Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crabsody In Blue

   I'll warn you straight off the bat that this is going to be a rant.  And it will probably contain some ugly language.  You know, I realize I get cranky sometimes when I'm hurting but if one more person tells me that I'll just feel all better when I "go back to work", I'm gonna knock the livin' shit out of them.  You'll feel better when you go back to work...you just need to work.....when are you going back to work?....  No, I'll feel better when I knock the livin' shit out of you.
   First off, this is one of the most idiotic statements I've ever heard.  If you feel bad due to injury or illness, rest is what makes you feel better.  Right?  Not driving almost an hour one way to some town job when your ass hurts so bad you can't stand to sit for long periods, "working" some job and then driving that hour home.  Of course, I know activity does often help, as does getting out a bit, but it implies that I feel bad because I've apparently become so depressed and lazy laying around all day.  I feel bad in my mind, not in my body because you know, if it was my body actually the problem, well then rest would help.. 
   As many of ya'll know I've been working on a restoration job lately, which I'm really enjoying and happy to be doing, but has it made me all bouncy and pain free??  Hell no.  I hurt like shit sometimes.  Still.

Secondly, it implies that I've been laying on my ass the past 2 1/2 years, not working.  You know, I don't know what it is about people that they want to insist if you work at home you are not really working.  I suspect it has a lot to do with jealousy that they don't have the back bone to work a job that makes them happy or they let somebody ruin their life by bullying them out of a job they really wanted.  Gotta conform!!!  Gotta do work like everybody else where you hate your job and can't wait for the weekend!!  Yes, the truth is out...I've laid on my ass this whole time.  I have no idea how two loads of pottery makes it into Birmingham every 30 days about and the garden gets planted and worked and harvested and the animals looked after.  And if people don't think that's work then they need to come spend a couple days with me, especially in this summer heat.  They'll be running back to those weeny office jobs in no time.  Granted, I do not work like I used to (not yet) and Jack does a lot of work around here to take up slack for me.  I used to do 3 loads of pottery a month or more.  At times the garden gets let go a little and I've not put up as much food as I would have liked to, so I'll be the first to admit I'm not as productive as I would like.  But I thought a job was something you made money from and I get 1-3 checks a month from my sales.  But it's apparently not a "real" job.  It's not work, because hey!!  work makes you feel good!!  It miraculously unfuses the vertebrae in your neck.  Well, that or it makes you vomit from your head hurting so bad because you worked on something overhead for just a little too long. 

I'm not really sure where it comes from or when it started but our society has a real problem when it comes to people who have physical issues or maybe need a little assistance and I have often found that the people that claim to be the most compassionate are actually the most mean-spirited.  Of course, all of my good readers are kind, caring folks but I wanted to include a link to a great article I read that explains a lot of how I feel but in a more......um... polite manner.  Here is the article.  It's very interesting because they include a small bit of an interview with Kevin Sorbo (played Hercules) and his health struggles and how people so unfairly judge younger folks especially who struggle physically.  People seem to think that if they have never heard of a condition or if "you don't look sick", well, then by God, you're lying and just want attention!!  Well, I think if that was the case we would figure out pretty quickly that once almost everyone immediately abandons you when you feel bad, then ooh.... hey, we're not getting attention so we'll go back to being normal.

I also love it when they try to tell you why you feel bad.  It's especially maddening considering my past employment.  "Well, you just breathed some fumes when you used to work construction".  Yes, I breathed fumes and it fused my neck bones together.  I'll be sure to tell my doctor that one next time I go in.  Oh, oh, oh!!! and then they say, "well, you just worked too hard when you were younger!" and then in the next breath tell you how you apparently need to go back to doing that kind of work because, you guessed it!!... "you'll feel better!!"

I know that I actually have a mild case of Klippel-Feil and I really feel for those that are worse off than me.  Some of those poor people, I don't see how they even get around, but then they do have the advantage of having such deformities that people don't question whether they feel bad.  'Course, that doesn't help their pain.  I also feel for the ones who have no family or friends that support them and you'd be surprised at the number of them that don't.  I have found out first hand, if you can't do for people any more, you are quickly forgotten.  I'm fortunate to have a couple of great friends (Rurality and the BFA) and Jack, who is very helpful to me.  He never complains about the umpteenth time I've asked him to rub pain lotion on my back or neck.  Never complains if I say I don't feel like cooking supper.  If I were still married to my first husband and found out I had this, I would just go ahead and move into a box under a bridge. 

