12 September 2009

a hazard on the road

I ride my bike to school every day. I guess this sounds pretty tame, maybe even a little sporty and probably smart in this era of rising gas prices and general flabbiness of the population.

But it's way out of my comfort zone. (Many swerves, wobbles and honking car horns out of it.)

My experience on a bike up until this point has been the sandy gravel roads and grassy trails of my youth. I'm used to riding barefoot in cutoffs with the wind at my back and a shriek in my throat (and, of course, with all of my young cousins keeping pace with me.)

Fast forward twenty years, and now I find that I have to contend with other moving vehicles in the inner-city on an unforgiving grid of tar and concrete. I have to protect my head with a helmet and wear practical shoes. 

No wonder I long for my banana-bike-and-ribbons-streaming-from-my-handle-bars-days, when my only concern was not getting caught up in the sandy sinkholes on the side of the road or getting tangled in branches and tree roots in the woods. The worse that could happen then was a skinned knee or a few scratches, now I have to contend with city buses and crazy people in cars. 

At the end of my first week of school, my thighs feel like mush, but I can imagine a time in the near future when I'll be road savvy and (almost) have the thighs of an elite cyclist.  Almost. 

P.S. These photos were taken along some of my old bike paths. The felted balls are a blend of wool and mohair from our sheep and goats which I carded, dyed and needle-felted into shape. 

This is just an attempt on my part to play around with color and shape and then see how the results fit into the landscape. I think they resemble strange seed pods or buds. Their color reminds me of the sprongy, shockingly-colored mushrooms that pop up all over the forest floor in the fall. 

 This experiment mirrors an installation my brother and I did last winter in our woods.  

06 September 2009

wool at the wedding

Yesterday one of my cousins got married at a local vineyard in Wisconsin. I guess I shouldn't use local as an adjective in this case. I probably should write "the only" or "one of the only," because I'm guessing Wisconsin doesn't have many vineyards. 

Anyway, I don't know about your family, but it seems like the older I get, the more bizarre my family's pre-wedding experiences become. One of my siblings (and this is usually my brother) is always getting chastised for his eclectic choice of wardrobe. He prefers colorful ties and jackets, which sometimes clash with his beard. 

But yesterday, I was the one my mother harassed. Friends, I chose a tailored sky-blue blouse, tucked under a light-weight black sweater all over the top of a button-down tweed skirt. 

The tweed skirt is a favorite of mine. From a distance it may appear to be gray, but really it's a blend of black over white wool with flecks of orange, bright yellow and orchid in its fine weave. This skirt has tiny black buttons that run down each side as it cuts to about knee level. 

My mother's main complaint was that I looked too uptight and there would be other people my age there (i.e. single men). If I insisted on wearing the skirt, at least I could undo a few of the buttons that were currently hugging my knees. (And, when I wasn't paying attention to her, she made several attempts to creep up beside me and undo the buttons herself.) 

But the skirt wasn't my worst offence, it was the flats I insisted on wearing on my feet. Copenhagen blue-suede leather, but of cheap knock-off quality that I was willing to put up with as long as they carried me through the afternoon. She said those shoes made me look like an up-tight librarian. (Which I almost was at one point in my life, but that's another story.)

Moving on, while my mother was harassing me about my shoes, my brother sat down next to me on the sofa, his eyes twinkling, to show me the bread-ties he'd devised to serve him as cuff links. 

So I didn't feel so bad about my outfit. 

We made it out of the house, but halfway to town, and not even a fraction of the distance to our final destination, we all realized that no one had a copy of the invitation (in fact some of the party may have never read it) and therefore only had a general inkling of when the wedding actually started. Was it 2:00, 2:30 or 3:00? This, of course, makes a huge difference. 

And, adding to the panic of the situation, it was discovered that my mother didn't have her cellphone. Instead she'd grabbed mine, which has only the numbers of random people in its memory, and was therefore completely obsolete in helping us attain the information we needed.

So, as we're all fighting (some berating others for leaving the invite sitting on the kitchen counter, others mocking the indifferent for not reading the invite at all) we realized that the directions to the wedding were also left behind. 

Huh, in the back of the mini van I scrunched my shoulders and looked to my lovely blue shoes for moral support. 

How it was next decided that we needed to visit a drive-through car wash is beyond my level of contemplation. But there I was, stuck in a drive-through car wash with no escape in sight, surrounded by the general uproar of my loving (and also completely crazy) family. 

My only solace was the fact that I had packed an easy knitting project (a pair of toe-up socks) to center my attention upon, AND the understanding that there would be lots of wine at the reception later on . . . this is, if we ever got there.

04 September 2009

late summer fog and reflections

My family's farm is located on top of a hill (Crosby Hill) and sits on the edge of a ridge that cuts through this part of the state. The ridge cradles a tiny creek we call Bear. This creek bubbles along the local topography, cutting through stands of pines and oaks, before joining with the St. Croix River which forms a boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

Sometimes on cool mornings - and especially during the the dramatic shift between seasons - a pervasive fog forms at the bottom of our hill. This fog has been known to settle over our pastures and creep into our gardens. The fog brings with it a heavy dew that covers everything.  
Today I got out into the garden before the sun burned the fog off and snapped some photos. 

I guess I'm in a reflective mood today. I'm thinking about all of the things that went right with the garden this season, and all of the things that could have went . . . well . . . better. 

The first problem we have with the garden closest to the house, the one where we usually plant our tomatoes and beans, is blight. (Gasp!) I've read up on blight and I know that the only way to get rid of it (while not resorting to chemicals and other invasive measures) is to plant vegetables that suffer from it in a completely different location until it runs its course through the soil. 

I did that this year. The tomatoes went in another garden, but I let down my guard and planted a few potatoes in an off-limits area. (Maybe I'll get lucky, I thought.) 

I didn't. Or perhaps it's the potatoes who had all the bad luck.

I never realized how ugly a potato suffering from blight is. No wonder people in the middle ages linked blighted veggies with leprosy and the plague. (Yuck!) But here's the deal: as long as you cut off the blighted portions of the potatoes they are still edible. But these potatoes will not weather the winter and will cause havoc in the root cellar (i.e. rot and stink to high heaven).

Luckily, we spread out the potatoes between our three gardens so we will have many to keep. But enough with the bad, other things went well. I'm thinking about the zinnias I planted for borders. They are in full bloom now and completely gorgeous. The squash are ripening. I planted a French heirloom: Potimarron, which keeps beautifully and bakes like a dream. It also freezes well, if roasted first. 

Borage, a large flowering herb with purple flowers, was suggested to attract bees. I planted some in the spring and it went wild, but it did it's intended duty. All through July and August the garden was filled with the humming activity of bees. I've never seen so many varieties: large and small, streamlined and fuzzy. All intent on gathering pollen to brew their wild honey for winter. 

Looking back, I will plant borage next spring, but I will give it more headway. It tends to dwarf the other plants that surround it. 

This afternoon we will begin to pick apples. We'll be burning the midnight oil, making apple sauce, apple butter and crab apple jelly. Not to mention our sweet corn is ready to be processed and frozen for the winter. Phew! 

The canning and preserving season has begun!
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