"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Taking a Break From the World

Frozen fog was forecast and it came true.  It crept in and coated everything as efficiently as the raging icestorm that blew in a few days ago with no finese or touch of delicacy.  We've been hunkered down, just enjoying the silence.   Not going anywhere, not doing much of anything.  I took a nap.
I wandered outside while the wind was still and the temperature was in the high teens/early twenties.  I was in short sleeves.  It felt wonderful on my bare skin, although I wouldn't want to spend much time out there or make contact with any wet surface. 
My best friend, a rancher, is in calving season and has had a couple of heifers give birth in the past 24 hours in the midst of this.  She had to pull one of the calves (for the uninitiated, that means pretty much what it sounds like it means - sometimes she uses a comealong).
That it is bloody, earthy work and the side effects laid out on the formally pristine snow are somewhat jarring if you aren't close to nature the way a farm kid has to be.   I think of how my great grandmother used to think nothing of going out in the yard to catch a chicken, wring its neck, cut it up, cook it and eat it.  I wonder what she would think of someone who can get squimish about ground beef. 

I think of her, a lot.  The older I get, the more real she becomes to me.  I don't mean to say she wasn't real when I was a child, but as I was raising my children, she faded into a being that wasn't particularly significant to my life.  As I age, she is the one I am drawn too when I look inward and try to make sense of things.  I used to think of Nana when I looked at my youngest girl when she was an infant.  I mentioned that to her daughter (my grandmother), once.  She didn't see the connection and I couldn't explain it at the time.  But as I have aged, I think that recognition was spot on.  Both are gentle, noble souls.  I think I gave birth to a throwback. 

It is no wonder there is such a big divide between urban and rural people, sometimes.  Life is messy at the primal level, under the best of circumstances - filled with gore, smells, heat, life and death.  I'd like to see a new calf struggling to its feet, slopping and sliding around in the afterbirth and crisp snow with an anxious mama, closeby.  I am not sure that would have appealed to me twenty years ago. 

Husband is setting up the subwoofer and put on the Phantom of the Opera.  Sounds incredible from back here in my sewing room.   Then I heard the girls start to howl and he howled along with them.  This house is very well insulated and my sewing room is way down the hall from the den.  The subwoofer sounds like it has become part of the house - the walls sound alive, like they are what is creating the sound but without being harsh.   Between the sensory blast from outside, candles, the music and the howling creatures, it feels magic, today. 

Here are some shots going around the yard from the back to the front.

My birdstation is at the base of this little grove.
Shifting east:
Looking towards the NE corner of the pasture:
Looking east/southeast from the house to the corner:
Southeast fence line:
Starting to look west/southwest:
The southwest corner of the land:
Western edge of the front:
Looking down the driveway to the west - the new neighbors are building a log cabin house across the street:
Our home:
Bald Cypress in front:
More trees in front (looking west/northwest):
Front gate.  We usually close it but left it open because we didn't want to get it frozen shut in case we needed to leave. 
Frosty Cedars on the north fence line:
Looking straight east from my backdoor, this is the view:
A frilly pasture tree:
This is the ugly tree in front of the barn that the blue birds love:
I really like this simple shot:
I think I will go see what Husband is doing - he has Pink Floyd on and that makes him mellow.   I may join him with a glass of wine. 

Happy Quilting,

Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Art Quilt in Progress

We were still snowed in, today, which gave me the opportunity to work on my Pendant Wallhanging. 
It started out looking REALLY ugly:
No question I love the fabrics but the piecing was rough.
I was also worried about how in the world I was going to get the center to match up.  Happily, a fellow Okie from the HGTV message board suggested I applique it. 

To be honest, my first thought was, "No, I want to piece it because that is the proper way to do it - and I don't want to duck from a challenge."  But my second thought was that there ain't no quilt police and I am learning enough new things that I don't need to frustrate myself so much that I walk away from it. 

Plus, an art quilt is a good way to tap into your creativity and problem solving skills.  Everyone has their own style and no one can tell me that I am doing it "wrong."  Including me, if that is how I want to do it ... right? 

The drawback to that is that I don't want to develop bad habits.  And I really do like to learn something with every new project - good for the brain, don't cha know.  But that argument doesn't hold up when you consider that the whole endeavor is new, to me.  Including applique. 

So I went ahead and appliqued the circle to the pendant:
Here is a closeup:
And here it is after I turned the corners of the entire pendant in preparation for appliqueing it to a background:
It is really smoothing out. 

I am very happy with it, so far. Here are a few shots:
I think it looks a lot like the pendant, which was what I was aiming for:
I found some great fabrics.
The piecing is definitely not my best but I am so enchanted with the colors that I can live with it.   In some places it looks like there is a gratuitous seam but I was combining different fabrics that don't show up too well in the photo. 

With every project, something stands out that I have learned.  I think this project has been more about color choice than anything else. 
Like I said, it will need a lot of cleaning up.
My current plan is to piece much of the background to put in a shadow and then applique this to it. 
This project is just for me so I consider it a practice piece more than anything else. 
My husband, the ultra engineer/scientist type, came into my sewing room today.  He has all the creativity and appreciation for creativity as a can of cream of celery soup.  Campbells.   He thinks visual artists are a tick on the ear of productive society, for the most part.  He just doesn't "get" that sort of thing. 