So please, if you know someone who suffers from an invisible illness or disability, please cut 'em a little slack.  You don't have to understand their condition or have even ever heard of it before.  Invite them out to lunch or take them lunch one day.  Just sit and have a cup of tea or offer to stop by the grocery store for them.  I KNOW they would appreciate it.

And here's a picture of a nosy little chicken because I like it and I'm cultivating that same expression for the next time somebody says something stupid to me about my health!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Art Of Falling Apart

 Although it may certainly sound like it, the title of this post is not about me!  This is the new restoration job I have in Birmingham.  And yes, these are some peculiar sculptures at first glance but I think with a little knowledge of their history they make more sense.  These are two (see below also), wall-hanging sculptures that were created by Southern artist Frank Fleming for a particular private school in Birmingham.  If you check out the link you can see much more of Mr. Fleming's work and the wonderful animals and iconic southern imagery that runs through all his work.  You an also get the idea that his work is quite pricey, and you'd be correct.  Most of his work is cast bronze but he does do some work in clay and these are made of a mid-range, white stoneware.  So, how did a school come up with the funds to purchase work of this nature?  Well, basically, it's a private school for rich folk to send their kids to and the campus and buildings are full of sculptures and paintings, mostly by Southern artists.

I have long been a fan of Mr. Fleming's work and, if you once again check out where and who collects his work, you can guess that this is an honor and a privilege for me to be able to restore these pieces.  I really enjoy doing this kind of work and always feel great satisfaction in completing a job where you can no longer tell there is anything wrong with the piece.  I've joked around that I have always thought I would have made a great counterfeiter, because I can usually replicate the style of anything I repair, but since I don't really want to go to prison I'll stick with this.  I would really love to expand and do more work like this, maybe even outside of Alabama, but it's not every day that somebody busts a big sculpture, thank goodness.

The school recently did a large remodel/ addition and during the transition of moving these pieces were damaged.  As you may be able to see, they are rather delicate in construction, extremely heavy and awkward to move, so it's not surprising to me that this happened.  And when you throw in some construction workers that are not used to dealing with such it can end badly.  Having been both an artist and construction worker I can see both sides and understand the issues involved.  And I have sympathy for both sides involved. 

When I work on things like this I also have to laugh a little at all the times I was ridiculed for getting a degree in art and for working in construction.  "What can you do with an art degree?"  "You ain't got any business working in construction"  Blah, blah, blah.  Then all the people that laughed at me go on to complain about how they hate their jobs but can't quit because they owe so much money and don't have time for this or that.  And I just laugh as I enjoy my day and the satisfaction of doing a good job and then I go home to my paid-for home that I built.  Haha!  When I was graduating from high school I would have never, ever thought I would have ended up in the careers that I did but it's been almost magical how things have worked out for me once I decided to follow my heart and not what other people said I should do. 

I have found all the connections to this job interesting also.  Most of you all know that the construction firm I used to work for went completely out of business.  Well, a few people such as myself, just retired from the business but most of the others went to work for other companies or in related fields and one superintendent that I worked for several times is now this school's head of maintenance and construction.  I had done one large restoration project on one of his jobs for Brice and so he knew I could do the work.  He told the school officials, you need to get this lady to do the repairs and so they contacted me.  It's also another great example of how the men I worked with have always helped and promoted me.  If you always really try to do your best and produce a good product I believe people will notice and they will remember.

So, the first thing on a  project like this is to clean everything well.  I also requested that they go ahead and install the pieces in their new location so that I could do my repairs in place.  That way there would be no chance of things being broken again when they were moving them to install.  And as it turned out, there were a couple of new, small breaks in the moving. 

After cleaning the puzzle work begins.  Mr. Fleming requested a certain type glue to be used and turns out it was what I use anyway.  The trick to putting something like this back together is that you use very little glue.  If it squishes out when you put the two pieces back together then you used too much and not only is it messy but the volume of glue will keep the pieces from fitting as tightly as they should.  Sometimes the crack is going to be visible and sometimes it will virtually disappear.  There is also the inevitable chunks that end up missing on a project like this.  I use a two-part paste epoxy to fill in these areas and the cracks.  Works great and you can usually never see the finished repair.  Well, if you know how to work it that is!

After the broken pieces were reassembled I then started reattaching the pieces to the main structure.  That is painter's tape you see holding pieces on until the glue sets.  The glue is also a fairly quick setting type but I like for something to be holding it until it is completely cured.  Now, the epoxy paste never quite matches the color of the clay or material so I use a color matched paint to hide the repairs.  I hate to use paint on a piece but that is usually all you can do.

