Saturday, December 27, 2008

Soothing the tired rocking out.

Well, after this last few days of blizzards, house fires and general mayhem I am taking a day off to recharge. I got up today and decided that I needed to do nothing involving work if I was going to get my mojo back in order. Iam a tomboy type of woman, who enjoys physical activity to bring myself around to equilibrium. Like a good jog around the neighborhood, bench pressing heavy weights, or hiking. BUT the roads are way too sloppy and dangerous to go running, the gym is closed, so I fell back to plan B.
Music and film therapy.

Film therapy means watching Lord of the Rings from beginning to end, not in one go mind you, but over several evenings with the Hubbinator. If anything can get me feeling triumphant and uplifted it's watching the defeat of the Dark Lord and the return of the King to Gondor.
Hunky pants heroes overcoming peril, massive battles, gorgeous sets, gorgeous New Zealand, love triumphs over fear..blah blah blah..
I try not to go all swooney over the surly type A Boromir, but hey, it is Sean Bean, and Iam only mortal. Yes, Viggo is lovely, but I like them bad boys.- but not too bad.

I just liked the song, not the dude..
The music part involves me, the computer, and the groovy site called LastFM. While I blog away the dulcet tones of the sounds of the 70's burble along in the back ground. For some reason it's all those damn soft rock songs and Glam anthems from my pre-teen years that are making me feel less, oh weirded out by the days events. Bands like Sweet, 10 Cc, Pilot, Bread, Bay City Rollers, and Peter Frampton. His tune " I'm in You" brought me out of my funk..

Upon hearing the opening chords of that song I was transported back in time, back to a day when I had feathered hair, ugly glasses and my virginity..Back to those groovy days, when my best friend The Blonde Biologist and I would sit in her room listening to the lastest hits. On a transistor radio. AM yet. One tinny speaker, and a broken antenna patched with scotch tape.
As the tunes kept coming We'd discuss boys, how to catch a boy, which boys were "foxy" and, being country girls: horses. We were after all 12 . It was all about horses and boys in those preteen days...Hunters, jumpers and that cute guy who sat behind me in homeroom...No cares except homework, days of freedom riding horses, camping, and hunting. Simple days.
So it's no wonder that the Ball Room Blitz by Sweet can still make me feel like jumping up and down with estatic, happy joy. There is a time for Zeppelin, and a time for Sweet. Today it was Sweet.

Fire and Ice

Off a snow shoeing...

The Neighbors House Before...
Some of you may have noticed my lack of blogging, or emailing, or commenting on your blogs as of late. Or not. Part of this has to do with the gigantic snow storm that hit us the week before Yule. Part of it due to a fire. We had almost two feet of dry, fluffy snow turn Portland into a Nordic wonderland. Temps hovered around 20 degrees f. during the day. We broke out the snow shoes and went on treks through the neighborhood, marvelled at how a snow fall can utterly transform the landscape into something magical. It was all very Currier and Ives, we were cozy in our house, a fire in the grate, gluhwien in my cup, a fully stocked larder of Yuletide goodies to eat.

Then the ice storm came and massive limbs off of the Doug fir trees started crashing down, ripping out power lines. Small trees fell over from the weight of snow and ice. Roofs caved in, thousands lost power. The falling trees blocked roads, and gave the already harried power company more work to do. Meanwhile the roads became passable only for those with tire chains and four wheel drives(like we have on our truck).
I know, people who live in Michigan and Oslo deal with huge amounts of snow every winter, but this is Portland Oregon. Snow down here in the valley is a rare thing, so when we do get blessed with the stuff the city shuts down, and everyone goes snow mad.
We had a wonderful Solstice/Yule evening. The Hubbinator, the cats, and Myself. Many dear and wonderful friends called to send their greetings of the season, warm wishes and regards.
The snow fell softly outside on the longest night of the year...

