Back Forty, Coronavirus Chronicles, More gardening, Solar energy

Sunday morning coffee pot post

I’m finishing up my coffee before I go for a social distanced walk with a friend.

The Covid-19 news just keeps getting worse. Looks like we will have to be isolated for a very long time, mainly because of a bunch of yahoos that think they’re invincible and we are disposable. At least I can work from home or isolate in my office, although I don’t think that I will want to use the bathroom after classes begin. My prediction is that there will be a much worse second wave at the end of summer and classes will go online again. We haven’t hit the peak of the first wave here yet.

It’s tiresome, to say the least.

In other news, we have highs in the 80s now so I planted my tomatoes, etc. The Romas and squash don’t look so happy. The Better Boys and volunteer tomatoes (I hope that they are Cherokee Purple) are doing fine. Knock wood – even though the peppermint and feverfew are a pain to deal with, they seems to be keeping the groundhogs at bay so far. I took before photos that I hope will improve later:

The front hugelkultur/herb garden is looking good. Still need to plant my basil. I did not hear from the guy who I hoped to hire to help me in the garden. It is very frustrating trying to hire help and there is so much that I need help with because of tendinitis. I wonder if we will have to abandon this home for a condo or townhouse eventually. I hope not. Sandy can’t handle it all even if he was willing. (Rant deleted.)

First radish is always mine.

Positive note: For the first time in several months we produced more solar energy than we consumed. I changed most of our light bulbs to LEDs and I’ve been drying most of my clothes on racks instead of using the dryer and washing dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher.

Sourdough was not as much of a success this week, and of course I had offered a loaf to my next-door neighbor before it came out of the oven. I jinxed it. Halving the recipe seems to make it more manageable. Next time I will let it rise longer. It didn’t rise in the oven at all.

I received my order from Dick Blick yesterday with LOTS of small cradled wood panels. My neighbor across the street who is an accomplished artist said that I could participate in his studio sale in the Fall. We’ll see if that happens, but it did light a fire in me. He has always been meh about my fiber art but he was enthusiastic about my collages. So even though I sound depressed right now I am actually kind of excited. I am going to bring a work table onto the porch and gesso some panels today.

Not much reading happening since I finished Bridge of Sighs. It’s hard to get going on a new book and I don’t want anything very depressing. I’m reading The Juniper Tree, a compilation of Grimm fairy tales illustrated by Maurice Sendak right now. Wonderful illustrations – I am tempted to cut some pages out and frame them.

TV – Ozark and Doc Martin right now. Sandy binged through Ozark. I just can’t watch TV for that long, so I’m at the end of the first season. At first I didn’t think that I could watch it but I powered through and became hooked on the plot and the excellent writing. Doc Martin for Cornwall and comic relief, although the soundtrack is making me crazy by sticking in my head.

From my walk with Susanne last Sunday:

Also, it was our 33rd anniversary yesterday. Hard to believe! So many travel memories from this time of year too. Vacillating between feeling sad and enjoying the photos.

Coronavirus Chronicles

Shopping Covid-19 Style

We went inside a local grocery store last night because they carried a few items that I was out of, plus SMITHWICK’S ALE, and I am somewhat sorry that we did. We decided to do it because they are one of the few stores around here that are requiring face coverings. Although I am excited to have Duke’s mayonnaise again (it’s the little things these days, right?) I had a disturbing conversation with the cashier.

I am of the opinion that food workers who process food and who deal with the public (grocery cashiers, managers, stockers, wait staff) are front line workers. I am well aware that health care workers are at the front of the front line, in the gravest danger. But everybody has got to eat, and as a former cashier/retail manager I know how difficult it can be to deal with the public. I also know firsthand about being the working poor, with no sick leave. Now with people actually getting killed by domestic terrorists for simply trying to do their jobs to abide by their employer’s rules, these workers are definitely on the front line.

So, I was a bit chatty, and I had a few bucks in my pocket and I tipped the cashier, telling him that I appreciated him being on the front line. I had wanted to do that for the curbside delivery people but it was contactless and paid ahead of time online. We are not rich by any means, but we didn’t really need our stimulus payment because I am still working and Sandy is getting his Social Security payments – it went to paying off Diego’s vet bill and paying off debt, so I have been tipping generously and donating to charity.

The response I received surprised me. He told me that he was not on the front line, that he was there because he had to be, that he had heard that from several people and for personal reasons it was somewhat offensive to him to be told that. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I tried to explain my reasoning and told him to split the tip with his co-worker if he wanted. I could just see the anger and the words “fuckin’ Karen” behind his eyes, even though his tone was flat and polite. I wasn’t going to argue with him – he has a right to his feelings and who knows what his personal reasons were. Maybe he had a bad day.