Oh, there was one other fun fact of this job:  If you have read my blog from almost the beginning, you may remember when I worked on The Big House.  I did a number of fun restoration projects on that job and it is just down the road a piece from the school I am working at now.  (That'll give you an idea of just how wealthy this area is) In fact, the man that owns that house now went to this school and as he used to walk by the Big House on his way to class he would tell himself that he would own that house one day.  Or so the story goes anyway.  When I was browsing through Mr. Fleming's website I looked at the "news" section and recognized The Big House from several photos showing some large, outdoor bronzes he has done on commission recently.  I have also done work at several other houses in this area over the years and it's kinda funny how I keep getting work to come back to this particular area.  I am as poor as a church mouse compared to these people and it's an interesting world to occasionally work in.  I'll try to get a few photos of the surrounding area next time I'm over there.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Summer Day

I should be down in my studio glazing and getting the kiln ready to fire tomorrow morning but I am just pooped out.  I feel okay in the mornings but by about 6:00 pm I am just worn slap out.  That's an old southern saying for those of ya'll not familiar; "slap out".  Why, there's even a town in Alabama called SlapOut.  I think it's down below Birmingham or some such.
Anyway, I have an appointment Wednesday with a new cardiologist so we'll see what he has to say.  The one I used to see retired a couple years ago and I just put off finding a new one.  In some ways I feel better but the fatigue is just overwhelming at times.

I think the peas have done about all they are going to do this year and I picked and shelled until I had a enough to finally can and it be worth the trouble.  I still only got 5 pints but we may buy some from a local farmer, if they still have any, so I can put up a few more pints.  The girls helped me shell peas too.  Well, I throw them the dried up ones and they can easily crack those open to eat the peas.  It's funny, the Ameracaunas, the Hamps and the Partridge Rocks just love the peas and know how to shell them.  The rest of the girls are just like, meh....even if I shell them for them they are just not too crazy about peas.  They all love the oats though and every day I'll throw them a handful of the oat sheaves.  They go through them and pick out the oats.  It's kinda like the peas; it gives them something to pick through and work on with a reward at the end.

Couldn't resist getting a shot of Missy's bloomers while they were all working over some culled tomatoes.  Missy is always so prim and neat.  She keeps herself very clean.

I've been making a list and trying to think of some interesting things to write about here but when it comes time to post I just lose interest.  I think it is just complete lack of energy.  Still having the foggy-headedness and such.  Posting in the morning might help but I feel like I need to use my energy then, because it's so precious, to do things around here, rather than just write a blog post, which does not pay me.  I guess that's kinda blunt and callous but that's the way it goes right now.  I know I've said it before but I appreciate ya'll who still come here to read.  I guess I've been kinda sad and maybe even a little hurt at how many have dropped me since I became sick and the blog changing slightly because of that.  But, from what I've been told by others who have gone through, or still deal with, long or unexplained illnesses, it's pretty common for folks to wander off and leave in real life too.  Funny how that is.  Even in my family, my Mom is the only one that ever asks how I'm doing or anything.  Of course, over the last 20 years I've come to realize just how dysfunctional my family is, but it's still kinda sad.  I know some of you also have health problems so you know what I mean.
At any rate, I'm doing the best I can at the moment and I'm working on getting better.  I will get back to building eventually.  I have to.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Going Through Changes

Well, a lot of the same ol', same ol' going on around here but there have been a few changes happening.  The girls are getting put up a little earlier in the afternoon because we had one Ameracauna hen get taken by something.  She just vanished; not sure what got her although I suspect it was a fox.  I was a little later than usual getting down to lock them up and she was just not there with the others.  Crap like that makes me sad.

The pumpkin is starting to get it's color, proving my guess to be correct!  Just wish it would make at least one more.  All the other blooms appear to be male though.  Poo.

Little Tilly is really getting big now!  Although I highly suspect Tilly is actually Ted or maybe Terry so it can go either way.  (S)he is still very sweet though and very rambunctious!  The one in the background is George, who I know is a rooster.

This is George up close.  He's been practicing his crowing a little but not as regularly, it seems, as past roosters.  Poor thing still sounds like a worn out squeaky toy.  He is a sweetheart right now though.  I hope he stays that way.  Loves to sit in your lap just as long as you'll let him and he just kinda chirps real low the whole time.  I guess he's telling me about something so I talk back sometimes.

It's been very hot and dry the past couple of weeks but the past 2 days have been glorious.  It got down to 53F last night here and will probably only be around 60F tonight.  I'm not sure if it reached 85 during the day and there was a nice breeze all day.  We could use some rain though.  It's getting a bit dry and we've been having to water the garden and such which I really hate to do.  Has the weather in your area been about normal or cooler or hotter??  For us, this summer has not been as cool as last but it has still been a little below normal in temps overall.

