Sunday, June 19, 2011

Another Example Of Compost And Creativity

This post on emergency toilet sanitation came into my reader today. Who can anticipate when a tornado/wind storm/ice storm/blizzard or other natural phenomenon will cut off power to a community for days/weeks/more? Don't miss the comments below the post -- good stuff.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Looking Back To The Future

Bill and I have a game we play while traveling. We ask: "What was your favorite thing / biggest surprise / most memorable moment?" On a recent trip to Florida to visit my folks, one event stood out for both of us. Of course, it's an event I couldn't record because I didn't take the camera that morning (but that's another story).

The photo above shows what the scene looked like a couple of years ago. It's a place we enjoy walking with my parents. Since I don't have photos of the event itself, I'll just describe it for you.

Along one side of the lake, there were clustered two different types of birds: anhingas, which are common on Florida waters, and wood storks, which we've seen from a distance on other occasions. This time, the storks were just feet away from us but completely oblivious to our presence. They were too busy catching fish. It appeared that the anhingas were herding fish toward the shallows, and the storks were taking advantage of the easy pickings.

It reminded me of a traditional fishing method I learned about some time back, a method often used by the women of a village. Working collectively, a group would fan out and wade toward the shallows, driving fish ahead of them to where they could be more easily caught in dip nets or baskets. The birds' activity made  it easy to see where our ancestors might have come up with the concept of the fish drive.

There are still places in the world where this type of communal harvest method is used. In those places, they know two things.

First, by working together a group may be better able to meet the needs of the community than individuals working alone. In fact, a fish drive can be a very efficient harvest method.

Second, because the harvest is so efficient the group can be selective -- keeping what they need and throwing back the rest to feed them in the future.

There's a lot of food for thought in this. Particularly in Wisconsin, where fishing is practically a religion, and particularly now, when the new governor's proposed "budget repair" legislation threatens the collective bargaining of public workers. There's a lot more stuff in the bill that isn't getting much press -- things like no-bid contracts and the option to sell state-owned heating, cooling and power plants "with or without
solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state." I could go on, or instead you could read the bill here.

There's been much written and much more said about this situation. But one of the best pieces I've read came from columnist John Gurda in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Before you head off to read it, let me share a short excerpt. Gurda writes:
Walker, in the end, does not represent any Wisconsin tradition that I recognize as mainstream. Through most of its history, our state has been animated by a broader, more generous conception of the common good. Republicans and Democrats alike saw government as the expression of our collective will, not an alien threat to our individual sovereignty.
After reading Gurda's column, you might want to dust off your copy of Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed. 

For the common good, I'm in favor of going back to a model that looks more like communal fishing. To borrow a phrase from Gurda, I believe it's a myth that "the prosperity of the few will percolate down to the many." ("Try selling that one to the people of Chile or Argentina," he writes.)

You may not agree. But I'm sure we could work something out if we all actually wanted to work together.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Gift of Thrift And A Happy New Year

The last day of the year is a good day for taking down and putting away stuff from the holidays. In our home, there will be a new addition to Bill's shelf of homebrew supplies: The feed and grain coop store in Antigo  added brewing and winemaking supplies to their inventory, and Bill got a 3-gallon glass carboy. It's rare for us to spend this much on a store-bought gift, but at 23 bucks there's no way I could acquire glassblowing tools, materials and skills to make a big bottle myself.

Bill got me a set of wool carders at the Sievers garage sale. Everybody else got something homemade. If you were to add up the time we spend making gifts, it would probably even out with the time other people spend going to jobs to earn money to buy gifts plus the time (and gas) they use to go shop for things to buy.

But making everything does take a lot of time, so Bill and I try to alternate who makes the bulk of our holiday gifts. This was my year. You can read how I used fabric reclaimed from thrift shop sheets and curtains, the indigo vat, and bits of fabric from my stash in my gift posts on Two Red Threads.

