Saturday, November 29, 2008

Something new

I've been wanting to try my hand at collage for some time, inspired in part by all the artists in my circle. But two-dimensional art feels way out of my league, and my drawing ability is the artistic equivalent of a tin ear. Collage felt like it might be a good medium for me to dip my toes into non-fiber art. T. has also been wanting to try it, so last Christmas I got her a collage kit, and we agreed we'd sit down together for our first go at it.

Finally, yesterday, we sat down and did it. I worked on a few pieces, but this bird is my favorite.

I think I'll be exploring birds for a while. (Even I can even handle drawing a rough outline of their shape!)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reason enough to skip Black Friday

I don't know about you, but the mere mention of Black Friday causes paroxysms. Consumeristic madness at its best. I've seen some of the artists that will be featured at Second Storie here in Rochester, and they are well worth checking out! If you're buying holiday gifts this year, I hope you'll consider Second Storie, or your own local art/craft scene.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Night chickens

We STILL don't have any eggs, but our favorite chicken farmer told us that if their combs are red, they are ready to lay. Bessie's too young, but Sarah and Ella need to start earning their keep! He said they need at least 14 hours to lay, so we have given them their very own night light.

I think they are still adjusting to it. As you can see from this picture, they seem to think that it's roosting time, light be damned!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just a moment

Today at church the service was focused on finding joy in the everyday. I'm usually pretty good at that, but lately I have been beyond cranky. Work stress, grad. school stress...nothing major (and I am well aware of how much more stressful life could be), but, throw in a little sleep deprivation and I lose perspective.

Even after church, on a walk with T., I was still cranky. I did, though, stop to notice the snow on the plant above (wish I knew what plant it is). I love the wispiness of it.

It seems like a good time to turn to Mary Oliver (when is it NOT a good time to turn to Mary Oliver?!). Here's her poem "The Sun."

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

Friday, November 21, 2008

More sustainable gift ideas

Jody at That which rolls just posted her wish list. Lots of good ideas about handmade items, charitable gift ideas, and secondhand gifts.

Perhaps you want to prepare your own list for your friends and family?

Happy (and sustainable) holidays!

These pictures are from an annual Holiday Swap that I host with some friends. The swap is one of the ways that I try to keep the holidays from taking over my budget and my life. We invite artists, crafters, healing artists, goddesses of the domestic arts, and anyone else who's interested, and everyone brings something to trade (even if that something is money).

This year I brought those little cork people (which are used corks with knitted sweaters and hats, from the Korknisse pattern in Ravelry), along with printed cards of some of my photography, knitted scarves, handmade calendula skin balm (from calendula from my own little garden), handmade soap, canned salsa. You can also see some of T.'s beautiful drawings in the pictures, and some of the scarves are also hers.

We came home with some beautiful pottery, paintings, jams, a CD in a handmade case, and a little money! In the past we have traded for ayurvedic consultations, acupuncture, and jewelry.

If you decide to do a swap, I recommend finding your friend with the biggest home, inviting 20-40 people, and letting them know well in advance so they can plan ahead. This year we held it rather early due to scheduling constraints, and I actually like that! It was a fun way to start thinking about the holidays.

Coincidentally, I volunteered to write a "Green Tip of the Week" for the employee e-newsletter at work, so I focused it on "greening" the's what I wrote:

Did you know that Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season than any other time of year? This extra garbage amounts to 25 million tons of trash, or about one million extra tons of garbage per week. (Bob Lilienfeld/The Use Less Stuff Report)

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us will be planning soon for holiday food, decorations, and gifts. There are ways to reduce our impact at this time of the year. Here are some thoughts for a sustainable holiday season.

1—November is harvest season in our area. All kinds of food is available from local farmers right now, such as squash, onions, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, kale, apples, pumpkins, and much more! Check out MCC’s own Agriculture and Life Sciences Institute “Buy Local” page ( for more information.

2—If your holiday traditions include gift-giving, discuss with your family some alternative gift ideas. Gifts of time or services, such as baby-sitting, cleaning, or dog-walking, are often appreciated as much as material objects. You could also consider giving a charitable donation on behalf of one of your gift recipients. Another option is to give consumable goods, such as home-baked cookies, specialty jams, or Finger Lakes wine, which have less impact on the environment and bring pleasure to the senses!

If you do give material objects, consider any of the following options for gift-wrapping: buying recycled gift-wrap, re-using gift wrap from previous years, or wrapping in a re-usable scarf or cloth bag. (Here’s a link to a web site on stylish fabric gift-wrap, based on a Japanese fabric-folding technique:

3—Consider natural decorations and homemade ornaments to decorate your home. The internet is full of craft sites with ideas, such as and Several local business and organizations offer workshops and/or products to help you out, such as Hurd Orchards (, and the Rochester Civic Garden Center (

For more tips, check out the Simplify Your Holidays free brochure at

Feel free to share your tips and good websites for sustainable holidays in the comments!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Still harvesting

Well, the chickens STILL haven't given us any eggs, and word is that if they haven't started laying by now, they probably won't until Spring. Fortunately, it's been a very long garden season. If you look over at my Harvest 2008 sidebar, you'll see what the harvest has been so far. The tomatoes were particularly impressive, if I do say so myself. The picture above shows collards, mustard greens, parsley, nasturtium, and calendula, all harvested this past weekend.

