Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Okay, it is afternoon now. I just spent an hour writing a private grief filled post, so I got that out of my system. My guess is that I will go back to it and use it as a private diary. I want to share more here, and I know that as a writer it is vital to open up and have that vulnerability, but right now I don’t have a lot to give others, and I certainly need an outlet.

I finally finished moving the Tapestry Weavers South web site to the WordPress.com platform. The site itself is not finished but at least I have the main parts in place.

Anyway, we came home from the mountains a little over a week ago, with a stop in Mt. Airy on the way. It was a scary place – we happened to hit it on the first day of “Mayberry Days.” Around here the Andy Griffith Show is sacred and Mayberry was based on his hometown of Mt. Airy, which is not far away from Pilot Mountain (Mt. Pilot on the show). It is also an extremely politically red place. So not only were there crowds of maskless people and character impersonators like Barney Fife on Main St., there was a lot of Trumpy campaign stuff on the sidewalks and inside stores and on windows. The Snappy Lunch was packed.

Most of the time signs about masks and social distancing rules are for show and not enforced, but we did find one antique mall in the center of Main St. that was strict, even telling someone to leave who came in without a mask. I wish I had made note of the name of it.

Just off Main St. there was a safe, really good Japanese restaurant called Kazoku where we had a very late lunch. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend the sushi.

Since then, I have been working hard on the class schedule for Spring 2021, which due to budget cuts and a lot of uncertainty in the administration about what to do in the face of the pandemic, has been difficult. The way it is here, if classes go totally online, UNCG loses a lot of revenue from parking, dining, and residence halls. This, during a time when we had already been asked to make budget cuts because of a shortfall last year. So, it will come down to whether to cut the budget further, meaning salaries and staff, or make our campus safer and try to push on. So far, UNCG has been pretty safe as far as we can tell. When you drive through campus, most of the students are even wearing their masks outside.

Our main office suite was closed last week because of a Covid-19 exposure. So far, everyone who was in the room with the person has tested negative, and we will get back to “normal” this coming week.

I picked loads of “beautiful beans” last weekend, along with a few butterbeans that I didn’t even remember planting. The “beautiful beans” are actually heirloom field peas that my recently departed friend Pat Bush found in the bottom of a freezer in a farmhouse she rented. She started planting and developing the seed stock and gave me some. These peas are real winners – tasty and make a good broth, and the snaps (immature green pods) are good as well. I will have plenty of seed stock and I am giving away beans to some of our mutual friends for them to start their own seed stocks.

Also, I am going to give up my last UNCG garden plot once I am done with these.

I will miss Pat. She and I worked together in Slow Food and in the local food movement, and I loved her. I bought many of my plants and herbs from her. Almost a year ago when she made it to the School Climate Strike rally, she was feeling very optimistic about getting better and wanted to get more involved with the permaculture guild as a teaching elder. But one thing after another befell her until her body was overwhelmed. She was sick for about five years after she fell and broke her knee.

There are a lot of people who I care for who are very sick right now. I remember Mama talking about the worst part of getting old is seeing your friends get sick and die.

Anyway, back to the garden. Here are photos of my carrot and squash, yes, singular, from this year. However, our figs had an abundant second crop and I have frozen a lot of them. Right now I am pulling up all the peppermint that I can and drying it for tea or whatever.

Hopefully I will get it together enough to raise some food next year. Might have to be all onions and garlic and mint, since those are the only plants so far that the groundhogs won’t eat. Fencing and cages will need to be made this winter.

Okay, time for a very late lunch. Chicken clam corn chowder, sort of.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, Lake Waccamaw, Reading

Saturday morning coffee pot post

So much for my daily blogging routine. Poof! Oh well. I realized at some point in the last two weeks that if I didn’t stop pushing myself with all these “shoulds” my anxiety would never stop increasing. It is a problem very deep in my core that I nearly always feel like I should be doing something else. I am also by nature a very low energy, lazy person. Between the overwhelming anxiety and the guilt I feel, it is a perfect storm for shutting me down completely. August is traditionally a time of high anxiety for me anyway, with the new semester beginning and new students coming in.