We won’t be going back into a grocery store for a long time, unless absolutely necessary, because the cases are still increasing in North Carolina. It was strange to feel so excited about being able to walk through the aisles and picking items from the shelves, as if we were in an American grocery store for the first time – they have this! And this! I also went to Walgreen last Sunday after my walk with Susanne because we needed distilled water and toilet paper, and I felt the same way. There weren’t many shoppers and they were pretty good except for one couple without face coverings, who I easily avoided. There was hand sanitizer for customers to use next to the door. (There was no toilet paper, but Deep Roots Market got me some later.)

But now I feel so anxious that we made this grocery trip. It wasn’t necessary – I wanted Duke’s mayonnaise and I wanted to shop a local merchant who was good about safety precautions. But there was no sanitizer and many of the customers who were there to buy beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets only had bandannas tied around their faces. We washed up as soon as we got home and tossed our masks into the washing machine. I was awake until 2 a.m. thinking about all this.

We have got to make sure that everybody has access to personal protection before we open up everything. Maybe we can’t force people to do it, but we can make sure that they have the choice to wear it. The cashier told me that some customers were pissed off about the face covering requirement. I told him that they were also going to get new customers because of it because people on Facebook were spreading the word to those who were looking for food stores with these requirements.

I feel so fortunate that I do not work in retail any more.

coffee pot posts, collage, Coronavirus Chronicles, More gardening, Slow Food

Saturday Coffee Pot Post

In which I can drink coffee in the afternoon, thank you very much.

The official word is that I will be teleworking from home at least until May 22. I can still go to my office if I really need to, but my employer’s policy is for me to work at home. Right now I don’t see any reason to go in unless I absolutely have to scan something or I lose Internet connection.

I broke through some of my lethargy this week. Susanne and I took a walk last Sunday and I planted “beautiful beans” in the UNCG plot, a local heirloom crowder pea that Pat Bush gave me a couple of years ago that I planted and saved last year. I picked the last of the Rouge d’Hiver lettuce that didn’t begin to bolt in the warm weather.

Gave up on the seed starting totally. Everything is dead now. So I supported a local farmer, John Handler at Weatherhand Farms, and bought Roma, Better Boy, pepper, squash, eggplant, and snapdragon plants from the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market drive through market this morning. They are under the grow light inside for a few days until this polar vortex clears out. Also bought a pound of shrimp from George (NC Seafood) so there will be good eatin’ tonight.

Greg gave me some milkweed seed balls and I planted them on Wednesday in the herb/flower garden in the front.

I finally baked two large sourdough bread loaves from Carol’s starter and it turned out great! It didn’t kill my hands and wrists to knead it either. Next time I will divide this into four small loaves so I can give some away. I don’t have a big enough bowl to make more at one time.

I finished two matching face coverings for Sandy and I. This one has a filter inside and I can breathe through it, or maybe my allergies have gotten a lot better. (See top photo.) Now that I am comfortable with this I will make a few more and definitely play with my sewing machine more. Make some of the pleated styles.

The thing that really picked me up was the day I returned to these collages and finished them. Then I ordered a bunch of wood panels and mats from Dick Blick, along with some acrylic glazing liquid and Yes paste, which Crystal Neubauer recommends for an adhesive that doesn’t make the collage paper curl up, which is my biggest problem. Between her workshop and Melinda Tidwell’s workshop, which I did as a remote group with Triangle Book Arts, I am learning a lot about collage, and also gaining more confidence about not necessarily following the “rules.” Crystal refers to her style as intuitive collage, and I relate to that much more strongly. I am looking forward to mounting some of these collages and making a couple of gallery pages for this site in the next few months.

I cut up “Illustrated Question Box” and made it smaller. Pulled the story together.

The other one is called “100 Doses One Dollar” and I did most of it at the beginning of March. It directly relates to the Covid-19 pandemic and our country’s response to it. The saving grace, I think, was adding three small shark’s teeth that I found at North Topsail Beach several years ago. They look a little like hearts, don’t they? They are deceptive.

Oh, I am angry. Make no mistake about it. But I am moving into acceptance about the things we must do to survive the pandemic, with anger about the people who are misleading citizens, profiteering, destroying our constitutional checks and balances, suppressing votes, and literally killing. There must be anger, and action, and resistance against domestic terrorism and this fascist authoritarian regime.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, fiber art

Saturday Morning Coronavirus Chronicle Chapter

With coffee and hot cocoa mix.

Absolutely had an emotional meltdown last night. Part of my problem is that I am addicted to playing games when I am depressed. It keeps my mind occupied without the overwhelming reality of the world intruding. But it is wreaking havoc on my body – my right arm is burning, my muscles are turning to fat, my hips are begging to get out of bed. I want to sleep more than anything in the world now. Even if I was one of those lucky people (cue my husband) who can fall asleep as soon as they close their eyes, my body is preventing it because it is in pain.

After this blog post, which I’ve promised myself to write at least once a week, I am going to try to go offline and no games or e-books for two days. I’ll allow myself TV, but no news.