So fast forward to Christmas morning. The exact opposite of the serene solstice..
"Wake up! Wake up! The neighbors house is on fire!!!!" Iam being shaken awake by the Hubby.
Jolted out of a deep dream I awake to see my neighbors 5 year old boy, dressed in his pyjamas, standing by the bed, wide eyed and scared. Oh crap. They run back out of the bedroom. I follow.
When I enter the living room I see the neighbor's two boys sitting on our sofa, watching their house burn.. I don't know how to put it any other way. The teenage son is on his cel phone calling family. He sits next to his little brother, holding him. The adults are all outside watching in stunned horror, when I hear the fire engines roaring down the hill. Lucky we have a fire house just blocks away.
"Our kitties!" cries the 5 year old...He looks at me with those big eyes, and starts to cry..all I can do is hold him, and tell him he's safe..Try to distract him..."Look at the brave firemen fighting the fire.. watch them being so brave!" Brave like he is right now..His brother tells me their Aunt is on the way to get them..I go and round up some warm sweaters, some snow boots for their bare feet. Their Aunty arrives, and whisks them away to their Grandmothers up the road.

I see my Hubby and the Father of the boys jump in to help a lone fireman drag a huge fire hose to the fire hydrant half a block away..the snow makes it hard for them to walk.....the trucks hoses didn't charge at first..the flames leap higher...everyone looks panicked...Then the hoses leap to life, the flames are belching from the windows of the house as the water hits them. The black smoke turns to steam...

People come and go from my house. Endless cups of coffee. Shock, tears. Hugs. Trying to comfort our friends...making sure everyone has what they need..
I stand in my kitchen, the drama playing out before me drags me back to a cold, icy winter night. I was 12, standing in a sleet storm watching our house burn..the wind whipping our night clothes, the ice stinging our skin. The flames reflected in my Mother's tears..
The blaze beautiful in it's fury..Our lives changed in an instant that stormy night so long ago..

Iam snapped back to the present when I see our neighbor standing in the blackened door of his house. In his arms he carries the still, limp form of their beloved calico cat. He carries her out, and lays her down gently beside the two blanket covered bodies of their other cats.
Oh hell...I know he's heartsick..but he's being so strong..

The rest of the morning passes.. By early afternoon the fire is out for sure, the house is boarded up, the family is safe. They head out to relatives houses, thanking us for our help. We assure them it was nothing, it's what you do for folks when something like that happens.
The entire event brought up some old scary memories for me, but showed me that when the shit hits the fan I know I will respond calmly. My Hubby, well, he was amazing. I know that our Neighbors have a long road ahead....they lost their home, their beloved pets..They are rich with family who care, and friends. That's so important now...
How did it happen?
Our neighbors had just opened their gifts on Christmas morning. When someone heard the electric breaker box trip with a loud "Click!" Within in minutes the house was engulfed in smoke and fire. They had enough time to get themselves and their dog out. They tried to save the cats but they ran back in, and by then the heat and smoke was overwhelming...
The fire inspector suspects an overloaded power cord...but who knows for sure. The space that it started in is a total pile of charred mess..
So, go and hug your beloveds, check up on all your electrical, and make sure you have a plan. It can save lives.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Comes...

Frost and Fire
Winter is here, nature tells me this, not the Astronomers..Frost covered everything one cold morning last week.. It sparkled like sugar on the roof of our smithy, the fallen leaves, the branches of our apple trees.
The above picture captures it as it began to melt, the twisted damascus billet caught my eye with it's contrasting lines.
Our bellows and upturned forge were completely frosted. but it soon melted off.

Now we await a big , Arctic air mass to descend, and plunge us into Winter proper. With 5 inches of snow here in the valley, several feet of snow up in the mountains, and 20 degree temps. I know.. some people have long, dark, cold, snow filled Winters that would put our moderate ones to shame, what you have to understand is I love snow. I like it when the ponds freeze over so thick you can go skating. When the snow stays awhile.. school is called off, snowmen last more than an afternoon, the woods become cathedrals to Winter's I say Wassail! Bring it on! Snow a blanket of white , the great equalizer.
Good thing we have a fresh stack of firewood!

Got Wood?The Big Dead Doug Fir Awaits Our Saw..
The wonderful Eileen offered us some firewood that was standing on her property. All we had to do was come and cut it down..So we did. For the last few days we took a break from forge work to go fetch firewood. It was truly a community effort. Eileen, Mother Hen, Big Phil, the Hubbinator and Myself chainsawed, bucked, split, loaded, un-loaded and stacked two trees.
Eileen owns one of the nicest chunks of Oregon woods you'd ever like to see. It's secluded, and tranquil and when I am there I never want to leave. It was cold and not raining when we got there, which is a happy thing.It stayed dry too, and the sun came out to warm us.
This brought out the fungus..