And below are some Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes. They become very tall and look like sunflowers, blooming in the late summer. After the first frost, they are good for digging up and serving raw, steamed, sauteed, or cooked in soup. I made a bisque (from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven) from them, and it was really quite good. Don't be discouraged by their unappealing appearance; they clean up quite easily and are very tasty!

In my introductory post to this blog, I wrote that, "Although I now knit, sew (a little), grow some of my own food, can/dry/preserve food for the winter, and bike commute to work most days, I did not begin like that. I also live in an urban setting with a tiny backyard, not a typical back-to-the land homestead."

Part of my purpose in keeping this blog is to share triumph and trials in my own attempts to live sustainably. Let me tell you, collards, mustard greens, and nasturtiums are among my biggest triumphs! Not a lot of plants will keep going through mid-November!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Election Day Bike Ride

(Also posted at RocBike.)

Election Day here was a beautiful near 70 degree day, so I took the opportunity for a nice bike ride along the Genesee Riverway Trail through Genesee Valley Park. Although I have mixed feelings about graffiti, I have to admit that I love this one.

I wasn't the only one who decided to take in as much outdoor recreation as possible.

It was a truly glorious fall day, and I'm glad I have this ride to remember when I think back to the day Barack Obama was elected.

Thank you, Waldo J. Nielsen!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Daring to hope

I'm a latecomer to wholeheartedly supporting Barack Obama. When most of my social group were hailing him as our progressive savior, I was nonchalant. I was initially a Hillary supporter, even though Obama's positions are generally much more progressive than hers.

I told myself it was because Hillary had more experience, and I had recently read her biography, which had given me a sense of respect for her intelligence and skill in making the transition from First Lady to U.S. Senator.

The day after the election, I understood the real reason that I wasn't initially excited about supporting Obama. Racism. Not so much mine (though I believe that I am like the rest of the human population in having unconsciously and unintentionally internalized racist ideologies.)

No, I mean the racism of my parents, my community, my teachers, my peers, when I was growing up in that small town in Indiana. That racism told me that we were not to live near, be friends with, or be taught by African-Americans. That racism allowed my next-door neighbor to give his black poodle the name "Nigger." That racism tore my best friend apart when she fell in love with a young Black man. That racism told me that Black and white people shouldn't have children together, because those poor children would be taunted and shamed.

Certainly we would never elect the child of such a union to our nation's highest office.

And yet, we did.

Let me say that by election day I was extremely excited to support Obama, and thrilled at the prospect of his election. But I wouldn't believe it until I saw it. On election night, when they called the race, I couldn't celebrate until I saw the electoral college map with my own eyes.

Then I watched, holding back sobs, as Barack Hussein Obama gave his acceptance speech. I was crying partly because it was an historic moment, but mostly I was crying because of my own scars from racism, our nation's scars from racism, and my own lack of faith in the ability of humans to change and grow.

Truth is, I hadn't been excited about Obama at first because I would not ALLOW myself to be excited about him. I honestly didn't think our country would elect an African-American. Certainly the people I grew up with never would.

And those people didn't...70% of my small home county went for McCain. Yet the fact that the state of Indiana, along with so many others, went to Obama has restored my faith, and I can finally dare to hope that our communities, our country, our planet, might actually change for the better.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Elections matter--wars begin or end, funding for social services tightens or increases, health care becomes more or less available and more or less expensive, our schools have fewer or more resources to educate our children, women have fewer or more reproductive rights, our civil rights are or are not trampled on.

If you don't believe me, you haven't been paying attention.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Craft and bike

(Cross-posted at RocBike.)

Two of my favorite things! The latest issue of Craft magazine gives two examples of the combination...first, seen above, Christina Oh's miniature knitted bicycle.

Next, Natan Lawson's mosaic covered bike...and he rides it!

Mosaic Touring Bike - Full

More pictures at his flickr set.

Got any good craft/bike combos to share??

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Freeze warning

Before the freeze a couple of weekends ago (yes, I'm behind on posting!), I harvested a ton of garden goodies. Back in the spring, a few friends and I planted some tomato plants in a community garden. It was pretty neglected throughout the summer, but I still harvested 34 pounds of green tomatoes from it, and made green tomato salsa and green tomato/pepper/onion relish. The economy may be bad, but no matter what happens, we will be flush with condiments.

In these pictures you see mustard greens, collards, calendula, green beans, nasturtium leaves (which became a big salad), and peony leaves with black-eyed Susan heads and a few zinnias.
It's been a good year for the garden. I've also planted a fall garden, including more collards, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and beets. No harvest yet, but I'm hopeful!


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