Sunday, March 03, 2013

Creative Pursuits Redux 2008-2013

In 2008 I began knitting and stopped doing papercrafts. I took a break from ATC swapping and have not resumed. I put all the papercrafts aside and also stopped painting and drawing. I basically was just homeschooling, living, and knitting as my only craft.

I expanded my photo taking when I obtained a DSLR for Christmas in 2008, and tried teaching myself to use it and refining my ability to use composition and to deal with capturing light better.

I also began making lye based soap and taught myself to make body lotions and skin salves with natural materials. I did DIY because I was too frugal to justify spending $5-8 on one bar of homemade soap or to pay $10 per ounce for herbal hand lotion. In this time I began learning about using herbs in making soap. I was put off by the high cost of infused oils as base ingredients, so I wanted DIY.

I started a veg and herb garden in my zone 6 Connecticut garden, enclosing it with six foot high deer fencing to keep the deer out. The deer were so bad there that they would walk right up onto my back deck and up the front porch steps to eat the back of my holly bushes. Former attempts to container garden on the deck failed for that reason and because my deck was on the north side of the house in deep shade. That is why I did not garden for years in that house, despite having loved gardening of flowers and vegetables in my first Connecticut home, and despite the fact that I had three acres of land there. In addition to growing vegetables, I started gardening with herbs and I grew them to infuse them into oils and used those to make body lotions and soaps.

I started doing pick your own local fruit and taught myself to can, making homemade preserves, strawberries in syrup, and with local veggies I made homemade canned salsa. I discovered that canning is a serious science and is no joke, it must be done correctly or the food not only can be ruined ranging from mold to jelly turning to crystals, and worse, you can get poisoned with botulism and potentially die if you screw up.

I continued cooking slowfood and baking from scratch including teaching myself to make artisan bread.

I also began learning about wildcrafting and wildcrafted plants and tree material from my own property and private land which I had permission to wildcraft upon. I went on plant walks and read books and used the internet to teach myself. I used these wildcrafted items to eat, drink, and make products from. Additionally I taught myself a bit about kitchen herbalism, using herbs for medicine and wellness. The herbs I wildcrafted and grew I used to make tinctures, medicinal salves and dried to use in teas and infusion drinks. I was in the process of learning about wildcrafting wild mushrooms for eating and for medicinal purposes when we suddenly moved.

Shortly after finding out we found out we were moving, in 2011 my husband surprised me with a combo Mother's Day and birthday present: an iPhone. I began taking more photos with that and stopped carting my DSLR in my pocketbook everywhere I went. I started using Instagram and had fun playing with photo filters. I had little time for crafting because I had six weeks to mother my kids alone plus declutter and pack up the entire house, and to label items as to whether they'd go to storage for a year or more or whether they'd fit into the rental house.

In 2011 we moved from Connecticut to Texas and I got rid of a lot of material possessions. I culled my art and craft supplies as well as a lot of ephemera. I got rid of lot of antique ephemera that came from my paternal grandmother who was a hoarder. On top of basic moving fees we had to pay 60 cents per pound to move my stuff so I seriously evaluated what sewing, knitting, papercrafts, and various other craft supplies I should pay to take with me.

In 2011-2012 we were in a small rental home in Texas and there was no room for my craft supplies. I had my drawing materials and some journals and paper and decided to focus on drawing and photography. I kept my herb books with me and thought I'd learn more about herbs but my interest waned. The Texas landscape is so different and I did not have access to wildcraft the familiar herbs so I felt I was learning information in an abstract void and it was not motivating or passion inspiring. We arrived in a drought and a heatwave so many plants were suffering and temperatures were 105-108 so I was not spending much time outdoors. My fair skin burned and it was so hot that I broke out so I even looked a mess. The air conditioning in the rental house was not functioning well and we were hot and sweating indoors too. I hid indoors and unpacked and homeschooled my kids, in addition to taking them to sports and Scouts.

In September when the promise of cooler weather was upon me, my gardening muse was with me and I filled a small epmtp raised garden bed at the rental house with organic soil to try my hand at zone 9 gardening of veg and herbs in Texas. It was a flop because come to find out there was not enough sun for the winter season. The rest of the tiny backyard was in shade 100% of the time and there was no room out front except for a patch next to the road so I gave up on gardening there. I vowed that the house we buy would have a big backyard and room to garden, as well as a fence to keep deer and other creatures out.

While in the rental house, I wound up not being interested in drawing and got interested in watercolor painting. I read a few books and bought materials with Christmas money to begin painting. I honestly only painted one thing and felt trapped in the small rental unit. It was so small I literally had nowhere to lay the painting flat that would be safe from the cats or that would be safe while using our small space for daily living. I gave up on watercolor painting for the time being.

I did some knitting but had a string of projects completed that were unwearable and that discouraged me. I found a local source for discount prices on discontinued yarn and bought probably too much as I bought more than I used that year, which is never a good thing.

In summer 2012 we bought a house and I was busy moving into the house after that. I claimed the guest bedroom as my craft room. First and foremost through all of these years has been our family's health, homeschooling and mothering my kids so I kept putting arts and crafts to the back burner. In the late fall I worked on the craft room which also doubles as a storage area for homeschool books to use in the future or where I put books I felt we were finished with that I could not let go of. I realized that keeping too many books that we may never use again was preventing me from going forward with current desires to get back into painting and papercrafting. I could not use a room that was filled with boxes of books. I culled a lot of books and donated them to a charity fundraiser tag sale. I resold about a hundred for roughly $1 (big whoop) and those leftovers are being donated. I don't have time to dedicate to opening an eBay store to try to get $2-5 per book, it's just not worth it.

