Heavy rains keep coming through every four or five days, making for quite a wet winter, but I’m already thinking about spring.  The photo above is of a little group of hyacinth bulbs I’m forcing – I guess I’m trying to get a head start on this year’s growing season indoors even while the weather outdoors remains dreary. In the next day or two I also need to finalize the varieties we’ll be selling as transplants at this year’s farmers’ market. I have almost everything decided except the heirloom slicing tomatoes. My mom’s already gotten the storage room at home transformed into the perfect environment for seed starting – so far she’s already started shallots and onions, with Italian parsley next up on the list.

I missed out on last week’s Sunday kitchen marathon because I was down in Atlanta stalking the sofas at Room & Board and visiting my old college friend Dave, but I got back into the swing of things today with chicken pot pie, hummus, homemade bread, black beans and rice, and no-bake cookies. Of enormous use was my first new piece of furniture in two and a half years: this delightful little antique baker’s cabinet. Check out the bins!

It needs a little work, particularly on the drawers, but overall it’s in remarkably good shape and will certainly be a sturdy little workspace. I also adore how the dark stain looks against the “Amber Yellow” paint color I chose for the kitchen. (Ignore the green floors – they’re on my very long list of things to fix, but it’ll be a while.) I’m also planning on getting a piece of marble to cover the entire top; the piece there now was leftover from some new countertops they installed at home last year. It just happens to be the perfect depth! It’s such a relief to have some small counter space now.

More on the sofa next time!

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This was the view from my window earlier today, and it hasn’t changed much since. It’s been raining steadily for most of the day, which suits me just fine – Sunday has become my day to embark on various culinary adventures without leaving my own kitchen. Last week I experimented with cooking dried black beans for the first time and made a really delicious granola recipe. This week I went a little crazy and made no-knead bread, hummus, roasted chickpeas tossed in garam masala (which were a little on the salty side but tasty nonetheless), hot and sour cabbage, mushroom & rice soup, Meyer lemon curd, and gingerbread cake sans the icing mentioned in the blog post. It was quite a bit of work and I had to wash a sink’s worth of dishes after each recipe, but it was very satisfying.

It’s amazing what manageable stress at work and consistent sleep do for my energy levels – in Rock Hill I barely would have made it through one of those recipes, much less six in one day. And yesterday was equally busy: we weighed lambs in the morning, then outfitted the old chicken tractor with roosts so we could move the chicks out of the brooder, and had a meeting about this year’s garden, market effort, and the website. I don’t care that it’s still January – just the thought of the farmers’ market opening up the first weekend of May has me excited. I imagine having so many amazing, robust transplants to sell – tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, parsley, and so on. But first I need to put together a seed starting plan so we can be sure of having the transplants ready in time and in quantity.

Just a few short weeks ago I was worried that we wouldn’t have a reason to go to the market since a large portion of the garlic seemed to be doing absolutely nothing, but the recent warm spell kicked most of it into action. So despite the very rainy December we had, most of the cloves I planted before all the rain made it through without rotting in the ground and are now sending up lively green shoots. In the meantime, the remainder of last year’s garlic is itching to grow; I had to cut little green cores out of all the cloves I used today while cooking. They smelled so pungent and green, and my mouth watered at the thought of all the garlic scapes we’ll have this year. I can’t wait for fresh garlic scape pesto!

Last night I finished painting the last wall in the bedroom and my crack renovation team (and by “crack renovation team” I mean myself and my mother) moved on to the kitchen. The bedroom is not done, by any means – I still have a laundry list of things that need to be done – but it’s done enough for now.

The curtains are only temporary – they’re the cheapest decent panels and rods I could find at Target. The deep plum works with the blue of the walls, but when we get around to doing some custom treatments, I want to find some metallic gray silk. The color palette I’ve got in my head is something like this:

So as you can see from the next set of photos, the bedding I’m currently using will eventually have to give way to something a lot more muted. But it’ll do for now – it’s one of the new Springmaid patterns and it’s one of the few reminders of that place I allow.

I like how the trim and the wood doors pop so much more with a darker color on the walls. Something else I’ll be working on is bringing in new pieces of furniture in darker tones than that Ikea birch veneer furniture I’ve got now. I’m definitely going to hang on to what I have because it’s sturdy and I still like the design, but I do want a more eclectic mix of woods, colors, and styles. I’d also like to find an actual desk for my computer (instead of the little kitchen table I’m using now), but it’s going to be a challenge – I use my computer more like a TV and knit in front of it a good deal, so I need something that’s almost closer to a work table, where both I and my knitting or art projects can sprawl while I watch hulu, etc.

Hopefully I’ll be able to post a before/after of the kitchen in the not-too-distant future; that’s where everything’s moving and shaking now.