Chigger and I still take our regular walks.  This is one of the groups of baby ferns that grow all along the creek.  Not sure what kind they are even though Jack bought me that great new fern book.  I'm just not real good t some plant ID.

The creek is getting low but there is one deeper spot where Chigger likes to go for a drink, especially on hot days.  She will seldom go out much deeper than this however, no matter how hot it is.  She kinda funny.  Then, when she gets back up on the bank, she really shakes all over like boy, she just got soaked!

One of the larger species of fern here.  These get about 2-2 1/2 feet tall.  There is one other species that gets taller but they are not as full and pretty as these, in my opinion.

I've been rather busy lately trying to get out another load of pottery and keep up with parts of the garden, but not all of it.  I start a really cool restoration project next week and I have been trying to get some things caught up around here.  The project should only last about a week or so but at this time of year a week can set you quite a ways back.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Heart's Just Not In It

The garden is doing SO well this year!  But, it's a bit overwhelming to me.  I just can't keep up with it right now.  I had also hoped to be blogging a little more often, showing new projects and new topics but I just don't have it in me.  I'm tired, tired, tired.  My chest aches and I get winded walking back from the chicken house.  I seemed to be feeling better there for a while but the fatigue and foggy-headedness just won't go away.  Something is not right, but I don't know what it is.  I suspect I know but am not sure.  Thought I knew several times before now.  At any rate, I am going to try to keep posting something.  It may just be photos or such for a while though.
And speaking of photos, here's a bunch of the garden just so ya'll can see.  I hope all of ya'll that have a garden this year are also getting a good harvest.  I have managed to can some green beans and some dilly beans for the first time but am not sure how much more I'll do.

Even my eggplants are doing good this year!!  Now, ya'll long time readers know how I have fought and cursed with these things over the years, never able to eek out more than a couple puny little fruits.  But this year they are really doing good and we have enjoyed several of them for supper.  I think what helped was all the rain we got early in the season.

The bug patrol still helps me when I pick green beans.  I can't tell what they are eating but they just go nuts over something in the plants.  I planted Contender this year and I swore I will never plant a bush bean again.  The bending over to pick them is killing my back.  I also am not real thrilled with the flavor of the Contender.  Oh, it's okay but the French heirlooms have a much richer taste.

I have been ecstatic to see so many honeybees on the corn this year.  Just a swarm practically.  They were slow coming around but they are here in force now.   While they are here they also come up to the house to drink from the chickens' water basin.  I'm happy to keep water out for them and we keep several dishes and bird bathes out for such purpose.  I don't think the chickens are real thrilled with sharing their water with them but they don't hurt the bees.

The sunflowers are all volunteers but they are doing great!  The wild birds use them for food and I'll throw an old head to the chickens every so often.  They enjoy picking through them for the seeds.

I had a mystery plant appear in a not too crowded area of the garden, so I just let it grow out of curiosity.  Seems it's a pumpkin!!  So far I only have this one fruit but I'm hoping it might make at least one more.  I'm excited to see if it's going to get very big.

My first year for successful green onions also!!  Yay!!  These are great and I'm going to try to keep some going at all times.  Right now I just kinda pick them as I need them and they seem to be doing fine without going to seed.

It's been an extraordinary year for squash also.  I may try canning some for winter casseroles, maybe.  If I have the energy.  I would at least like to put up some more salsa, peaches and peas, which are starting to come in now.  I suppose I could freeze the peas if I got desperate and then can them later.  Maybe?  Can you do that?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dish It Out

I believe I had promised ya'll some photos of the new designs in clay I have been working on  so here ya go!  I am not entirely satisfied with these results but I think they are a good start.  I have really been trying to come up with a more sophisticated or professional look to my work and I have been pleased so far.  I've been working with a white clay, which is a huge departure for me, but I really love it and just trying to really focus on good craftsmanship but with a little more "flair".

I'm not sure that I like the really white glaze here and am looking for more of a off-white or cream and in a satin finish instead of this gloss.  The blue accents should be more of a bronzy- green also; I had the glaze a bit thin on this trial.  Of course, there are tons of color combinations this would look good with but I was trying to lighten up a bit!  I have always used a rather dark, earthy palate in my ceramics and I think a change would be good.
I have a Facebook page for just my artwork and these dishes were not particularly well received when I posted them there.  I had a few 'likes' but not what I often get.  Everyone who has seen them in person has been very complimentary though.  Haha!  Maybe they were just being polite!  At any rate, the only thing that matters is if I like them and like I said, I am still in the experimenting stage here.  I think though that this is a good lead and will eventually result in a series I really like.

