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Eat This November 19, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
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You may have noticed, though probably not, that I missed a Reader’s Choice Monday. I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper hanger with crabs trying to get ready for the Christmas at Clough Tavern Farm sale/show/shop, and really didn’t have the time to sit down and bash out anything intelligent about chickens. I still don’t, really. Have the time, that is. My special orders list is still pretty freaking long, and I’m working on a new story that’s giving me fifty fits.

First world problems, people.

But I do have a kind of funny chicken story. It’s actually about roosters.

My aunt Elaine lived next door to me all my life (until she died, that is) and she got it in her head to raise chickens. She occasionally got the odd notion like that. She always wanted a goat, but that dream never came to be. But the chickens came to stay for years and I still miss the eggs. Man, there is just NOTHING like eating an egg the same day that it shot out of a chicken’s ass. Big, high, orange yolks–none of those flat, pale yellow things you get at the grocery store.

Anyway, she had just a little coop beside the barn, and I don’t think she ever had more than a dozen chickens at any given time. I loved the eggs, and while the throaty screech–to call it a “crow” is a misnomer of epic proportions–of the rooster was jarring at first, in time I barely even heard it anymore. It was part of the every day sounds of life. Sort of how when you live in the city you get used to the noises you hear incessantly, like horns and sirens, car engines, tires squealing. It’s like that with the cheerful clucking and squawking of hens and the unholy grunt-howling of roosters.

She’d had them for awhile, and I believe at the time this story takes place she had two roosters in residence. Our neighbor used to deliver bread for a living and would leave for work at 3:30 every morning, which to normal people is the middle of the night. He’d leave the driveway with his lights off and not turn them on until he was off the street so they wouldn’t wake the rooster up.

Oh, and roosters don’t strangle-cry at dawn. Oh no. They do it any old damn time they’re moved to. Middle of the night. Noon. Whatever. Whenever. Roosters are the honey badgers of the poultry world–they do not give a shit.

So one day my aunt gets a knock at the door and there’s a cop standing there.

I should also point out that the Lyman’s have a farm just the other side of the rectory. They keep geese, ducks, and chickens, and have been known to have cows as well. It’s not at all unusual for the Belmont Police to deal with calls like “Mrs. Lyman’s geese are terrorizing Main Street like some sort of Old MacDonald’s version of the Crips.” I myself have called and let them know that there was a cow on my lawn.

“A cow?”

“Yes, a cow.”

“Is it your cow?”

“Would I be calling you if it was my cow?”

“Is it one of Mrs. Lyman’s?”

“I’m not sure. She didn’t say. She just mooed.”

“I’ll call the sheriff’s department.”

“Okey dokey.”

In fact, they usually called Fr. Albert, who would put on his Wellies and grab a bucket and hit it with a stick, saying “Come on girls, time to eat,” and they’d placidly follow him back to their own yard.

Anyway, this day the young officer is sent to Aunt Elaine’s house to investigate a complaint. It seems, and I quote, “One of the neighbors has been complaining about your rooster.”

“Oh,” says Aunt Elaine. “What’s the complaint?”

“The neighbor says that the rooster crows really early in the morning.”

Aunt Elaine, completely unruffled, says, “Well, isn’t that what roosters do?”

She said the officer stood there and looked at her for a second, then smiled. “Yes, yes that is what they do. You’re right.”

She went on to explain that we are zoned for chickens, she’s not breaking any laws, and really, there’s not much she was inclined to do about it. She toyed with the idea of getting rid of one of the roosters but then decided, well…fuck you, neighbor. Aunt Elaine had a bit of the honey badger in her, too.

And we never did find out who had the beef with her chickens.

 

 

Christmas in Canterbury November 17, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius.
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November 23 – December 9
Open Mon – Thurs 11 – 4 and 9 – 6 Fri – Sun.

23 Clough Tavern Road, just off Old Tilton Road in scenic Canterbury, New Hampshire

So, this is the big event I’ve been working super-hard getting ready for. It’s just down the road from my house in Canterbury in a big Colonial farmhouse. Naomi Scanlon does a bang-up job decorating for the holidays and setting up five rooms of this enormous old house as a Christmas gift shop.

I’ve done this show/fair/shop a couple of times, but it’s always the last one on my craft show circuit, and by this time, I’m usually pretty much out of stock. But this year, I didn’t do any craft fairs, and I scheduled myself a two-week block to just make things for this show specifically.

I concentrated on felted mittens and baby booties. Thursday was drop-off day and when I finished the last of the stitching, I ended with 8 pair of felted mittens, 9 pair of booties, plus some mittens I pulled from stock and four mugs with knit liners I decided to try out to see how (or if) they sell.

Baby booties are sized to fit newborn to 3 months and I can embroider just about anything on them and do them in any colors.

The mittens are knit large and felted in the washing machine, and I embellish them with embroidery, felt applique, buttons, needle felted details, beads…you name it. I can also do these in any color and just about any design you can think up.

 

I spent Thursday tagging everything for the sale, writing up the inventory, and packing it up carefully. It’s all at the farm now waiting for the show to begin.

I saw a few things that were dropped off, including some gorgeous pottery, homemade preserves, quilted things of some sort, cards, and ornaments. If previous years are any indication, it’s going to be a great shopping experience. It’s like a boutique craft fair experience. There are refreshments, too! Oh, and Thursday, December 6th, she’s having a “Man Night” at the farm with plenty of guy snacks and lots of help available for guys to come by and pick out something unique and wonderful for their wimmens.