He stood for several long, silent moments gazing at my design wall.  I felt a sense of unease because the man always speaks his mind and likes things tidy and symetrical.  I braced myself for a comment I wouldn't like.  Something like - it isn't symetrical.  Or, what is the purpose of this whole thing?  Or, that doesn't look like a quilt - what is it?  Or - the worst - what is its function? 

Finally, he turned and looked at me.  I looked back.

"You sure are artsy."

I breathed. 

"That has to be hard on you," I said, with a smile.

"I can deal with it."

And then he went out to shovel ice off the sidewalk, which meant that I had time and opportunity to continue playing.  That is the way an engineer says I love you. 

Happy Quilting,

Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Friday, January 29, 2010

January 2010 Ice storm

Yesterday, we were pummeled with a mean ice storm that was devastating to the state, south of us.  We were fortunate that just as it hit the metro area, it started going to sleet - probably saved our powerlines and even then, we lost power for about an hour and a half.   It was very ugly. 

When I stepped outside, this morning, the backyard was solid ice.  It held up my weight but would crack 10 - 20 feet away.  Just slabs of ice!

The girls loved it:
They always look dingy in the snow.
It may be too soon to tell but I think we avoided major tree damage.
Maybe .75 of an inch was left on the cyclone fence.  It was considerably deeper in the yard, even where it didn't drift.
I set out birdseed and water under the eaves of the house.  The birds, even the nonground birds, hid on the ground beneath the Cedar outside my sewing room when the ice was so bad.   A papa Cardinal gets out there in the Cedars, most days, and looks so bright against the green.   Yesterday and today, he was puffed up like a rooster.  

During the ice storm, juncos and sparrows were flying onto the patio and pressing up against the back door.  I got a kick out of that because my girls were peering out the window at them, clearly enjoying seeing them, closeup.  The birds had no idea that those big dogs were watching them just inches away - and the girls were being very quiet - clearly they knew they couldn't "get" them but were enjoying the closeup view.  

Here is the regular birdfeeding station - it took a lot of ice but you can see that it is more sheltered than in other ice pictures on the barn end of the yard:
I dunno, it was an ugly icestorm but I think this is beautiful:
Today, the snow is still coming down hard on top of yesterday's ice.
I have quite a few pictures of Pearl burying her head in the snow. 
Don't look at the muddy back step - I clean it every few days but when it is muddy, well, there is a good reason for the mat:
The power held, most of the time, so I decided to try my hand at an art quilt.  Husband gave me this pendant, years ago:

Unfortunately, last week the opposite side came loose and some of the stones fell out.  I decided the (mostly) straight lines on it would make it a good candidate for a art quilt attempt.  The first thing I did was make a sketch of it, using photoshop elements:

Then, I enlarged it and attempted to trace it onto wax paper for patterns but that didn't work out:

And why didn't it work out, you ask?  Well because WAX paper is NOT the same thing as FREEZER PAPER (which is what I needed) - duh.  And my freezer paper was out in the barn and there was an ice storm going on so I could not SEE the barn. 

I ended up making a paperpiecing pattern with it:
Part of the fun was picking out fabrics.  I had to go out to the barn in the snow (today) to find some:
I am such a fabricholic.

While I was on a tear, I decided to order a dyeing kit and some books so I could learn to dye my own fabric.  I should probably be looking for a job.  A PAYING job.

Here is my project, in progress:

So far, I have done the easy part.  When it comes time to put that circular part in, and put the pendant on a background, I suspect it won't be so much fun.  But at this point, it has been a GREAT project to keep me out of the ice. 

As a side note, last night at dusk, the ice storm slowed down.  We suddenly started seeing flashes of light in the backyard.  Lightning?  But no thunder.  Husband kept insisting it wasn't lightning.  I didn't say so, but I assumed he had gone completely around the bend.  What else could it be?  He'd go out front and then march back into the house to ask if I could still see "lightning" in the backyard.  Yes, I had.  Repeatedly. 

"You can't see it in the front,"  he insisted, "I am worried it is a transformer or something electrical."

"Poor insane creature," I thought. 

So, finally, I shrugged on my coat and went out back.  Sure enough, I began regularly seeing the flashes.  On the patio. 

It was not a lightbulb.

It was not lightning. 

I got a bad feeling. 

Then, we lost power.  I came in and Husband was looking for candles.  I told him it wasn't lightning and I was afraid it was electrical.  So much for my smugness.   I sure didn't like being so skittish in the midst of an icestorm.  And the lights kept flashing even with the power out. 

I just froze, everytime they flashed.  Husband was standing there, in the dark, next to me.  And then...

"Birdcam," sez Husband.

BIRDCAM!!  I'd set the frickin' birdcam up on time lapse on the patio!  As soon as dusk hit, it started flashing whenever it took a picture.  Have I mentioned I am a dork?

I need to go check to see if I caught anything worth the scare. 

Happy Quilting,

Penny, Evelyn and Pearl