I reminded myself that I am not an artist for a living. I do have a job that pays my bills. Art is for my pleasure and I have had artist blocks before. I always get my mojo back at some point but I always have to let it go first. Truly let it go, not try to get it back on a schedule. Hopefully my mojo will be back from vacation soon, but sometimes it travels far before I see it again.

For the past couple of weeks I have rearranged the studio room so that one table serves as my work office and there is nothing art-related to distract me on that table. UNCG finally got my new work laptop ready and it is a dream – very small and fast and works better than my desktop computer at work. Now I have this clunky laptop back for what I originally bought it for – blogging and photo editing and personal computer stuff. It couldn’t handle all that extra work stuff. The microphone died and the video cut in and out. Now that Zoom is my new reality, that was a problem.

It would be helpful if I could get into watching TV and movies but I just can’t do it for long. It has to be an incredibly gripping plot. Sandy will binge a whole series in a week or less. We both gave up on “How to Get Away with Murder” though. There is such a thing as overdoing it. I’m considering subscribing to HBO again for a while.

The heat wave here was so long and oppressively humid that there is NO gardening going on. I’ve gotten a few tomatoes and I always have my trusty little volunteer cherry tomatoes. The potatoes have been disappointing – low yield and bitter. I started picking figs and for the first time ever, encountered Japanese beetles on my tree. It is a huge tree and there will still be enough figs for me and the beetles but it was quite a shock the first time they burst out around my head in a swarm when I disturbed their feeding. If I ever make it to a hardware/gardening place where I feel safe I will buy some traps. And of course that fat groundhog is still munching its way through my yard. I have not visited my UNCG plots since early summer. I can’t seem to bring myself to do it.

Trying to decide if it is worth planting a fall garden. I would need to do it now, and it will have to be protected from furry critters. If I have to grow my own food, we just might starve to death, because the challenges are much greater than they were when I started the Back Forty in 2002.

Right now my main focus is keeping the jungle from taking over. I really need to find some help, but I’ve had such terrible luck with it that I keep putting it off.

Our tax refund is lost in limbo, and it’s the one with the big rebate payment for our solar panels. If we ever get it, I plan to pay off that loan. However, it is impossible to get anybody on the phone, and the online system says it doesn’t exist. This was the first time in years that we mailed it in, and we did it in early April. Probably the worst decision of the year.

I also need to call Orbitz about my plane ticket to Ireland. They were supposed to get back to me about the amount of time I have to redeem the credit from Aer Lingus. I’m afraid that by the time I can go back the airfare will be 3x as much as my credit is, since I got such a good deal.

I’m going to copy this part about reading “The Luminaries” directly from Facebook, but with an update that I am now on page 447. I have a hard time NOT finishing a book. It’s an OCD rule.

“So, you know how you buy a book that received awards but mixed reviews but you bought it anyway because it seemed like something you’d like and just as you thought about ditching it it got a tad more interesting and so you figured you would keep on reading even though you couldn’t read more than ten minutes at a time before laying it down because you are so bored and now you are 393 pages in and weeks have gone by and it seems like an investment at this point but the book is 830 pages long and you wonder about the meaning of life and then put it down to reread a book by Annie Proulx that you loved when you read it in the 90s but you drank so much back then that you killed the brain cells that remembered the plot so that all you remember is an accordion and a spider and you’re not sure about the spider and so it seems like you never read it? Well. That’s me right now.”