So if you were wondering why there hasn’t been much blogging, it’s that I’ve been knitting and embroidering myself blind every day. I get up at 6:30 and work until 11 most nights. Makes for a long day, but there’s a lot to show for it. Here’s hoping it all sells!

So. When Are You Having a Baby? November 5, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
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It’s the first question a newly married couple is asked, I think. Maybe even before “Where are you going on your honeymoon?” or “Who made this delicious cake?”

It also makes most brides a bit prickly. At least from what I’m told. We wanted a honeymoon baby. Or, at least I did. Hindsight being 20/20, I suspect Larry was going along with the plan, but if I’d pressed a bit harder, I wouldn’t be surprised if I could have got him to admit that he was nervous and unsure about becoming a father at that point. Particularly so soon after becoming a husband.

So when I was asked as a newlywed, “When are you having a baby?” it didn’t bother me. I wanted one, and now! But as the months dragged on with no baby in sight, and no clear reason as to why there was no baby in sight, the question started to make me prickly, too.

“I don’t know when we’re having a baby. We’re trying.”

And then a year and a miscarriage later, I was finally up the duff with Miss Mary Catherine and all was well. I had leveled up and reached the sanctified status of “Mother.” I went on and did it a couple more times for good measure–I’m mother three times over now.

The topic before me is to write about the deification of mothers and how those who remain childless are perceived in contrast. It’s hard for me to say, mostly because I went from unmarried and no one expecting me to have children, to married and trying, to married with children. I’ve never been in the position to be considered “childless.” I imagine you hear different things in a different way depending on your maternal status.

As a mother, I’ve never thought of myself as particularly deified. In fact, some days it seems very much like when you’re a mother, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. No matter what you do for your kids, or don’t do, you open yourself up for attack. In fact, of all the jobs I’ve had and in all the things I’ve done or currently do, my ability to parent my own children is the thing that garners the most attention, and draws the most criticism.

I wrote a piece about the Mommy Wars and how as soon as you drop a crotchfruit, you’re in the War. It’s mother against mother, parenting philosophy against parenting philosophy, and even if you want to stay neutral, you can’t. And it’s not just other mothers. No one knows more about raising your kids than someone without them.

But I’ve also written about how little I like being a parent. Maybe that’s part of why I don’t feel particularly deified, or at the very least, that I deserve deification. Between feeling criticized a lot of the time, knuckled under by the demands of being a parent, and generally coming up short every time I turn around, it’s hard for me to feel like anyone’s putting me on a pedestal for my maternal abilities.

From where I sit, waiting for the youngest to get off the bus and thus end the short amount of quiet, thinking time I get to myself these days, I look at childless people with great envy. I think that if you are childless because you realized that you don’t want kids, you should be put on a pedestal. For some reason, there’s this inherent belief that if you have reproductive organs, you have to use them. If you don’t squeeze out a human, there’s something wrong with you. If you can breed you should. You MUST. To me, I think knowing what you want–or even what you think you want–and acting accordingly is enough.

I image our perceptions are colored by which side of the motherhood fence we’re on, and how we feel about our decisions. I wonder if women who love being mothers feel more goddess-like than I do. I wonder if how childless women look at mothers depends a lot on how much of the decision to remain childless was actually up to them.

At the end of the day, I can’t really change how the world portrays me. Perception is a tricky thing, and all I can do most of the time is put my head down and just keep swimming.

 

Makin’ Mittens November 2, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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So, I didn’t sign up to do any craft fairs this winter. In past years, setting up a table somewhere has been fairly lucrative for me, and I would make more at one high school or church fair than I would selling online all year. Two years ago, though, the economy tanked and craft fair business slowed, but I held my own and still did pretty well at a few of them. Last year was dismal. I barely made my table fees back, and that’s a long day sitting there knitting only to go home with more product than you arrived with.

I wasn’t going to do any this year at all because my online sales have taken off, and I was thinking that other than one potentially major show next summer which is juried and would be fantastic exposure for me, I’d stop doing fairs. But I got an application via email and have decided to do one local show. It’s more of a Christmas shop, really.

Clough Tavern Farm in Canterbury does a Christmas show of sorts. They decorate the big 1777 farm house and fill five of the rooms with things made my local artisans. It’s a drop-off/pick-up kind of show–I just tag my stuff and collect my money at the end, and I figured why not. Only I realized I don’t have a vast array of product that’s ready to sell. Sort of a motley collection of things, really.

This was going to be a problem.

I decided to make a bunch of my best-selling felted mittens. Honestly, as soon as I make them, they sell. I can’t keep them in stock.

I created the pattern myself, basically adapting my own mitten pattern to translate to felting. You can buy it if you want. It’s an easy pattern to use, I think, and you can do anything with it you can dream up.

The mittens are knit really big because they shrink in the felting process.

HUGE.

Then they go in the washing machine. I wash them in hot water with a wee bit of detergent and a couple pair of Larry’s jeans for agitation, and run them through wash cycles until they’re the right size.

Before felting on the left, after felting on the right.

Sometimes they come out a bit hairy and need to be trimmed.

Untrimmed on the left, neatened up on the right.

Now, they just need to be embellished. Or not. I mean, you can leave them plain. I do not. I DECORATE.

I use felt applique, beads, buttons, embroidery floss, knit and crocheted flowers, and needle felting. I’ve sewn on lace and ribbons. Whatever suits the mitten.

Appliqued felt owls.

Embroidered trees.

Needle-felted balloons.

I’d like to have at least 8 pair ready for the sale, plus a few odds and ends of stock I already have. I think I’ve got a good start!