...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


The Art of Dabbling

Recently I've been wondering if maybe I'm a jill-of-many-trades, but master of none.  I have many interests and hobbies, but is there one single thing at which I really excel?  Of course there's my title of "Master Food Preserver" though I feel far from perfect when I look at what the lovely artisans are doing at Blue Chair Fruit or Happy Girl Kitchen Co.  I enjoy gardening and consider myself more than a novice organic grower, but when people ask me questions about natural pest control or soil fertility I tend to balk.  I went to school to enhance my knowledge of cooking, but can't remember exactly how to make all the classic French sauces without a book.  I remain passionate about baking, but am quite rusty on the chemistry behind the trade, which is why I migrated to the pastries part of culinary arts in the first place.  I feel lucky to have learned to knit from my grandmother, but I am barely versed enough to adapt patterns and am still learning how to fix my mistakes.  I love to sew and have been doing so since childhood, but have never braved patternless sewing and I still don't know everything I could about fabric.  I don't mean for this to be a self-deprecating post.  I'm actually trying to take this personal observation and make something good out of it.  I just feel like I approach a lot of these handicrafts with an overabundance of ambition and enthusiasm without really doing my homework to learn what I'm getting into and how I could make it easier for myself physically and emotionally.  The result is many successes, but also dozens of handfuls of failures.  Some days I wish I was more like my fellow bloggers who are incredible knitters, accomplished bread bakers, world-class gardeners, and near-professional seamstresses.  I could counter my own thoughts right now in a million ways: maybe people only blog about the beautiful things they create, but have a closet full of errors no one ever sees; perhaps if I spent more time doing the research before I jumped in with both feet, I'd never actually GET to doing, only thinking about; or shouldn't I just be happy with how I am--a person with such a zeal for life that I want to try everything right now?  (Sigh.)  I'm certainly not seeking counsel or fishing for compliments with this entry.  But I am letting you know that I'm humbled by the amazing artists/bloggers out there and I guess I'm also letting you get to know me a bit better.

I mentioned I'm trying to make the most of these wandering thoughts of less-than-perfection.  It seems like I'm always requesting craft books from the library.  I keep them in a basket on the dining room table where I peruse them during breakfast and lunch, bookmarking pages of note or things I'd like to 
photocopy.  Currently on my stack is Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts.  I admit I've always been a Martha fan, though some would call that selling out.  Perhaps it's partly the allure of the photography in her books and magazines that draws me just like a well-designed book jacket that may or may not cover a good read.  Actually, I skimmed this tome in a bookstore recently and knew I wanted to look at it more closely.  In fact, I remembered a craft idea (turning a men's oxford shirt into a little girl's dress) that I wanted to put in my queue for the summer and needed further instructions.  When I check these books out from the library I usually just look at the pictures to get ideas.  But the introductory section of Martha's book covered fabrics among other sewing notions.  There's a quote from a high school substitute teacher that some of my girlfriends and I still recite on occasion to get a good laugh--(must say it with a New York accent) "know your colors and know your fabrics, that's what I ask of all my little girls."  So when I saw this section in my library book I knew I had to temporarily focus.  I feel like I've had a good grasp on fabrics since I learned to sew--I can certainly tell shantung from crepe and twill from canvas, etc.  But I read a bit more about how these fabrics are woven that gives them their unique character.  AND I found out that the fabric I'm currently using to make my "party" dress is likely a silk damask (I was calling it jacquard--silly me).  I found this information quite fascinating and was longing for a Mr. Rogers-esque video clip of an outing to the denim factory or day-trip to the silk farm.  Next I will read about thread.  I can't wait to see what I learn...but then I must get down to my craft corner and sew goshdarnit.

This week I had a chance to tie up some loose ends (literally and figuratively) with both my mending pile and some knitting projects that had halted at the assembly stage.  On my mending pile were some homemade flannel baby wipes that were worn quite thin.  Though some might find it offensive to upcycle something with such a history, I'm of the mind that they shouldn't just go into the garbage--PLUS, I know they've been washed in HOT water and should be free of any cooties.  In keeping with my goals for less waste, I decided to use these scraps for homemade makeup sponges instead of buying any more disposable synthetic sponges.  Thanks to my friends at Cooking in the Garden Unit who share my values of no/less-waste--this was their great idea.  
Stack of layered washable makeup "sponges"


I also finished a knit market bag that's been in my project basket for a few months.  If you'll recall, I wanted to use the interesting "industrial" yarn I found (see photo at beginning of post), but once I realized I needed to knit with a double strand for the base and handles, I knew I wouldn't have enough for the whole bag.  I used it for the bottom, which will receive the most wear and tear, but used up lots of scrap yarn for the rest.  It's really a mish-mash of a project--the weights of the yarn were all over the board.  The photos actually do it a lot of justice.  It's a funky little bag, but will be perfect for the farmers' market this summer...that is, if I can get it away from Vera who loves carrying things over her shoulder and has already filled it with her Duplo blocks.  

My "Funky Little Bag"

"Industrial" yarn in garter stitch for bottom
"Mish Mash" handles
Attempt at an "ombre" stripe pattern
With the warm spell we had earlier this week, I'd almost forgotten that it's still spring until this morning's walk around the lagoon at a neighborhood park.  First we identified--after thinking it was a lawn ornament--a large turtle (the shell was at least a good 8-inch diameter) who apparently--after speaking with the owner of the yard in which she was about to nest--would settle in and lay some thirty eggs in the next week.  She (or another of her kind) did this last year as well so the property owner seemed calm and educated about the situation.  We then saw a mother duck and two ducklings at the edge of the lagoon (and Vera referred to one of our favorite books Make Way For Ducklings) and a gaggle of goslings with their mamas also at the pond's shore.  We stopped to talk to a friend on our way home and she noted that a family of five owls was roosting in her front yard tree.  The wonders of spring and rebirth--still all around.  It reminds me of V being born in the spring then working her way into summer when she was much more sturdy and able to start experiencing the world.  Enjoy the last couple of weeks of this season.  Then hopefully the real summer will be upon us (though I could do without 90 degrees until at least August.) 

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