Fungus on the Forest Floor
The forest floor was covered in little mushrooms of every variety, some edible, some will surely send you straight to the underworld with liver failure..So we just admired them and skipped the potential dying part..

Long ago woodsmen used what was called a "Misery Whip", or a big, long two handles saw. Two men on either end of the saw would whip back and forth, putting their entire bodies into motion to get the saw through the tree. It took great endurance, will, and was miserable work. Hence Misery Whip. We however used a chain saw instead. Sure we love our living history nerdiness, but sometimes that can be impractical..
Dan elected to run the saw, manly man that he is..The rest of us stood back, well back and spotted the top of the tree. If it moved, even a bit, we had to yell so Dan (and the rest of us)could get the hell out of the way.

TIMBER!!!-Well, sort of...
Dan ran the saw, as Eileen gave him moral support, and direction on the cuts needed. I would have gotten a shot of him sawing, but I was too engrossed with the suspense of it all and completely forgot I had a camera in my pocket.....Some photo journalist Iam...
Chainsaw growling and buzzing like a mad hornet Dan made the proper cuts in the truck that would get the tree to fall in the right spot. He was calm on the outside, but I knew inside he was nervous..It's a dangerous thing sawing down a tree.
The tree began to gently sway, we all shouted "There it goes!" Dan and Eileen scampered quickly out of the way.The mighty fir began to fall, we all watched breathlessly when suddenly it stopped. It leaned like the Tower of Pisa, not moving.This was kinda of shitty to be honest.
We stood gaping open mouthed in amazement. Why was itn't falling? Seconds passed, Dan walked up to the thing and pushed it. Mother Hen gasped, I nearly had a fit. Another nudge with his boot, He backed away. We all heard a creaking sound...Then slowly, it began to fall again, heading exactly where we wanted it to fall, with a huge KeeeRunch!!! Of limbs, and branches.
Huzzah! We all shouted in unison. Smiles all around, back patting, gratitude for my Husband (or any of us) not getting squished.

Big Log
So the sawing continued unabated as Dan and Eileen cut the thing up into rounds. Mother Hen, Big Phil and I drug the things out of the woods. Eileen the Mighty and I split them into manageable logs for stacking. Phil drove the little tractor and loaded them into our truck.
Everyone worked their butts off. A group effort well done!

Isn't it gorgeous?
I loved this pic. They look like stars, the golden red wood , the lichen covered bark..
It is Lucia's day. Prior to the calendar reform - from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 - Saint Lucia's feast day fell on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice.
Hmmm...interesting...firewood, light, candles, the Solstice, Yule...
As I sit here a fire burns brightly in the hearth. It crackles and snaps merrily, warming our home. The cats vie for the warmest chair to sleep on, the one with the golden, creamy, silken sheep fleece from lovely Devon. All the way from Locks Park Farm. On the mantle stand two handsome straw Jul Swine, positively radiating ancient Nordic Yuletide prosperity..
On the sideboard in the kitchen brilliant yellow, sweet saffron dough waits. Soon to be made into Lussikatter, to celebrate the return of the light and the promise of returning life to the land.
How lucky am I to have such wonderful friends, old and new, near and far?
Thank you Paula, and Marie. Thank you Hubbinator,Eileen, Mother Hen, Big Phil and the land herself for giving so much to us all. May all my friends and strangers who read this little blog o' mine, know light and joy this St. Lucia's day!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Yuletide joys

Scrumptious little, cream filled, bovine shaped Swiss chocolate joy
Is it wrong of me to love my Milka Advent calendar so much?I know they are meant to be spiritual aids, counting down and celebrating the lead up to the big event..
- But who decided that the days leading up to the Nativity would be even better if chocolates were somehow involved? I would like to thank them.
Our local German deli, the Edelweiss, begins stocking all of it's Frohe Weinacht treats in mid November. So if there is some little marzipan succulent, or imported chocolate treat that you can not live without for the Holidays (Like the above Advent calendar) then you better get your buns on down there toot sweet. I don't care if you still have Halloween candy languishing about, it's time to shop for Yule! -Lest ye be sorry, and it's all the goodies are snapped up by smart Grandmothers who shop months in advance..