Due to a very rainy December, we are (read: “I am”) still working on planting the last of 65 pounds of seed garlic we ordered in the fall. Planting garlic by hand is slow work and rough on the knees, but the reward is great. The variety you see above is Transylvanian – aptly named, no? I spent Saturday planting about 2 pounds of Chesnok Red and then about 8 pounds of the Transylvanian, so now all that’s left is 10 pounds of Metechi; everything else is in the ground and in various stages of development.

Mid-January seems rather early to start thinking about the garden, but it’s time for us to make some decisions about this year’s farmers’ market and what our game plan should be. It’s also about time to order seeds, and I’m trying to come up with a list of vegetables and herbs to grow in my theoretical container garden on my new, spacious deck. Of course we’ll grow plenty of things at home, but I would like to have my own herbs here at the very least, ready for harvest and immediate use in the kitchen. I am deeply fond of “Big Italy” parsley, so that’s a given, as is the traditional “Genovese” basil. I very much enjoyed the “Greco” variety we grew last year – it’s a small-leaf basil absolutely packed with a strong, peppery flavor – so that’s on my short list too.

In the meantime, the apartment improvements continue apace. The bedroom walls are officially done, and we’ve temporarily bypassed the living room to address the kitchen. I’ll be posting some before and after photos tomorrow – hooray for having a government job and lots of holidays during the year!

P.S. Maine was fabulous.

Progress has been slow over here, but I think with the New Year will come some breathing space. I’ve found an apartment closer to work and for the past week all of my energy has been devoted to cleaning and moving. I’m very excited about the space, and hope to post about it more when time permits. It’s a great old place, with bucketloads of character and a landlord that’s pretty willing to let me have free rein over paint colors and the like, which just thrills me.

But in lieu of getting together an image-heavy post on a night when I’m aching all over from endless mopping, steam-cleaning, floor polishing, etc., I’ve decided to take a moment and reflect on the year. I’m generally all about New Year’s resolutions and will no doubt make some, but before I do that I feel like taking stock of…

Formative Experiences of 2009

1. I got laid off. By far the most traumatic thing that happened to me this year, it precipitated a move home and the loss of a good friend, among other things. But I truly believe that if it hadn’t happened, my health would have been ruined even further than it was by the end of February, because seriously – the next stop was the hospital.

2. I ran a market garden and farmers’ market booth for said garden. This was such an amazing experience. I loved it, and I really thought for a time that that’s where my avocation was, but I’ve come to find out that it’s not the right time for it (and perhaps not the right place). That doesn’t change the fact that I can flat grow some garlic and Italian parsley.

3. I got back into ceramics and bought a kiln. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t really gotten to use it yet – that will come in 2010, once things are settled. What matters is that I reconnected with a medium that I loved dearly in college and still love, and it made me happy.

4. I danced in Brasstown again. For one Saturday night, the only thing in the world that mattered was dancing, and that’s the best feeling you can have. And the next day I got to spend a few precious hours with a truly amazing blacksmith/artist friend.

5. I got a new job. It’s a pretty good job, too. Better than the old one. It’s taught me already that graphic design doesn’t have to be as painful as it was at Springs.

6. I spent a week at Penland and learned encaustic painting. I also learned that I wasn’t ready to apply for the Core program, and that it (and Penland) may never be for me the way the Folk School was. But as challenging as that week was, it was extraordinarily valuable. I loved encaustic painting and will hopefully pursue it in the new year.

7. I (will have) visited Maine. I fly out on Saturday for four days with a dear friend from the Folk School who’s in Maine going to school to be a midwife. I might even get to see my old roommate from the Folk School in Portland the night I fly in, which would also be a treat. It’s the farthest north I will have ever been, and the first time flying as an adult. It also counts as “traveling,” which is something I want to do more of while I’m young and relatively commitment-free.

And of course that list doesn’t even include the other, smaller events that came and went like SAFF, spending “Unemployed Spring Break ’09” in Atlanta with my best friend from college, taking part in an Asatru Mother Night ritual hosted by a friend just last week, having the regional CFSA farm dinner out here on the farm in October, going to a great pottery show at the Mint in Charlotte in September, and so on. It was a busy year, perhaps because I spent fully half of it unemployed. But I think as difficult and uncertain as so much of it was, especially the first half of it, it’s set the tone for the next little while. Life’s too short to do things you don’t want to be doing – there’s no time like the present for pursuing what interests you. I learned that from 2009, and I also learned this: there’s often little use in planning too far into the future, because you never know what will happen or where you will be in even one or two months’ time.

So there you go. If 2009 and the rest of this past crazy decade has taught me anything, it’s that. Live in the moment.