Back to dreaming and wishing and porch sitting in front of the fan. Here are the last photos from Lake Waccamaw that I never got around to posting. They are from sunrise on one of my last days there. I ended up staying for two weeks.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, collage, Coronavirus Chronicles

Sunday Coffee Pot Post

I needed some way to kickstart my art practice, and it wasn’t happening at home. So I am back at the lake house, a bit earlier than planned, but right now is probably the best time as far as the amount of work I have to do for the real job. I will be teleworking from here some days. I need to decide what days to mark off as shut off the work email and concentrate on art vacation days. Originally I had scheduled about a week’s worth of vacation time in late July, but those plans fell into the black hole of COVID. I have lots of vacation time – I may not get many pay raises from the state of North Carolina, but they give a lot of time off instead. I have much saved up from earlier years of receiving “bonus” time rather than raises, time that I saved in case I needed it for my mother’s care. Now that is sadly not an issue, although I am relieved that she is not here to go through this pandemic in a nursing home. She would have been miserable beyond belief.

This post is to catch up a bit on the days between my last stay down here, and to set up a blogging (journaling) practice every day while I’m here rather than do it all when I get back. I am by myself, and I’ve got time.

First, here is some of the finished collage work that I mounted on wooden panels over the past few weeks. There is nothing really new here except that I worked into some of them with ink and pencil and pens. Many thanks to my online collage teachers: Crystal Neubauer, Melinda Tidwell, and Roxanne Stout.

^”Visitor” 4×4″

^”Monkey Mind” 4×4″

^”Handmade” 4×4″

^”Warrior Woman” 4×4″

“Illustrated Question Box” 8×8″

Without a doubt I have spent the most time on “Illustrated Question Box.” It has so many layers and has changed meaning for me as it has evolved. Included materials are a 1931 newspaper from Oroville, Colorado and an illustration from a book on eugenics around the same time period, and materials gleaned from paperback and hardback books that I rescued.

Here is the one that is in progress right now:

“Shimmering Light” – working title, 8×8″

As a Dudeist priestess, I realize that I am supposed to hate the fucking Eagles, man, but the lyrics to “Hotel California” resonate for me right now. The image is a copy of my grandmother’s wedding photo. She died of a sinus infection in the 1930s, so I never met her.

And I love the fucking Eagles and I don’t smoke pot, so maybe I should switch religions to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and become a Pastafarian.

The image at the top of the post is my back yard in bloom with evening primrose, feverfew, and purple coneflower (since I can’t spell echinacea right now). I think that I’ll put it into the rotating banner or in the background.

The next photos are from the front garden. It isn’t blooming much this time of year, but I had requests on Facebook to post photos of it. I recognize that the diversity of greens, textures, smells, and shapes of foliage are quite wonderful, but I didn’t think that it would translate to photography. Often I sit on my screened porch and people walking by don’t see me. They lean down and stroke the herbs for their smells and the lambs ears for texture. I’ve been told that it is a green oasis on a hot day. So here is a walk past my house.

Now I’m going to check out a few free online workshop previews to see if I want to buy them. Not that I don’t have enough online art stuff going on already! Hopefully, if my mental health doesn’t take a dip, there will be at least one post per day, if not more.

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.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles

Saturday morning-slash-afternoon coffee pot post

Equal Exchange Mind, Body, and Soul. Whole bean coffee. Deep Roots Market volunteers shopped for me today, and I got almost all I needed: mostly a lot of fresh produce and dairy. I was going to get delivery, but driving the car a mile away seems like a pleasure trip now so we picked it up curbside. Co-operatives rock, when they work for their owners, as ours is now doing that as hard as it can! We are good on most supplies, having prepped for possible disaster long ago, and we did a Costco delivery for the things I couldn’t get at Deep Roots a couple of weeks ago. Our freezers and pantry are mostly full, but we were nearly out of fresh food.

I read back through my posts for the last few weeks and they are really boring. Even I couldn’t get through some of them. The main purpose here is to sweep out my brain, though.

Work cranked up big time this week and I’ve had plenty to do. My ergonomic situation and inability to get massage therapy requires that I take a lot of long breaks. My original plan was to strictly separate my work hours and my off hours, like I do normally. However, I am considering catching up on some work this weekend, since I sent out a buttload of emails yesterday that are drawing responses today. I did not go to the office to get my chair. I suspect that I am sliding into agoraphobia again so Sandy and I took a walk around the neighborhood yesterday evening. It felt good, and I will do more of it. Let’s see if I can muster up the will to go get my chair.

