Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quick update

Well, if nothing else, I guess I should at least check in and let you know I'm still kicking.

I've been busy with any number of projects. A couple of soap orders had us hopping for a while this month. The shop is shaping up for the Christmas tree season. It'll feature soap, jewelry and Tina's publications - along with some other goodies we have come up with. I did hit the torch and before I even managed to take pix, a friend/customer showed up and bought them all. I guess that's a good thing. Then there were a couple of ugly days that somehow kept me in the house, not accomplishing much of anything.

We're also redoing our bedroom, painting and replacing the carpet that has been there since we moved in (20 years ago) and that we were planning to replace immediately. I guess since we have the whole house to ourselves now and can actually empty our bedroom and still sleep and find our clothes it was time to do it!

I'm definitely planning to put some time in on the torch tomorrow. First, Tina & I will be taking a shelving unit in to a friend who will be opening her shop on Friday. I'm anxious to see what all has changed since I saw it last. I'm sure this is a very exciting time for her.

Maybe I'll post some pictures of the shop at Frog Hollow (ours). And if all goes well, I'll have some new glass to post about.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Leaves, gourds, glass and soap - whew!

Well, all things change and again, we walked through the woods at the end of another summer. We just experienced our first frost of the year and most of the leaves are down.

Last year in the beginning of November, I posted my favorite picture of our woods. In that picture, I was looking out from inside the woods and this time, I'm looking in.

It's a week or two earlier in the year in this picture and yet everything is bare.

If you've been following the progress of our gourd arbor, here's what one good solid frost will do to a summers worth of gourd growth.

It may look a bit sad, but all those lovely gourds hold a promise of lots of fun when they have cured.

Bob and I are having something of a disagreement about how to cure them. We've been all over the internet and opinions vary on the proper way to do this. Some say harvest before the frost, some say leave them on the vine all winter. I suspect they will be cut soon and laid on some bread trays in a non-freezing area (the garage). It's sort of a compromise. We'll see....

Inspired by all the leaves and color leading up to the frosty aftermath, I finally put the leaf beads that I showed earlier together into a necklace.

It's 20" long so it hangs nicely on sweaters and looks nice under the collar of a shirt, coming around in front of the buttons, if you know what I mean.

I followed the basic idea of a necklace in a special jewelry edition of "Belle Armoire" magazine. The first three leaf beads are strung on softflex along with single beads. Then another pass or three is made through the larger beads - looping between the large beads every time. Finally another pass attaches 4 more of the leaf beads as well as a few more loops.

Here's a section of the necklace. Various sizes and colors of beads and pearls are used throughout the necklace. I made something of a "bead soup" and tried to string the loopy parts as randomly as possible. The colors did turn out very well and although this wasn't my first idea of a three tiered necklace, it can probably be worn for many more occasions than the original design could have.

It's kind of a celebration of fall. Although I'm not really looking forward to winter, who knows what that may inspire?

One more thing we did today was make some old fashioned "lye soap". Now, all the soap I make is "lye soap" and in fact any real soap you will ever find will be made with lye. But, one of my customers said she had tried something from someone else labeled "Old Fashioned Lye Soap" and asked if I could make it for her. Basically, she wants what I make only cut somewhat chunkier and wrapped more primitively.

I felt that old fashioned also called for the use of Lard instead of all the lovely tropical oils I usually use.

Soap making would have actually been one of the traditional chores of fall. Along with all the butchering, the lard would have been rendered and made into the family soap supply for the year. I've always talked about that in soapmaking classes, but never actually made lard based soap before. So I hunted it down and finally made the soap. Other than the fact that it seemed to take a bit longer than usual to trace, it reminded me of the bear soap I made earlier in the summer.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Two cultures meet

One interesting thing I saw yesterday but forgot to write about, probably because I didn't have a picture to prompt me.

Near the end of the day, a group of folks arrived. From their dress, they appeared to be strict conservative Jews and possibly Hassidic although all the men and boys did not have the "locks". Most men wore Yamulkas and many appeared to be wearing the prayer shawls - the fringe hanging out beneath their shirts. The women were well covered.

Anyhow, I'm mentioning this because when they approached the Amish Pie wagon across the way from us, there was a look of "kinship" that seemed to pass from one group to the other... Two groups whose dress and customs set them apart from the rest of the world. They seemed much more animated and at ease with each other than they did with us "Englishers".

I resisted the impulse to whip out the camera to record the meeting of the cultures because it would certainly not have been appreciated by either group, I am sure. I will, however remember.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Fun Two Days

For the past two days, we have had the most enjoyable experience, participating in the "Harvest Festival" at The Amish Farm & House on Route 30, east of Lancaster.

I have been trying to capture a picture like this for some time, but the light was never right, or the clothes line was too far away. Today, as we walked on the grounds, there was the wash hanging above the road between the house and some of the outbuildings. The sun was still pretty low in the sky and it made a nice composition with the windmill.

Our mom was always fascinated by the Amish clotheslines. Usually they are a line strung around two pulleys. One pulley will be on the porch of the house and the other will be attached to an outbuilding or large pole.

The clothes would be clipped onto the line and then it would be moved out, making room for the next piece. Usually, the clothes are hung according to size and since the families are often large, it is a sizeable amount of laundry and very picturesque as the items range out along the line. Traditionally, wash was done on Mondays, so The Amish Farm & House hangs out their wash faithfully on Mondays. I suspect with the size of the families, washday often runs into Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday if necessary!

The windmill is a familiar sight in our county. It is often used by Amish families to pump their water from the well.

What a pleasant bunch of people. The folks who work there seem to enjoy their work and each other. The visitors were as fascinating to us as the Amish lifestyle and the crafters'demonstrations were to them. I have no idea how many languages I heard being spoken in the past two days.

