The Great Getaway

Mama's painting and flower arrangement inspired by it

My mother won the People’s Choice Award for her painting in The Great Getaway Art Show in Lumberton, NC last week. Her painting was part of the Garden Club Council display where local garden clubs were randomly assigned one of eight paintings to design a complementing arrangement. We thought that was the only contest she was part of, so my sister and I didn’t even vote for her painting for the People’s Choice – she won it without us! Sorry about the glare. It was unavoidable.

We voted for this incredible fiber piece by Jim Arendt, “Ian.”

"Ian" by Jim Arendt


Detail of "Ian" by Jim Arendt

An old warehouse space next door is being converted into studio and gallery space for an art co-op.


Select Flour

Lumberton, you have impressed the heck out of me. One day I hope to eat at Candy Sue’s downtown!

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Back Forty Update

pablocito at 10 months

Pablocito chose this very moment to bite me in the back of the head. No harm done, just part of the dominance games. I was nipping him on the back of the neck earlier.

But this is supposed to be a Back Forty Update, right?

Back Forty 4-5-14

I have learned over the years that when the Back Forty is a mess and I don’t take “before” photos, I am sad when it turns beautiful and the mess is gone (or cleverly disguised) and I post the “after” photos and there’s nothing to compare them to.

Back Forty 4-5-14Today I planted Long Standing Bloomsdale spinach and Red Deer Tongue lettuce in the two shadiest areas along the fence. This is a new place for planting veggies because it used to be much shadier when my neighbor’s tree was on the other side of the fence there. The flowers in between are bloodroot, and they may be moved to the front yard since they like shade. I had one Zephyr squash and one okra Back Forty 4-5-14there last year. I used to plant lettuce and spinach under the maple tree and let the lettuce reseed itself. That area has been reclaimed by ground ivy, English ivy, and soapwort. I don’t think that I will plant on that side of the Back Forty anymore.

This year my focus will be on keeping the critters from eating all my food and flowers. The rabbits will have to make do with the violets. This nifty little black netting hoop whatchamacallit is from Pinetree Seeds and I hope that it will last a few years. I’m going to start my beans and peas under it. The other beds will have wire cages and gauze fabric over them. Not attractive but my husband will just have to get over it.

I dug out the Lenten roses here and moved them to the front and the plan was to move these day lilies to another spot toward the back to give me this newly sunny area to plant veggies in. My body, however, had a different opinion so this may have to be a fall/winter veggie bed or wait another year.

Back Forty 4-5-14

Front shade garden 4-5-14

The front shade garden is getting better. This is the second year. I transplanted more large Lenten roses in the middle between the Yoshina cherry trees and that’s why they look so sad. Eventually I’ll have this area covered with hostas and foxgloves and ferns and whatever else I can snag for free. I still have many in the back but I have to stop digging for a while because of tendinitis.

Front shade garden 4-5-14

Front shade garden 4-5-14

Front shade garden 4-5-14

The plot at the UNCG Community Garden is small but I am excited about having a dye/papermaking garden there with Susanne. I was going to prepare the bed this weekend with the soil and compost they provide but the shoulder thing put a stop to that. Sandy is working a 12 hour shift today, and Susanne is out of town. Next weekend I will probably go to Mama’s. Maybe after work one day. I’d hoped to get a few seeds planted before the rain tomorrow.

Back Forty 4-5-14

Yes, we butchered the fig tree. It was way, way too big and most of the figs were feeding the birds. I wouldn’t have minded that, but it was shading too much of the garden area. I hope that it will come back, but if it doesn’t I won’t be upset.

There are a few pretty things happening in the back though.

Back Forty 4-5-14

Back Forty 4-5-14

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Chad Alice Hagen’s Felt, Resist Dyeing and Bookmaking Class

Felt book from Chad Alice Hagen's workshop

Whee, this was better than Disney World. Seriously.

Chad Alice led us through finishing prefelted needle-punched merino wool batts, then we clamped fun metal and Lexan and wood stuff to folded pieces and dyed them, and took them off, and reclamped, and dyed them, and took them off, and reclamped, and dyed them. All in all we used nine colors in the dyepots and most pieces went into three dyepots before the sun went down on Friday.

Chad Alice Hagen workshop

Chad Alice Hagen workshop

^^^After the second set of dyebaths.

Chad Alice Hagen workshop

^^^Look at her beautiful pieces. She is showing us how they were folded and what “tools” were used for the designs.