My seed starting indoors has been very, very disappointing. I obviously am doing something wrong. The only seedlings that are doing well are the one luffa gourd seedling and the cucumbers. I think that part of the problem is that I am not watering from below like I did before. I just cut down the big new seedling tray so that it fits better into the tray below and am beginning to do that. As soon as the few tomato and pepper seedlings that are growing get their second set of true leaves, I am going to transplant them into larger containers.

There were a couple of evenings this week when I couldn’t get my mind off regrets, and my anger at the idiots who continue to destroy this democracy. It seems that this virus might take out some of the most stubborn reality deniers, with their insistence that a certain percentage of deaths is okay and that the most important thing is for them to go and do whatever they please. The problem is that they are going to take a lot of innocent people with them. This bit about older and the most vulnerable being expendable is horrifying and I feel like we are moving closer to Nazi America every day.

Which is why I want to stay home where I feel safe.

My refunds for my Ireland trip and book workshop/anniversary weekend at Topsail Beach are rolling in bit by bit. I paid for much of my travel ahead of time this year – took it out of my savings. So it is going back to the money market account in the hope that I will repay it and go back to Ireland next year. I just emailed with Lora at Essence of Mulranny Studio and she is putting the non-refundable deposit down for a mixed media encaustic workshop in late May/early June. A few refunds are still outstanding – some from Hotels.com and I have not canceled my plane ticket yet because it was through Orbitz and they are asking to wait until closer to the flight times. I think that my flight insurance will cover the plane tickets because I bought it separately through Orbitz at the same time that I booked the flight. Or maybe I will be able to rebook for next year without losing much. We will see, I guess. Boy do I hate to give up that sweet round trip deal – altogether it is about $700. May is a beautiful time in Ireland with the wildflowers in bloom – however, I have not been there any other time of year, so my bet is that anytime in Ireland is beautiful.

This has raised my spirits. Investing in the idea that I might be able to return.

My other planned trip this year is to the Handweavers Guild of America Convergence in Knoxville, Tennessee in late July. I am registered for two tapestry workshops with Tommye Scanlin and Molly Elkind. I made a hotel reservation but I didn’t pay for it. I expect that Convergence will probably be canceled and that I will get a partial refund. That decision will be made soon, and in a way I hope that it will be canceled and it will be settled, even though I will be sad about the missed workshops. Our tapestry guild is heavily involved in this Convergence. Also, it is in driving distance for a change which is nice. Sandy is going to go with me if it happens. The government of Tennessee hasn’t been very responsible about stay-at-home orders, so they may have a late spike, and that is why I am pretty much already over it.

Which leaves the Dan Essig workshop at the beginning of August at Leslie Marsh’s studio in Topsail Beach. I am resigned to the idea that it too may be canceled. Hopefully Lake Waccamaw will open up to non-residents by mid-summer and we will be able to go to the lake house and see my sister for a while. I miss her.

We got the stimulus direct deposit and I immediately used all mine to pay for Diego’s dental bill. It is gone! Boy, I was glad to get it, considering so many people have not.

Now. I can’t believe that I have gone back to this post since this morning and edited and now it is 3:00 p.m.! The whole day has gone pffft!!! It amazes me the way time moves during this time. I thought it would move so slowly, but for me, it is gone in a flash.

Books: Finished The Tiger’s Wife and The Secret Chord this week. Geraldine Brooks and Annie Proulx have to write more fiction because I have read all their novels and short stories. I will look for Inland by Téa Obreht. I also need to pull my RSV Bible off the shelf and reread Kings to refresh my memory about what the Old Testament says about David. What a bloody history!

Which book shall I start next? I have so many!

Diego: his last visit went well, and they did not have to take out his stitches.

I think that I will use the last of the warp on my rigid heddle loom to play with wedge weave. Seems like a rigid heddle is perfect for packing down the wefts on an angle. Photos later.