it fell, they wouldn't tangle. I did this every 10 loops or so, having this horrifying vision of the peg popping loose again when I was on thread loop 149. I did NOT want to start over. 26 loops in it didn't seem that daunting a task, at 149, four letter words wouldn't have been enough. It survived, I survived, and I'm on my way to making the 150 loops into 300 yarn ends for weaving.

Moral of the story? I got sloppy. Overconfident. I strayed outside the moment. I had done this so many times, I didn't stop to think of what could go wrong. I failed to plan for the inevitable loss of luck that kept me from running into this problem before. Life is funny that way, giving a gentle nudge of a lesson to see if you're paying attention before lowering the boom. I'm paying attention now. I'll incorporate some new measures into my weaving practice to avoid failing big time.

What are you doing on autopilot that you should pay more attention to?