A Walk in the Woods is Good for the Soul

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First, frequent visitors to my blog may note that I'm playing with some new templates. I liked the old template at first but had begun to feel that the page items felt jumbled together. So I'm trying some new things. Let me know what you think about the changes!

There are no words to describe how beautiful spring is here. These few pictures cannot describe it to you, either because in order to fully appreciate the warm breeze, the new leafings and the greening of the ground, you must first endure the long winter that preceeds them.

This winter was particularly grueling. We did not have very many days of extreme cold but we had lots and lots of snow and freezing rain and sleet. We had several thaws which left us with dirty snowbanks beside the road and drab, spongey snow on lawns and fields. The sky was overcast most days from November to March. It was a dark and drizzley winter, a drab and depressing winter.











Now we are receiving our reward in the form of an early spring. The leaves are coming on, the cowslips have blossomed, tulips and daffodils are up (my husband is happily categorizing homeowners into daffodil haves and have-nots as he drives to work every day) and skunk cabbage and trilliums are making their appearances in the woods.

In honor of this quickening, here is one of my favorite poems - The Botticellian Trees by William Carlos Williams (aka. Bill Carl Bill in our house).












The Botticellian Trees

The alphabet of
the trees

is fading in the
song of the leaves

the crossing
bars of the thin

letters that spelled
winter

and the cold
have been illuminated

with
pointed green

by the rain and sun -
The strict simple

principles of
straight branches

are being modified
by pinched-out

ifs of color, devout
conditions

the smiles of love -
. . . . . .

until the stript
sentences

move as a woman's
limbs under cloth

and praise from secrecy
quick with desire

love's ascendancy
in summer -

In summer the song
sings itself

above the muffled words -

mono-printing samples and we were just going to paint, right???

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Lots of changes (good and bad) in the last couple of weeks around here. We were able to enjoy lots of time this week with my nephew, D, who is a year older than my little guy. They had a great time but my nephew is sad because his maternal gramma, Mary, passed away from liver cancer last Sunday. She was a vibrant and outgoing woman who had beaten cancer two or three times before this last recurrance and it has been rough for D to see her weaken so quickly. Prayers for Mary's extended family and especially my brother, sister-in-law and nephew would be appreciated. They shared a home with gramma Mary for the last several years as her health became a bit more chancy.

But then last night I got some great news - my brother-in-law and his sweet wife had their first baby yesterday. It is a beautiful little boy and I can't wait to go down to visit and get my hands on him. However, this addition severely disrupts my balance of nieces to nephews. I have only 4 nieces and now I have 7 nephews. Someone in the family had better step up
and start producing more girls!







Most of you probably want to
see photos of my experiments with mono-printing. Well, here they are. I mostly followed the instructions in Quilting Arts, as mentioned in an earlier post. I used Procion chartruce, bright green, brilliant blue, teal and midnight blue on both sheer organza and white cotton muslin. I wasn't really pleased with my current results but here are 2 things I intend to try next time:

- Take time to find and/or create some interesting resists. I only had string to work with because there were no leaves here last week and I was too eager to take time to cut out paper resists. I found that if string is thick enough to act as a resist, it leaves a fuzzy impression because it is not flat enough to allow good contact with the plate. Scraping some of the dye away with my fingernail left a crisp and interesting deign but my fingertips are still purple.

- Get some different sponge rollers. I ordered some from Dick Blick that I think my 3 year old will love. They have a very open texture and would be great for tempera on paper but left a
very grainy texture on the printing plate. Watering down the dye paste and adding a bit of dish soap to the recipe might help with that, but I think most of it was the roller. A recent trip to Home Depot revealed a wide array of locally available paint roller thingies - including some very smooth and small foam trim rollers. I'm going to get some of those.

I can see that this could become a valuable technique. If I had taken the time to create some interesting resists I could be working with some fun quilted, embroidered and embellished layers right now. Maybe next week.

Now I also want to try screen printing with dye paste. I've been intimidated to try screen printing because I was afraid that it would be very expensive and complicated. Technology is getting more user friendly, though so I may try that soon.


Oh, BTW, my samples are not ironed because I couldn't get to the ironing board.
Which brings me to another issue. . . . We were just going to paint, right?

Well, we discovered that we couldn't easily scrape paint off the old woodwork without having serious lead issues. As we stood around looking at the room and worrying about what to do, my son ran through the front door and slammed it shut. It made an interesting noise, like plaster falling down inside the wall. Investigation of the noise led to the discovery that, indeed, plaster was falling down behind the door casing which was actually coming off the wall all on its own. All of the woodwork came off surprisingly easily. It is now all in the barn in the process of being chemically stripped.

Further contemplation determined that it would make the most sense to replace the two outer homasote walls and the ceiling now while the woodwork is already off. Removal of the ceiling revealed that we still have knob and tubing wiring in some parts of the house. From what is exposed, we cannot determine where the knob and tubing comes from nor where it goes. It is a great mystery.