So we wandered in last year, to Edelweiss, for a nice bratwurst mit kraut und bier, when lo! The shipment of Christmas goodies had arrived, and was being stocked onto the shelves...
Lebkuchen, stollens from Dresden, plump little marzipan piggies just asking for me to bite their heads off..Well it's good luck to do that in't it?
Then I saw them= The Milka brand Advent calendars. I know, I know Milka is owned by Kraft. But I did not know they were part of a huge meg-industrial food company when I bought it. I just knew I loved the fun little cartoon art, of happy villagers in the town square of their Alpine village. There were smiling animals decorating trees, horses pulling a sleigh...St. Nicholas bringing gifts to the angel drinking hot was darling..

However, the best part was the amazing chocolates! Each one a detailed little sculpture. A realistic violin, a horse so cute I almost did not eat him. Okay, first I took it out to the smithy to show the Hubbinator. We duly admired the detail of the mold they used, noted it's cockle warming cuteness and then we ate him. Lovely and delicious.
So, I made sure to get ahold of one of these again, and Lo! they did arrive mid November. I snatched one up, because they "Sell out pretty fast." The clerk told me..
I bet they do...I thought to myself, with visions ofyummy cream filled Milka reindeer dancing in my head...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Seasonal rituals

The Pudding
Well, it has been an entire year since last I gathered in all the yummy bits and pieces for the Christmas pudding. Stir Up Sunday 2008 was hotly debated on the web I can tell you. When was it this year? The 30Th? The 23? Back and forth and back and I settled for yesterday, the 30Th, since on the 23rd I had not gone shopping for Yuletide baking supplies.
Now I realise that it was the start of Advent, and not reeeeeally the last Sunday before, but it was now or never. I chopped, I minced, I grated suet..We each took a turn stirring in some wishes and love for the coming year. We asked that the powers that be spread that love and goodness around, so dear friends this means you! Now the pudding lies in wait out there in the kitchen..Ready to be steamed and put away to wait for Christmas day.
Before all this mixing and stirring could ensue, we went off to shop for the ingredients.So off we went, to get dried fruit, good English stout(Sam Smith's) and Barley wine(Mad River's John Barleycorn..)
We had a good day gathering all the bits. Downtown is getting all lit up, the big tree in the square is lovely.

All the shops are bright with color, and festive cheer.
I hardly ever go downtown for anything, but the Yuletide season makes it way more fun and magical..We wandered around downtown, window shopping mostly. But it isn't all Christmas shopping...

(the above was not taken yesterday. It's from summer a long time ago...)

Scottish Holiday
Yesterday was also St. Andrew's day, the patron Saint of Scotland. The below is from the Scottish Government's site, so they should know..
For the Hubbinator, who is proudly half Scottish, it's a day to wear his kilt, show some Scottish pride. For him it's notso much about a St. Andrew , or anything remotely religious. It's more about celebrating his heritage..
"It was once more popular than St. Patrick's day here in America.
-Until Thanksgiving took over." Grumbled the Hubbinator, "Now hardly anyone knows what it is, much less celebrates it."
Well we here at White Hart Forge celebrate it! SO on with his kilt!- Royal Stewart FYI...
We decided to have lunch somewhere nice, which turned out to be a Sushi place. The restaurant staff were entertained by a big, bearded, kilted Scotsman waltzing in for a bento box.

Wearing a kilt has a mystique all it's own. It's interesting the reactions He gets from strangers. Tourists take his picture. In the swanky shopping districts the well dressed "Ladies of means over 40"( for the record I am a lady over 40, but poor as a church mouse) go all swoony over him. They flash him brilliant, perfect Hollywood smiles, make comments like " Oh, it's so niiice to see a man in a kilt.." Flutter, flutter... like he's Sean Connery, or something ......I just smile and melt into the background.
Bikers give him a nod of respect(I'm talking real bikers here, not lawyers with expensive weekend bikes). Military types and policemen salute him.. No, it's true. The kilt for American males is a manly, manly- man thing to wear. You don't put it on unless you mean it. It carries a warrior mystique with it, I do not know if this is true in Scotland, but here it does. Add to that all those films about Rob Roy, and William Wallace..
Of course not everyone knows what to make of a man in a kilt.
Teenagers giggle or point like he's a three headed monster, but it is their job to be embarrassed by adults in general. As well as to be horrified by anything "uncool".... Hipsters look down their trendy noses, but so what.....The Hubbinator, to his credit, knows he's a big tartan rooster walking about grey old Portland. He is gracious about the attention, and I think secretly...he likes it. Okay not so secretly..!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pa is home!

