Saturday, July 25, 2009

Outhouse to Chicken Coop in One Easy Move

Having a large group of musicians over to practise can create more than a toe-tapping tune. We enlisted all that extra muscle power to help us transport a vintage outhouse to its new life as a chicken coop.

The thing weighed a ton. But it was fairly easy to tip it onto the back of the truck, and then just needed to be steadied as we moved it over to the orchard. Needless to say, no one much relished the thought of having to catch it if it fell.

The guy in the blue and red flowered shirt is Merrick, our Regional Director (sort of like an alderman). He seems to be doing most of the work - maybe he can use one of these shots in his next campaign! "Always ready to help out a constituent..."

It was a tight squeeze getting over the culvert and through the opening in the fence, but my brother Rob managed it like a pro. I guess parking in Vancouver is a transferable skill!

Now we just have to insulate the structure and add some roosts and nesting boxes, spruce up the paint job and we'll be ready to welcome the girls. We are getting six Cuckoo Marans, a heritage breed that lay delicious brown eggs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Mystery of the Abandoned Web

My friend Jean-Pierre sent these pictures of an old loom he saw in Kyoto. Apparently it had been found in a remote region of Japan and was brought to the city to dress up the window of a clothing store. It is quite a fascinating piece of technology.

From what I can tell, it is a conventional loom for weaving the narrow cloth (14") used in making kimono and other traditional clothing. It has a motor for the fly shuttle.

The cloth being woven is kasuri or a compound ikat. What really caught my imagination was why the web was abandoned in the middle of the weaving.

What happened to the weaver? Did he or she win the lottery and release from the unending bondage of the loom? Or maybe the weaver keeled over from a heart attack after a lifetime of diligence and attention to detail? Perhaps there was intrigue and a tragic lover's quarrel and the web was left unfinished in memory of the departed loved one?

Japan is a land of mystery. Here is a secret garden that Jean-Pierre also discovered on last Sunday's trip to Kyoto. The lush foliage screens the almost hidden door from the intrusions of the street.

Thanks for the great photos J.P.!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We May Not Have Television, But Look at What We DO Have!


This young pileated woodpecker has been hanging around the back yard. He keeps up a steady tap tap tap in his search for dinner. Or maybe he wants to join in the fun these humans are having inside.

We are very fortunate to have a 1200 sq.ft. studio attached to our house. It was originally built for a painter who did large mural size commissions for hotel lobbies and such. I haven't felt comfortable yet using it for my art - after all, much of my work is done sitting in a chain, quietly sewing.

But every second person on the island is a musician, and we have been putting "The Green Room" to good use by hosting Sunday afternoon jams.

These guys range from professional musicians to passionate amateurs, and they all seem to enjoy getting together to play. There are quite a few jam groups on the island, ranging from country/folk to jazz to zydeco.

We certainly aren't suffering from lack of entertainment!

I am planning, however, to make sure everyone who drops in for an afternoon leaves with at least one zucchini. To my great chagrin, I planted 5 zucchini seeds and they have been mocking me for it ever since.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cream of the West: Part 2


Thanks to all those who commented so positively on my previous post. Although the idea came quite spontaneously to me, it's no surprise that I wasn't the first one to think of this. After doing a bit of research, I was fascinated to learn that there is a large archive of embroidered flour sacks in, of all places, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The story is a good one.

During World War 1, an American volunteer effort co-ordinated by Herbert Hoover sent almost 700 million pounds of flour and other grains to the starving people of Belgium. The empty flour sacks were much sought after, as cloth was scarce, and were carefully distributed to schools, convents and workshops to be made into towels and even clothing. Many sacks were transformed with embroidery and lace and made into hangings or pillow covers to be sold in shops for the relief effort. As well, in thanks to the American people, many of the stamped designs on the sacks were embellished with images of eagles, flags and expressions of gratitude. (Click on the above link for more info and pictures of the collection.)


I really like this jacket. Whether it was pieced together out of necessity or a reflection of the Cubist aesthetic of the day, it is still a very cool looking garment.

Meanwhile, I am plugging away on my embroidery. The colours of the threads aren't as bright as they appear on my screen, and of course they will be different on yours, but you get the general idea.

Even though my original intention was to just embroider the design that was already stamped, various choices have presented themselves. Instead of correcting the slight skewiness in the printed image, I have preserved it, and it will give, I hope, a liveliness to the completed cloth.

And, I have been inspired by the work of the Belgian embroiderers of almost a century ago to add something of my own to the design. Don't know quite what it will be yet, but I have a feeling it will include an acknowledgment to the resourcefulness and skill of stitchers past.

While searching I also found this website Art and Flour, a rather eccentric museum devoted to flour sacks. It has a great round-the-world pictoral index of flour sacks - alas, none from Canada.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cream of the West

I have begun a very odd project. The other day I was going through a bag of scraps that I had picked up several years ago. There was a piece of burlap that I had left at the bottom of the bag, thinking it might be used for a hooked rug one day. (I was going through a crush on Grenfell mats.)

This time I actually picked it up and had a good look at it. The burlap was a flour sack that had been turned and hemmed on the reverse side - probably someone else had the same idea I had and planned to use it as a base for a hooked rug!

But what really fascinated me was the design printed on the sack. The red and yellow had mostly faded, but the green and blue were still there. I could just make out the words "Cream of the West". An evocative product name if there ever was one!

An idea instantly came to me. I wanted to cross stitch the design right on the burlap, using the printed image as a found pattern. The image was pretty much on grain, and the coarse weave would work up quickly, a nice change from the fiddley satin stitch I have been doing.

But it won't be easy filling in the faded areas. The photos don't pick up the subtlety of the red, but in the right light I can just make it out. The cloth probably dates from the 1940's. I tried a Google search and found out some interesting things about Cream of the West flour.

It was made by Maple Leaf Mills, a venerable Canadian flour mill acquired by Robin Hood in the early 90's. The mill's roots go back over a hundred years and its history reflects the oft-heard story of small company bought by a larger company, taken over by an even larger company and finally swallowed by the great whale of a corporation. Cream of the West flour was particularly popular in Newfoundland, and the mill sponsored a number of collections of local history and recipes from that province.

I think it's a history worth taking the time to honour in stitching. I hope as I go the evanescent form of the design will become clear, and my photos will be worth looking at.

It's a Jungle


Angus's new tagline is: "Silent death stalks the range."

I made a mixed currant/salmonberry jelly from these luscious fruits.

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are rampant.

These are a heritage variety "Kutenai" that I started from seed I had saved 10 years ago!

These ones are "Principe Borghese", an Italian variety good for sun drying.

Can the elephants be far away?

The first garlic I pulled, just to see how it was doing. Huge, huh?

The carrots aren't bad either. I planted a mix of varieties - the white ones seem to be the biggest.

Scarlet runner beans - my favourite.

Yup, I'd call this year's garden a success. But I can't get complacent - apparently there are raccoons yet to reckon with.

Just Can't Get Enough...

...of the flowers in my garden. But first, here's a wee moth that alit on my bathroom window/

The bees love the blue blossoms of the borage.

The poppies only last for a day.

The sweetpeas are abundant, and the bees love them, too.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

200 Posts? It Can't Be!

Apparently this is my 200th post. The blog has shifted in direction an few times and remains a rather haphazard assortment of thoughts and pictures, actually a fairly accurate reflection of my life.

Here is a shelf in my new sewing room.

There are a lot of beautiful garter snakes who live in the garden. I have found a few shed skins. They are amazingly complete, see how even the eyes shed a layer. (The snakes are temporarily blind while moulting.)
Happy Canada Day!