Well, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that my love affair with constantly updating my profile on facebook has come to an end. I still love facebook way more than I should, but I’m already liking it more now that I don’t bother with my own profile so much – I find myself much more prone to make comments on friends’ statuses, links, and photos, and I like that. It gets me out of my own head. I’ve shunted all of the inane ramblings I was trying to keep out of my status messages to twitter, and it’s working out pretty well. I just need to stop being so damn serious.

So now that I’m not wasting any more time figuring out how to write a status message that makes my boring day-to-day experience seem meaningful and/or interesting, I guess I’ll spend my time figuring out how to write a blog post that makes my boring day-to-day experience seem meaningful and/or interesting. It’s six of one and half dozen of another, really, but I’m in the mood for change.

In all seriousness, however, I view this as a way to focus more on my art and creativity. I won’t let my work push my art onto the back burner like I did before: lesson learned, and all too well.

So I’m less than two days away from making one of the biggest purchases of my adult life – scratch that, the biggest purchase of my adult life considering I inherited my faithful old Isuzu Rodeo instead of having to buy it myself – and I’m kind of terrified. I’m about to dip into my savings account and drop a couple of g’s on a pretty sizeable kiln plus clay, glazes, and other supplies, and all while unemployed. Am I crazy? Yeah. But it seems like the right thing to do.

orly-owls

In the meantime, I’ve gotten myself involved in a mailart postcard exchange with a dear friend & fellow designer/artist, and it’s surprisingly fun so far. I thought it would be hard to come up with ideas for postcards, but they’ve come fairly easily to this point. I’m particularly amused by today’s effort, which I’ll be mailing tomorrow: owls. Lots of owls.

owl-postcard

…the printmaking frenzy is officially over. I killed my fingers cutting the “plate” of sorts for this one all tonight, but the fading hypomania spurred me ever onward. Next on the agenda: Brasstown. My traveling companion arrives tomorrow and we leave on Saturday. It’ll be good to come back on Monday, though, to all the work I’ve done, ready for review and more forward motion.

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For the past 48 hours, I’ve been in the grip of an intense hypomanic episode. And this is what’s happened:

swatches

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Palm-Leaf-2

Well, that’s part of what’s happened, at least. I’ve also listened to the same song 369 times in the last two days. And there’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes work on the Palimpsest series as well as some serious graphic design portfolio/resume work since I’ve got a job interview next week and I’m going to be away all weekend.

So on the surface, hypomania is great. I feel fantastic and upbeat, I feel inspired, I’m getting a tremendous amount of work done. But after going through two really grueling days, my body’s starting to fatigue. I would like nothing more than to go to bed right now and recharge. But my brain won’t allow it. I have to keep pushing forward. I have to keep getting the ideas out, and executing all the little in-between steps that will lead to finished pieces. I’m kind of just along for the ride. The hypomania keeps me from feeling any real dissatisfaction with the situation, but geez…am I going to feel it once this episode passes. It’s a good thing circumstance is removing me from this environment to Brasstown this weekend, because I am going to need it something awful.

As I drove up I-26 yesterday, headed towards Asheville, NC, I realized that it had been a full two and a half years since I’d last roamed the galleries and shops of downtown with my friend Dave. Two and a half years! There was a time in college where 3 months didn’t pass that I wasn’t up there traipsing around Biltmore Village and visiting Earth Guild for fiber arts supplies and books.

Well, I’m happy to report that Asheville is still awesome. I was in dire need of inspiration – creating in a vacuum is very difficult – and I found it. It was so refreshing to see all of the fabulous art up there, but it was also challenging…I left with my creative batteries charged, but with a whole lot of unworthiness skulking around in my subconscious. The idea is to push that aside, though, and focus on the good.s_faulkner

One great part was seeing this work for the first time – acrylic and wax paintings by Sarah Faulkner. I came across them in the Woolworth Walk Gallery on Haywood Street, which is always one of my favorites. The original paintings are captivating, so full of color and yet very tranquil, and the swirling texture hinted at in the online images is lovely in person. She had some variously sized prints available as well for very good prices, but I’m on such a tight budget that I had to pass. Not to mention that I’ve already got at least 4 unframed art prints stashed away. But I snagged a business card and hope to buy some of her work in the future.

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But I did find something I just couldn’t resist while I was in Earth Guild…a new printmaking book! It’s called Printmaking + Mixed Media, by Dorit Elisha, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic resource. It details many of the different printmaking methods you can use without requiring a press, which is perfect for my current situation. Of particular interest to me at the moment are the sections on solar printing and monotypes. It’s also a very rich book from a visual standpoint; there are dozens of images of artwork along with helpful snapshots detailing each printing process. It’s fun just to flip through it and get inspired!

In other news, I’m slowly but surely moving towards finally getting my kiln…the next step is getting an electrician out to do the wiring in the garage. I’m shooting for early September now.

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