Yippie skippy, just a quick note to let ya'll know that Pa is back home. Thanks for all your love vibrations, good thoughts, lit candles, prayers, and the odd sacrifice of a bull to Thor. Oh heh heh..that was us doing the bull thing..bloody heathens...! Apparently(fingers and toes crossed) he is on the mend, the broken rib is healing, although he is in pain he is able to waddle around the house unassisted. So that's a good thing. Mom is just relieved to have him home. He was not doing well last week, and I half expected to fly home at a moments notice...

His cancer is confined to just the tumour, nothing in his lymph glands(yaaaa!). So, early Dec. he starts radiation therapy to shrink the cancer cells into a blackhole of nothingness. Sigh..
Well, that is excellent news!
Thank you all for your support with this, it has meant a million to me, as well as Pa .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Autumn glory...blood sacrifices..

Raven stone in the golden leaves...

Autumn glory, not in some hidden wood...

It's in front of my Hut, in the backyard.
The above is my private retreat from all things annoying. I call it The Hut. It used to be a potting shed, way back when.Chased the massive spiders out. Scrubbed the wooden floors. I insulated it, sheet rocked the walls, installed power, and turned it into my retreat from dishes. Or shop work...Or the Hubbinator, much as I adore him. But we are together 24 hours a day, so sometimes a woman needs a break.
It's cozy and good. I draw in there, burn some incense, do yoga. ..listen to some Viking metal. It's also the guest house when folks stay overnight, it even has a heater.

It's wonderful to sit in the doorway, sip some tea and watch the song birds feasting at the feeders. I tried to get a decent shot of one of the hummingbirds who hang out all year, but the little bugger was waay too wise to my ways.
The trees around us are golden, red, burgundy, -in short fall is in full blast of color. The pics did not capture the brightness of the yellows..I love this time of year, even though I know winter will be a seemingly endless rain fest. -Which, has started in earnest since I took these pics.
It has been pissing rain for the last few days. hard as hell rain sideways, pelting straight down, beating the leaves off the trees...flooding in the side yard, endless mud..Then this morning we opened the shop to find that the roof is leaking, so up the Hubby went on the ladder to patch the holes. Seems fixed so far. The wind blasting, the rain, Dan says it's almost like Scotland, but not as cold. yet.
Still it's autumn and I love it. Even the pelting storm.
Okay now for the Blood Sacrifice..

Thumb +Grinder =Blood Sacrifice

Here at the smithy we take safety pretty darn seriously..but even we, trained professionals can have an accident creep right up and bite us on the ..thumb in the Hubby's case.
Sometimes power tools show us who is really boss, and this is what happened yesterday.
The Hubby was grinding welds with a hand grinder(see above blue gadget), the welds are in some tight spots, so he was valiantly trying to get at them. Apparently(I was in the house having a tea break...) the grinder decided it wanted human flesh so it tore a huge, gory gash in his thumb. Well they call that tool a hand grinder for a reason...

Blood, blood and blood. Throbbing pain, cursing and me trying to channel all the first aid training I have. He washed it, I bandaged it. So far so good. I told him if he wanted to get out of his turn at dishes, he only had to ask. This was waaay over the top..
Things are looking good today, no gangrene, but it does put the fear into you.
It's so easy when using power tools to be lulled into a trance..esp. when you are grinding welds for hours on end. Unfortunately this grinder can catch on an edge and whip itself out of your hands and into your lap.
I know, I have had one of these try to saw my chest in half length wise...I was pretty damn alert after that, yesir-ee!
He still isn't sure how it happened, but if the shop Gods wanted blood this week they got it.Iam just glad he has an attached thumb and not a nub.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy birthday to me..

