Wow, at 10:20 a.m. the heat index here is already at 105 degrees. It will definitely be an indoor weekend for us. Sandy is not supposed to go out for long in temps above 85 and I’ve never been able to take the heat. One of many reasons I’d like to move to northwest North America, but it would be a extremely slim chance that I would give up my great job willingly. Something terrible would have to happen, like what happened at Greensboro College, and I can’t foresee that possibility at all. I loved my job at Greensboro College, too. It’s just that its leader at the time didn’t care about his employees. I’m so glad that they have turned things around, but I’m sad that it was after so many good people either were fired unjustly or driven out by outrageousness.

Whoa, how did I end up there? Well, the coffee pot post is supposed to be stream-of-consciousness, an exercise in writing constantly until my little 4 cup coffee pot runs out. I do it on weekends or holidays when I have plenty of time and I try to do it at least weekly.

Now that that lil bit of angst has been blown out of my system, I can report a much better week with the hand problem.

I’m planning to make paper today if Susanne can make my pulp this morning. It’s so hot and the mosquitoes are so bad that if she can’t do it, I’ll hope to do it tomorrow. Lifting vats of water is the only problem here, and Sandy can help me with that. The rest I should be able to do without much pain as long as I take lots of breaks, because I’m doing it with both hands in balance, rather than holding a needle and my hands in tension.

I’ve been preparing okra stalks all week. These are stalks that Charlie brought to me last fall when the Montessori school garden was cleaned up for winter. I broke some up to store in the studio, but most of them I left on the ground on top of pine needle mulch under the pear tree to break down over the winter. Then I forgot about them.

So, the first step was to remove all the ants and pillbugs that had taken up residence in them. I busted them up into pieces small enough to fit in my canning pot, and didn’t notice the ants until the frantic exodus when I filled the pot with water to soak the stalks. So out they went to the deck for the first night, ants carrying the eggs of the colony to find a safer place. I hate ants, and I love ants. It’s complicated.

I noticed a few paper fiber-capable plants around the deck to add: joe-pye weed stalks, day lily flower stems, and a dracaena-like houseplant that never made it through repotting. So I added those to the mix. The black fibers on the outside of the okra stalks were literally peeling off on their own.

I soaked the stalks the next day, and boiled them that night with soda ash for a couple of hours. Inside, so it was stinky even with the range hood fan on. It was too stormy outside to do it, and I was determined to get this done so that I could scratch my itch to do something art-wise. Sandy helped me put the pot on the deck, and I left them to soak in the soda ash water for the night and day.

The next night, I rinsed the stalks and poured the soda ash water out in a part of the yard where I’m trying to kill the undergrowth. You do not want to pour soda ash water in your garden, too caustic. I did this just until the water ran mostly clear, as I could not deal with the skeeters having me for supper any more.

The next night, I took the stalks inside and worked on them in my kitchen sink. I cut the tender stalks down to pieces of 1-2 inches and pulled the outside fibers off the tough stalks, then rinsed them until the water ran clear through a screen. The tough stalk pieces went into the compost pile.

Last night, I took them to Susanne, who will beat these along with some abaca fiber into pulp in her hollander beater for me.

That’s the saga of the beginning process. Now maybe you know why I charge so much for my handmade paper books! Recycled paper is much easier, but there is something appealing to me about getting down to the essentials of a thing. I love the earthiness of natural paper.

Pictures later? Maybe. Stay cool, y’all.