With holiday sewing done, I had a chance to catch up on some mending. The breeze at the knees was giving Bill a chill where his Carhartt work pants wear out. My studio jeans had a few breezes of their own.

I don't spend much time on these repairs or worry too much about how they look. Apart from an occasional quick trip to the post office, chances are nobody will see them but us. To us, they're just pants -- something to keep us warm, something to deflect sawdust and slivers and stray drops of dye. And to us, patches represent more than keeping garments out of the waste stream. They represent the way we stitch together a lifestyle measured less by our income than by the progress we're making toward our long-term goals.

In truth, it's a tight squeeze. We spend more on our monthly health insurance premium than on any other category of household expense, including our mortgage -- and that's with a $5,000 deductible. Unexpected medical expenses hit us this year, but then it's always something. You feel like you're getting ahead, and a vehicle needs a new head gasket. We don't take it personally. We just do what we have to do to keep our vehicles roadworthy and our bodies healthy and productive. We've been careful, and we've been lucky.

We're making do. And for that, we are grateful.

We hope that in the new year we all can find creative ways to meet the challenges ahead (whatever they may be), and continue to make ends meet without losing track of which ends are important. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Boil, Brew, Be Done

5 Ways To Be More Productive from Two Red Threads
Use Your Teapot As A Productivity-Boosting Timer. That's the title of a simple, elegant and doable technique just posted at Lifehacker. It could have been titled "Get The Dishwasher Unloaded Before The Toast Pops Up." Got a small job you don't really want to do? Put the kettle on and get cracking. The challenge is to get the job done before the water boils. Then it's done, and so's your tea.

In the studio, I think I'll dial down the heat on my electric kettle so it takes a bit longer to boil for that first cup in the morning. Then, instead of just shifting piles to make room for me to work my creativity warm-ups, I'll try to do a few minutes of real studio housekeeping while the water heats. Think of it as a steamy version of Beat The Clock.

What games do you play to help you get those small jobs done?

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Long View

4-H sampler from many years ago
Make hay while the sun shines. A stitch in time saves nine. My parents and grandparents all took the long view of things. It made sense. On the farm, if you didn't get a crop in while the weather held, you might not get another chance. And if you didn't mend those pants before a rip got bigger, someone might notice quite a breeze as they walked up from the barn.

The long view. I've been thinking about this a lot over the past year. During the past 12 months, in addition to teaching and making fiber art I have:
  • started writing two blogs
  • published my first e-books
  • started selling my printed books on Etsy
  • started selling my print-on-demand fabric designs on Spoonflower
It's been a profitable year -- learning-wise, not money-wise. Money-wise, we can just about afford to celebrate with a glass of Bill's homemade wine, which he makes with stuff we grow or gather, a little bit of sugar, and a big sack full of patience.

There's more wine bubbling away in the basement, working on its own schedule, oblivious to the calendar and to our expectations. I have ideas bubbling away, as well. We learned long ago that the universe cares not a whit about our calendar and our expectations. But we continue to behave as if time is more than a commodity.

With the one-year anniversary of this blog coming up in a couple of days, I want to say a few things now (never put off to tomorrow...).

I'm grateful for those of you who also savor the time you spend in making.

I'm grateful for your patience with me as I learn how to operate in this digital environment.

I'm grateful for your patience with yourself as you tackle new challenges of your own (that's way harder than being nice to someone else, isn't it?).

I'm grateful to you for reading and for sharing your thoughts here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Makers, All

Imagine me tipping my hat (knit from handspun yarn, of course) to the folks at my alma mater for their "I Am A Maker" campaign.

You can hear the Makers All manifesto here, or read it at Make.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe

In the big studio clean-up:

Yes, I saved most of the painted papers stashed in the file cabinet.

No, I pitched the remains of a roll of jute I bought in 1975 for a macrame project.

And maybe I'll keep this cool root. If not, at least I have a picture of it now!