Chad Alice Hagen workshop

^^^After the final darkest dyebaths.

Chad Alice Hagen workshop

^^^Probably my favorite piece. I didn’t put it in the third dyebath.

Chad Alice Hagen workshop

^^^This is my favorite large piece.

Then we picked a piece for a book cover, cut it down, embellished the flap with stitching and beads, then glued thrift shop leather to the inside cover. She taught us a simple longstitch binding but I still learned a new way of doing it. She taught us how to do two different closures but I didn’t get around to mine – I’m still deciding what I want to do about it.

Chad Alice Hagen workshop

This was my second favorite for the book cover, so I chose it. She said not to chose our favorites.

Felt book from Chad Alice Hagen's workshop

Felt book from Chad Alice Hagen's workshopHere’s an example of taking a mistake and working with it. My first two middle stitches on the cover were too loose. I could have gone back and rebound and tightened them, but instead I decided to do a twisty thing to them. Longstitch is versatile like that. Chad Alice showed us an elegant way to finish off the final knot for the binding on the inside of the cover.

Felt book from Chad Alice Hagen's workshop

The back cover.

Felt book from Chad Alice Hagen's workshop

And voila!

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Sunday morning coffee pot post

First I’ll do a coffee pot post to sweep out the brain junk, then I’ll post about my wonderful two day workshop with Chad Alice Hagen.


I discovered where this fine feral feller likes to hang out and started leaving him a little cat food on my walks by these bushes on my way to work. I first saw him this past fall and I’ve worried about him in the bad weather. Hopefully someone nearby has been caring for him over the winter because he looks pretty healthy. What shall I call him? I’m thinking “George.”

Fun with Chad Alice and the girlsI sure did eat out a lot this week! I visited Fishbones with Sandy on Wednesday night and again on Friday night with Chad Alice Hagen, Victoria, LaMoyne, and Rosser. We had a grand time and I look forward to deepening my friendships with this women. Rosser took this photo of Chad Alice, me, and LaMoyne.

Natalie Goldberg at Scuppernong BooksThursday night was really special too. I went to Scuppernong Books and listened to Natalie Goldberg read from the re-released and revised Living Color. One of the reasons that I started writing for myself again was Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I realized that I could enjoy writing without judging myself and that made all the difference in the world to me. It has been a form of emotional release and a satisfying way to express myself since I was in middle school. I bought Living Color, which focuses on painting, but as with her writing books casts a large net over all creative expression, and Waking Up in America and Old Friend from Far Away, so I have some great books to read this summer. Another plus – I didn’t make a fool out of myself when she signed them, as I am prone to do with writers who I admire.

I’ll add a photo if I can get my Kindle Fire to connect to Wifi today. (Update: It’s a horrible photo but isn’t that window fabulous?) That is the only thing that I dislike about my Kindle. It does not play pretty with our Wifi at home or at Scuppernong Books. The bartender there explained that Kindles and indie bookstores don’t like each other, which makes sense, but we can’t figure out the problem at home since my laptop and my former Kindle connected just fine.

I met some interesting new people and saw a few friends there which makes me feel like I may be in the right place for me after all – an unusual feeling for me. I introduced Anne P. to M’Coul’s after the reading and booksigning.

Mama’s biopsy came back negative, but she still has to have the tumor removed because it is almost blocking her colon. Her surgery is not scheduled until May 2, and I’ll go down there for a week or so before and after the surgery. At age 90 any surgery is complicated and dangerous so we’ll play it by ear.

This also means that Sandy and I will probably put off our May vacation to another week later in the year. We were going to drive to St. Louis and go to Cahokia, a place that Sandy has wanted to visit for a long time. At least I had not bought plane tickets or made any unrefundable deposits.

A good friend’s position was lost to budget cuts at my place of work, due to our state government’s gutting of public education. I hope that they will find her another job in the university. Every freaking year since the GOP took over we have to worry about our staff co-workers losing their jobs, and every year the cuts get closer to the bone. I am weary of it.

Coffee is gone, will take a break and then post about the felted book workshop!

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Sunday morning coffee pot post

Collaborative weaving at Handweavers and Spinners of Rockingham meetingThis was one wild week.