Friday, July 18, 2014

River Low Mountain High

This past week was unseasonably mild with low humidity and since we had been working hard on the garden, art and various things, which I will show ya'll soon, we thought a fun day out was in order.  I was also waiting rather impatiently on the kiln to cool so I could see some new experiments, so a road trip was a good way to keep me from opening the kiln too soon.  We had talked often about going back to Little River Canyon and some of ya'll may remember our trip there a couple of years ago.  That trip was in the winter though and I wanted to experience it in warm weather.
The water levels were down quite a bit but it was still very pretty and actually safer to do a little swimming.
This is the main falls up near the entrance to the park.  Since the weather was SO nice I expected the place to be overran but it wasn't terribly crowded.

I love the rock formations at this place.  I'm not sure what type of rock that is; have to do a little more studying on the subject.  Northern Alabama has a lot of limestone and that may be what it is but I'm not sure.  At the entrance to the park, which is a National Preserve, they have a really nice, large visitor's center, which has also won various awards for it's "green" building components.  You can watch films there about the history of the area etc. and I believe they also hold various conferences and classes there that are somehow affiliated with Jacksonville State University.

These people were enjoying a not too deep swimming hole set back from the falls a bit.  After we took a few photos here we decided to go all the way to the other end of the park and drive the length of it, back up to this point.

We were about a third of the way up from the "bottom" of the park when we noticed a sign for Orbix hot glass studio.  It said welcome to the public so we decided to go in and see what was going on.  Turns out it was a real high class studio and these fellers really knew their business.  They had an area where you could sit and watch them work but were close enough to talk to them, so we watched them make 2 or 3 of these pitchers.

Excuse the crappy photos.  I'm still learning this camera and some of the settings were not correct.  Anyhoo, this was very interesting and it was amazing to watch them.  They had recently been featured in one of the fancy Birmingham style magazines, so they were working on production in anticipation of orders from the coverage.  I hope they do well.  Of course they had a showroom there so you could buy directly from them also after you watched them at work.  Well, we might could if we win the lottery but somebody could buy the stuff.

It was fun and a nice extra to the trip.

There are various falls throughout Little River with varying degrees of difficulty to get to them.  Some of them are right by the road and some of them require a fairly strenuous hike down to them.  And then a real strenuous hike back up.  Maybe one day.

Little River is the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi and is unique because it flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain, which is kinda flat on top.

Over the years I've read or heard people, who had to travel through Alabama to get to the beach or other destinations say, 'well, we drove through as fast as we could to get out of Alabama!'.  Ya, and miss some of the most beautiful sites around and wonderful places to visit.

'Course, if people have that ugly an attitude about us, we don't want them to stop here noways.  Keep our beautiful treasures to ourselves.

As we approached the north end of the park again we stopped off at one of the more popular falls because it wasn't too far a hike down to the water and I was determined to do some swimming.  When the water is higher some of these areas can be quite dangerous but right now the water was wonderful.  Deep, languid pools that were like your own little spa.  Well, you and the little fishies, which were abundant.  The water was wonderfully only slightly cool.  The perfect temperature to me.

This feller was trying his hand at some fly fishing.  I imagine this area would be great for that.  There are a fair number of camping places available here also, as well as cabins to rent etc.

Just down from where I was swimming in a kinda shallow pool was a much larger, deeper pool that was very popular.  These little redneck kids ain't skeered of no high jumps.  Yes, I know that is horrible grammar etc. in case anybody is thinking of my last post!  It was good to see most of the kids jumping were wearing float jackets though.

This is the side opposite from where they were jumping from so high but it had some good launching points too.  When I was a kid, and where, you were high-falutin' if you got to go to a real pool to swim.  The creek and railroad trestle was were I learned to swim and also got over my fear of jumping from high places.  Places like this are the best swimming holes in my opinion.  Beautiful clean water in a wonderful area.  Oh, the park is free also, so it's a great place to come frequently, as I imagine many locals do.  Bring you a picnic lunch down here and spend all day.

On our hike back out I even spotted some native flora I'd never seen before.  I'll have to see if I can find this species in my new Alabama fern book.  I also spied a plant near this that looked very much like a native wild orchid but I could have been mistaken.

And on the way out we stopped to take our required sign location photo.  One day I'm gonna get off my butt and put all these in the travel scrapbook I want to make.
So, we had a great day and I was wore out by the time we got home but we really enjoyed it.  If you've never been to Little River Canyon I highly recommend it.