In December 2012 I did my first acrylic painting in years, working on abstract paintings which I thought I would turn into journal pages or do some ATCs for a teenaged girl who needed encouragement who was admitted for a six month stay in a psychiatric hospital. It was fun and I realized I needed to get back to painting for fun. However I was busy with homeschooling, parenting, and Christmas.

After Christmas I decided I wanted to get back into papercrafting and started visiting the craft stores. I had avoided them for YEARS so I was surprised to find out what is out there. I also did not realize the explosion on YouTube such as people sharing tutorials and showing their finished projects. I realized that something called a smash book and a junk journal had been "invented" in my papercrafting absence. These are like an art journal for the crafter and a casual and less serious approach to scrapbooking. Some use all store bought stuff from scrapbooking companies while other people use junk mail and other ephemera and make their own books.

One thing that bothered me about art journals in the past was the binding issue. Although I own a comb binding machine, I do not like comb binding for my journals. I wished I could make a spiral binding. I found hand stitched binding time intensive and I had an issue with covers, how to cut them. Well I did not know that in my craft vacation time something called a Zutter Bind-it-All came out which is a spiral binding system. A first the spirals were only short sized so something called a mini album was invented. Some made little scrapbooks or photo albums that were six by six inches. Thus a 12x12 scrapbook paper sheet could be made into four 6x6 pieces. Honestly scrapbooking was on a decline for a while and I applaud the industry for reinventing itself and reviving the line of materials.

I was interested in buying the Zutter Bind-it-All and pondered on it for weeks. I was mostly interested because I had found that they had expanded their product line at some point, and now offer longer spirals so you can make a larger bound book, which is what appeals to me more than making 4x4 or 6x6 books. Then while shopping at a discount store in February, I saw a Zutter Kutter and did not know what it was, but thanks to YouTube I found out. This is a heavy duty cutting machine that even lets you cut metal in order to make book covers! You can cut chipboard and cardboard or anything thick! Now this is up my alley because I do not have to buy factory made chipboard in standard sizes to use as sturdy book covers.

I decided to use Christmas gift money to buy the Bind-it-All in February. I bought directly from the manufacturer and paid $99 for a beginner set that normally retails for $385. In March (yesterday) I bought the Zutter Kutter for $79 at Tuesday Morning, it is MSRP $180!

Since moving to this house we began pondering on where we could have a garden for veggies and herbs. I have over 40 trees in my backyard and most of the yard (other than the pool) is in deep shade. We have a strict tree ordinance in town so we cannot remove trees over 6 inches at chest height without permission.  I found one strip of land which gets, I think, decent enough sun to grow tomatoes.

My husband and I pondered for a couple of months on how to raise a garden bed up off the ground level to avoid standing water and clay soil. We cannot use wood because in Houston that will only last 2-3 years before the insects completely ruin it. We decided to use retaining wall blocks in white which match our pool decking. In February we erected the wall.

I took two classes on gardening in Texas and started reading books about zone 9 gardening. I bought three flats of veg and herb seedlings. If I could only focus on gardening then my garden would already be filled with soil and planted but this is real life and we have medical issues going on plus homeschooling and other things going on in our lives.

My project plans for this upcoming week are to order the soil to be delivered and to work with my sons to move it by wheelbarrow into the garden, then to plant the seedlings. Not yet worked out is how we will erect supports because I garden vertically. The garden is 5x17 in a curving pretty bed.

I was thinking maybe I should blog more or even do YouTube videos about the journey. I accomplish more when I can be social and feel I'm interacting with someone about what I am doing. If I know someone is watching me or waiting for new blog posts it helps keep me focused on doing the task at hand and it motivates and energizes me to keep going. I love deadlines and that is why I formerly loved ATC swapping, it forced me to try a new art technique by a certain date deadline, so I made the time to do the projects which then reduced stress in my life and made me happy. 

I am itching to do painting and papercrafting today as well. At the moment I must go do some volunteer work for my kid's sport team. The thing about gardening is it is so time-sensitive so you often have to put all your free time when it is not raining or not too wet or not too cold to do what has to be done in order to get the crop into the ground and going so that it will have enough time to have usable produce before the season ends. Here in zone 9 we are racing our tomatoes against the August heat which kills them. So although today I feel like painting and papercrafting I need to do the volunteer work and if a garden chore must be done, that takes priority over indoor crafting.

Other plans for gardening are to fill some of the empty containers in the gardens here and on the pool deck as well as get rid of some of the dying or ugly struggling palm trees in pots and to replace them with flowers or herbs. I want to fill the garden beds under the trees with usable plants such as herbs that grow in shade. I want to fill empty struggling grass spots in the deep shade front yard with low maintenance ground cover.

Lastly for the garden project: I started a compost in fall of 2012 here and guess what? It's filled with an ant nest. I don't think they are fire ants but they do sting badly and go nuts when you stir it up. I have tried two folk remedies, boiling water with dish soap and seltzer water but both failed.

I really should do v-logs on the garden projects because I bet gardeners would like to see my challenges getting accustomed to gardening in zone 9 when I'm an accomplished organic gardener of zone 6. It also may be interesting to see the blank slate beginning compared to changes I plan to incorporate later in 2013.

1 comment:

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A Fan's Cut

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