It ended on a very positive note, so I’ll start with that. Elizabeth Lanier organized a new weavers’ guild, the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Rockingham County, which is about 20-30 minutes north of here. (Rockingham is also the county seat of Richmond County – just to make it clear that it is not the town of Rockingham.) She held the first meeting in her lovely house near Reidsville, and five people were in attendance. She set up a loom in her back yard for us to weave on, and we roasted marshmallows over a fire pit. I talked too much as usual. I also left several boxes of old Handwoven and Weavers magazines and weaving and fiber art related books to give away, which will still be there for the next meeting, so let me know if you are an area weaver or spinner or other kind of fiber artist and I’ll put you in contact with the group. I think that it will be a good one with weavers at all different levels of expertise, so if you are just beginning or even thinking about learning it will be a good experience for you.

Once again, I misplaced my real camera, so I took this photo with my Kindle. Awkward, but at least I can send photos over the web from it.

It’s interesting when you have an Internet presence for a long time and you run into someone who has followed you quietly. I’ve done this to other artists who have much bigger followings – introduced myself and then started talking about their life as I have been privy to it on their blog or Facebook page. It is a fabulous surprise and adrenalin rush, and before yesterday it had not happened to me in a long time, since the time when this blog was mostly about Slow Food and food politics and gardening. According to my stats (yes, I do check them now and then) I tend to believe that I have a handful of regular readers and the rest come by to leave spam comments. I lost a lot of readers when I switched to writing about my art and life other than food and Facebook got popular. I actually like this. I feel more open to say what I want to say when I stopped worrying about what others would like to read, and I’ve always used this blog and a website before it as my personal portal. Anyway, it feels great when you find out that you’ve influenced someone in a good way, which is why we bloggers LOVE comments.

We’ve moved the “entertainment center” from the back building to my studio without hurting ourselves. That was a real achievement. Today I’m planning to fill it with all the stuff currently stacked on the floor and chairs, and maybe weave a little. It’s been beautiful weather but another cold front with rain turning to snow is expected to come in today.

I paid my money for a small community garden plot at UNCG that gets good sun and I hope that I will have time to actually use it. I’m going to wait for this weather to roll through before I plant anything. I only had one indigo seed germinate, so I’ve replanted my seedling tray with golden marguerite, Roma and Cherokee Purple tomatoes, Hopi Red amaranth, and woad. I’ll plant some lettuce and spinach with protection from critters this time.

Blue skies on the way

At this point I figure that I’ve mostly lost everyone except a few stalwart readers so I’ll write briefly about the earlier part of my week. It most likely will bring a significant change to my life.

My sweet mama, after a couple of major GI tests and a CT scan last month that indicated that she probably had nothing worse than a hemorrhoid, decided to see another GI specialist on Tuesday. She assured us that she would not have a colonoscopy, which at age 90 can do more harm than good, but somehow, that’s what she ended up doing. Her boyfriend went with her because her children didn’t know that it was going to be any big deal. Mama has set up a pattern of going to doctors often to be told again that nothing has changed. I figure that if it gives her peace of mind and Medicare pays for it, okay.

So she comes out of anesthesia (which, by the way, can pop a 90 year old over the edge to dementia if they are close) and her boyfriend, who is mostly deaf is called in, she is groggy, and the nurse tells them that she has a large tumor and the biopsy results will probably be back next week.

I don’t get her on the phone Tuesday night but I figure everything is okay and her phone is often out of order. The next night I get a voice message from her (I didn’t make it to the phone fast enough) saying that she has my brother’s cell phone, and by the way, the procedure went well and she has a large tumor down there but she wasn’t worried about it so I shouldn’t worry either.

WOW. And that is all we know right now. I’ve talked to her a couple of times since and she honestly doesn’t seem to be very concerned. She isn’t in any more pain from this than she already is from sciatica and her terribly arthritic back. She’s looking forward to an art show in early April. And her phone line was eaten up by a nest of fire ants, and has been repaired.

But here is the back story. The short version. My father died of colon cancer at age 64, and it was a horror show. We all were traumatized by it, but only my sister and I have had the sense to get regular colonoscopies. This was nearly 30 years ago and I am still haunted by it, although not as fearful, thank God.

Mama doesn’t like for me to talk about her on Facebook, and I don’t think that anyone from home reads this blog, so I’m going to delete the post on Facebook (my blog posts automatically submit to the Slow Turn Studio FB page). If you do know Mama, I request that you not tell her that you read about this on the Internet, although it is no secret what she is going through in her circle of friends.


Filed under Back Forty, coffee pot posts, fiber art, Handweavers and Spinners of Rockingham, weaving