Ceiling removal also revealed that a weight bearing wall was removed from the middle of the living room at some point and never replaced or shored up with an alternative. Also, a joist was sawn through to allow installation of a heating duct from the furnace to the upstairs. Hot air has never come from this duct in all the years we have lived here. Removal of the duct revealed that this is because the duct had a
big gap between two sections, allowing the hot air to just blow around between the walls. Removal of the duct also revealed a rotting joist and planking under what is left of the original, incredibly heavy, brick chimney.

We stared at the ceiling for many long moments. We began to wish that we had just left the room alone or given the kids some cans of spray paint. We looked at each other for many long moments.

I said "It would be a lot easier to make these decisions if we were drunk." My husband laughed like Tom Hanks in The Money Pit.












Unfortunately, we don't drink. All decisions are on hold.

Almost 200 year old house for sale - dirt cheap!

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This is turning out to be an exciting week in our house. For the last couple of years, we have been muttering about how cold our living room feels and about the tiles that have been peeling off the floor. It has had white walls and a cobalt blue paint on the trim - very lovely, but very cold, which is not something you need more of here in Almost Canada. To top it off, we were in a hurry when we painted the blue trim and decided that it would only be temporary (6.5 years ago) so we did not properly prime the surface of the old paint. We just wanted to cover up the hideous dusty puke-rose color and thought for sure that we would have time and money to take the trim off and completely strip it before too long, as well as replace the cruddy homasote with real wall board and insulation and restore the room to something of its original beauty.

Yes, well. We were brand new homeowners back then; innocent, optimistic, clueless. Turns out we are going to add another layer of paint - but we will scrape and prime this time. The blue has steadily been peeling off since day 2.

So. Anyone who has done a paint job on an almost 200 year old house can tell you that the work is never straight forward. We took all the furniture out of the room and decided that we would remove the fake beams across the ceiling because they looked stupid and were falling apart. We had examined the room carefully and could not conceive of a good reason why the previous home owners would have put them in, besides an obvious obsession with the whole 1980's southwestern look. (Hence the hideous dusty puke-rose color on the walls and trim and the fake arches in the doorways. Why they had paired it all with a 1970's orange and brown shag carpet, I cannot fathom.) Turns out that the ceiling is comprised of homasote, too, and that the edges of the sheets are not really connected to anything. They are screwed in hither and dither along the breadth of the sheets but the edges are just sort of hanging out, begging for some sort of faux architecture to hide them.

Sigh. There's more. The previous home owners in their fit of south west obsession, plastered the walls and ceilings with that stuccoish, pebbley stuff and wrapped the ceiling and the walls all in it together. There is a nice little curve where they meet instead of a sharp corner with a bit of space for each segment of the house to wiggle around in. Of course there has been some cracking, especially in areas where the homaoste edges have sagged inside the faux beams. If we rip the ceiling out and replace it with wall board like normal homeowners would, we would also have to replace all of the walls. Our tax return $$ is gone so we will have to do a shoddy job of it and try to patch up the places where the homasote is crumbled or where the stucco stuff has cracked with spackling. This drives my husband crazy. If he had his way, he would have ripped out the stairs and several wall yesterday.

But - when it is done, it will look different and hopefully better than before. We'll be going for a paprika color on a couple of the walls paired with a buttery cream color on the others with a deep, dark aqua on the floors. That is unless someone contacts me and says they have $50,000 they want to spend on an old fixer upper with 4 acres in Fort Jackson, NY. In that case, we'll go buy a yurt and start working on building a straw bale home near grandma's!

April TIF challenge

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Time goes so swiftly! It is already April 8th and high time for me to get started with April's Take it Further challenge! This is some of what Sharon has written about the theme for this month:

"There are stages in life when it is almost unacceptable to change. For instance it is often implied that it is not acceptable to change when you are middle aged and the desire for change at this stage in life is often referred to as a mid life crisis. Yet often at the same time, in the work place expensive consultants are being hired to help corporations and institutions ‘manage change’. We are expected to adapt to different work stresses and embrace change in the work place but changes our private lives is framed as bit of issue. It amuses me when people say we have to learn to live with change as change has always been part of life. As soon as we are born we start to grow in other words we start to change.

How do you see change? That is the challenge topic this month."

The color scheme she chose is very heavy and dark to my taste for this month - she has an oriental red, mustard yellow, ivory, black and a very dark blue or green. Sharon lives in Australia so autumn colors make sense right now down under. I'm craving something brighter and lighter.

Today I'm going to prep some muslin and organza for mono-printing and I'll do some experiments with that process as part of my challenge this month. It will be a new process for me and will represent a change in the way I work. I hope that I will discover that I like the process; my current dyeing processes require that I apply my dyes immediately, but the mono-printing method allows for storage of the dye solution as the soda ash is added to the fabric before the dye is applied. We just got a new fridge which is much bigger than our old one so if I get a small bin, I can mix small containers of dye paste and seal them in the bin to be stored in the fridge between studio sessions. That would be so amazing!

So, I am off to exercise and get that fabric prepped during "PBS prime time."
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