We put our crafters' tent up in front of the Blacksmith's Shop, the white building to the right. The bell was actually rung today at 10:45 along with all the church bells in the Lancaster area to commemorate the murders of 5 Amish school girls last week at that time.

The vine is a Hyacinth Bean Vine. That was the vine we grew up the whole way to the top of the second story of the addition to our shop at the Renn Faire well over 12 years ago. It was a great year and so it always brings back happy memories.

The little white bulbous thing on the left of the roof is a lightening "rod". It certainly wasn't on the highest point of the farm, but at least we got a good view of it!

On Sunday, we made three batches of soap, explained and answered many questions. It was nice to find that the old "patter" still comes just as easily as it did years ago.

We were asked to return again today and just couldn't pass it up even though we really needed to go on a supply run. We took the soap back that we made yesterday and very slowly cut it and trimmed it so there was always soap in various stages on display.

On Sunday, the potter/gift shop manager was across the street from us. Today, however, her spot became an Amish Bakeshop.

Shortly after we got there and set up, an Amish family came in and began putting things out on the tables.. Pies, cookies, canned goods, hotpads and many more lovely things.

Later in the day, the "pie wagon" arrived. We heard the clopping of the horse coming in the road behind us and a short time later, the man who drove them there came in pulling the converted buggy. He parked it right across from us where we could study it and exclaim about the wisdom of the design and then the yumminess of its contents!

The crowds were more sparce today and we took our own tour of the grounds...

It is hard to believe this little piece of Heaven is right off a main highway and now surrounded by a strip mall and a Target center. Somehow, when one walks through the doors of the farmhouse and into the back yard, all the hustle and bustle of the outside world melts away and we are surrounded now by a quiet farm yard.

There are so many things to see.

Flowers are at their peak everywhere. The trees are just beginning to change so this is a very colorful time of year.

Chickens are casually wandering here and there until a child starts to chase them (they seemed to be accustomed to that!) An escaped goat kid is searching fruitlessly for the way back into the pen with all his siblings and cousins.

It seems everywhere one looks there is beauty and the signs of the seasons. Where better to see those things than on a farm where life depends on what is growing, needs to be harvested, needs to be preserved or must be planted?

I really enjoyed being there, meeting and interacting with the other crafters, staff and visitors - all the while being made to feel welcome.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A few more comments and some pictures

This is just a happy picture. Bob had picked a huge bucket of apples off the tree outside the soap studio and they were sitting on a bench on the porch. I came outside at one point and this is what I saw. I thought, "A is for Apple and B is for Butterfly."

It said to me that the season is winding down. Somehow it is a harvest picture to me. I love the colors together. It's my new screensaver picture.

A couple of things more about the shootings of the girls in the Amish school and then I'll go on to more cheerful topics.

First, I find it interesting that we here in Lancaster County refer to the Amish as "our" Amish. There is a very protective attitude toward those whose life has been so horribly defiled. I think part of it is that many of us who are natives here have similar or even identical roots. If ancestors of ours had made different decisions, we would have been Amish ourselves. When our grandfather's family came here 7 generations ago, they were members of the Anabaptists fleeing Europe looking for religious freedom. The head of that family became the first Amish bishop in this County.

Second, I am impressed by the news coverage. There is truly a lot of respect shown to this very different way of life. The funerals yesterday and today have been allowed to be what they should be, solemn, private events. Roads have been closed and State Police have guarded the routes to insure the privacy of the events.

At the same time, the customs of the Amish are being discussed reverently, not as usual... as a joke. The Amish belief in forgiveness seems to have stunned some of the news people and I doubt very much that they will leave here without having been touched in some way by the ideals of these peaceful people.

On Monday, I was putting the finishing touches on the magazine (Essential Herbal, Nov-Dec 2006) and Tina was making the soap that needed to be made that day. That day, we took a break to go up to her house to get a picture we needed and that was when we found out about the shootings.

On Tuesday, when we were cutting the soap, Tina let out a gasp and said, "Look at this!" Do you see the little girl's face in the soap? This soap was poured almost exactly when the worst was happening that morning... Give you chills? It did us.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Evil vs. Innocence

In the past two days, we have been extremely busy. We wrapped up the magazine in record time (and I believe it is one of the best so far) and made another 6 batches of soap. This all took a lot of concentration and the normally blaring television was turned off early each day.

Yesterday around noon, Tina and I went up to her house to download one final picture. Before taking care of it, Tina needed to check her email. Almost immediately, her SO, popped on and asked if we were anywhere near the Amish shooting. What?

We quickly turned on the silent TV and were confronted with a horror almost incomprehensible. I find it very difficult to write about this, but suffice it to say that a people of peace and innocence were defiled by evil. The depth of the feelings of the whole community was demonstrated by first responders who left the scene in tears and a colonel of our State Police who needed to collect himself during his reciting of the events at a press conference.

I think the worst part is that the victims were so young, innocent and totally defenseless.

When I think of innocence, I remember when our son was small, probably around the same age as some of the youngest victims. We, for some reason, were driving through the battlefield at Gettysburg. He saw the cannons along the road and asked what they were. It brought home to me how gently and carefully we had raised him when I explained that they were used to kill people during war. He looked at me with shock on his little face and said, "What would they ever want to do THAT for?" That day marked the beginning of his understanding of evil and perhaps mine of innocence.

This act, so contrary to the Amish way of life, must have been just as totally surreal to the little victims. For some, the first time they looked evil in the face marked the end of their lives.

And, you know, everywhere in the world there is killing, senseless and evil. Nothing is solved. Nothing is accomplished. "What WOULD they ever want to do that for?"