It is going to be a beautiful weekend outside and I am going to get out in the fresh air and put my hands in the dirt. I do have to be careful because this is the danger time each year when I get so happy in the garden that I overdo and really hurt myself. I don’t have my massage therapy available, although I could still go to a chiropractor. I transferred my sad little seedlings to pots mid-week, only to find them dug up by squirrels. Guess I will be buying my tomato and pepper plants this year, other than the volunteers that I found in the garden.

I am also going to drive someplace new and walk. Sandy wants to walk too, but he is having some kind of painful ankle issue. We have been walking around the block once a day. One of my neighbors built a little free library which she and her neighbor also stock with a few food items. We have enjoyed some good conversations with our neighbors on the other side of our block.

I made a prototype mask last week that worked pretty well. It has a pocket for an extra filter, and I found a pack of cheap masks in my art supplies so pulled the elastic off for other masks and tucked one in. I found that I couldn’t breathe well enough with the filter in though, maybe for a few minutes but after that I’d be in danger of passing out. Allergies, I guess. So I took it back out. I made the patterns for the next ones longer so that they will cover the chin more, and have room for Sandy’s beard.

That forked stick I am holding is one on which I’ve been weaving shells with holes in them. I’m calling it my magic stick.

The elastic for this one is a long hair band that never worked well for holding back my hair. I’m glad I kept them anyway with the shortage of elastic! It measured 19 inches and the instructions called for 11 inches on each side. No problem – a safety pin took care of it.

As for the rigid heddle weaving, it is too painful for my hands/arms right now so I am not going to finish the wedge weave. Sometimes you got to know when to quit. I am sick of those colors anyway.

I think it is time to get back to doing collage. Probably it is the easiest on my hands, since I have a lot of pieces already cut and torn up.

“Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo is a wonderful book.

It looks like I might be returning to work on May 8. Sandy says this is too soon, but in my circumstances I think it will be okay, and maybe better for my state of mind. I have my own office, and all the summer classes are online. Hardly anybody is in the building. I am tempted to take some vacation time later anyway if Lake Waccamaw opens to non-residents, and go down and do art at the lake house for a week. The problem would be getting someone to feed our cats for that long. Sandy does not want to try to take them with us. I think it would be okay. They would be too freaked out to try to escape.

Still longing for Ireland. Sandy says, think of all the good things you have here. That is true. I am lucky. I still long for Ireland. Travel in general, really. The anticipation of it has been my saving grace for almost twenty years now. Thinking of the awful circumstances of other people only worsens my depression – it is not a suffering contest and if it is I don’t want to win it.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, Reading, weaving

Saturday morning coffee pot post

Scenes from my front garden:

This Virginia Creeper vine grabbed one of my rocks from my collection atop this low wall a couple of years ago and it is still hanging onto it. Those are some strong tendrils!

I washed and ironed fabric to make masks with earlier this week, and hauled out Mama’s Singer, but before I could get to it my left wrist suddenly hurt so bad it felt like it was broken. After babying it for a day it got much better, then my right hand started hurting, although not nearly as bad. So I walked to my office, and worked there for several hours, and brought home my ergonomic keyboard. Much better. Yesterday I went back to my office for half a day. I get so much more done there, and hardly anyone is in the building. It is locked and you have to be on a list and swipe an ID card to get in. I will go back Monday morning, and haul that keyboard back and forth in my backpack.

This week and next is my crunch time at work, and it has always been so, but some deadlines actually got moved UP so it is even more stressful as I try to keep up with new processes, policies, and software.

I was in a Zoom meeting yesterday where the person talking referred to “hair on fire” moments. What a great description of how I am feeling sometimes!

The walk to work is always nice. This is the iris patch that I got my iris tubers from. They tilled it up a few years ago and some pieces were on the sidewalk, so I nabbed them. I like that the vetch and cleavers are surrounding it.

The herb garden is doing well. Those pots will eventually have peppers in them. My seedlings are still not growing so I will transfer them to the greenhouse at some point this weekend and start some more seeds.

Let’s see, what else. Reading “Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo, one of my favorite writers. On my library app is “Swamplandia,” which I feel meh about so far, and “The Essex Serpent.”

On TV, the most recent season of “Better Call Saul” was excellent. I am watching “Star Trek Picard” until my CBS All Access subscription is over. Turns out I was paying for it twice, and it has been so confusing that I just cut off the auto-renewal for both of the accounts. We should buy an antenna.

Really, there is SO much good TV on that I am overwhelmed with the choices and go back to my books, where I have always found comfort.

Every April I have anxiety attacks and I used to beg my mother not to schedule our big family reunion at the end of April but she did it anyway. Usually I go to the lake for Easter weekend and get some water therapy there. Only residents are allowed there right now, and I can’t blame them. I miss my sister. Most days I am functioning fine, but some nights I cry and don’t sleep. Once I get through this month, I know I will feel better, even without my normal travel to look forward to.

Sandy went to the doctor’s office for a diabetes check and he said that there was nobody there except a few staff members and his physician’s assistant. We have been walking more.

Before the hand issues, I had started playing with wedge weave on the rigid heddle loom. I think that I will only do two rows, though. Not super into it.