The Arteest at Work
The above was taken two days before my 43 birthday. Since the 13th was my birthday that wasn't so long ago. I have to admit liking this photo alot. Not being photogenic in the least, I hide from cameras most of the time, so being kitted out as Iam for work or battle with the forces of The Empire(That's Darth Vader's evil empire, not our current administration as some of you may be thinking) is fine by me if it saves my lungs.
Since Pa has been diagnosed with lung cancer I decided it might be good idea to take my own lung health more seriously. I have never smoked, but welding off gases some evil stuff, and grinding metal makes for metal dust. I figured it was best to spend the money and get a decent filter mask, why tempt fate?
If I can cut down on some of the crap in my lungs that's a good thing.

Cold Concrete

What with the financial crisis, the impending Election, the high cost of everything, and our present lack of cash flow, it is easy to forget the good things in life we do have.
Things are grim out there, but Iam determined to not forget that things could be much worse, and that my life isn't nearly as bad as it seems sometimes. Sure Iam not rich and powerful, but Iam well off in so many other ways. Not being ethnically cleansed, and living in a Red Cross tent come to mind as major things to be grateful about.
Iam grateful for my wonderful Hubbinator, My Family, the fertile land, the blue sky above. Good friends.

This years birthday came and went. Too much work to finish in the shop so we stayed home. No Hood River trip.
Some good friends came by for drinks and dinner the day before. Wonderful well wishing from some amazing freinds far and near. I ate chocolate cupcakes , had a cheese burger the size of a dinner plate...sweet potatoe fries..plenty of good German bier. good.
It was a good day all in all. Mellow and gentle...more later but now I have to get to work.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Well it's cancer then..

After a few invasive and gruesome sounding tests( needle biopsy=big needle, through the chest, snip out a piece of lung tissue....)
the results have come back=
My Dad indeed has lung cancer. It's in his upper left lung.
The test that tells us if it's spread to any other part of his body won't come back for a few days..until then he has to heal up from the pneumonia that could have killed him. The illness that sent him to the hospital in the 1st place, and which, in a weird twist of providence, led to the discovery of the tumor.
On top of all that there is his collapsed lung from a post biopsy coughing fit. So until he gets better...we wait and see what's next..What the test says about any other cancer will determine the battle plan as it were.

My mother is being the strong and awesome woman she is about all this. I of course hung up the phone and cried like a , well like a woman who has just found out her father has cancer.

He is home tonight, sleeping in his own bed.
My Mom is tired, the concerned phone calls, the family members dropping by to see him. The whole drama of going to the hospital every day, wondering if he had cancer or not.
Being a nurse for 42 years she knows the drill. She cared for her father when he had lung cancer.

I know that Dad is not at death's door ..well, not now that the pneumonia is under control. Yet I know there is so much more to come, diagnosis wise, treatment wise, all of it.
I'll be strong and positive for my Pa, but tonight I'm a daughter who needs to take it all in..
Okay everyone , go tell your loved ones you love them.
Oh, and quit smoking.
Right now. Iam not kidding.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cloudy days...

The above sign was actually built a year was commissioned by our favorite German butcher shop/deli, The Edelweiss. It took us a this long to finally get a picture of it.
The picture is so damn dark, but that's kind of the mood these days. The National vibe is one of fear and uncertainty.
We muddle along, chin up working on projects, striving forward. It's all too easy to get lost in a spiral of worry and fear. The media injects it into our bloodstream everyday, so Iam going to try(good luck) to avoid the news for a few days. I'm no Pollyanna type, ask anyone, Iam as cynical as they come...But with a touch of optimism. I can't be a complete grouch all the time.
There are things is life so pure and joyful I have to be happy about them.

The only thing is today, on top of the financial shit sandwich we have all been offered, the Doctors have found a mass on my Dad's left lung.
I feel for everyone's financial woes, mine included, but the possibility my Dad might have a tumor trumps all that for me.
So We wait today and tomorrow to see what his test results will be. Iam personally hoping for a benign glob of easily dissolved goo. My Pa is a hard working man who grew up during the Great Depression. He would not want me to sit here and wring my hands in worry, rather, he would want me to work in my smithy. So off I go, but I can't help it if I stop off in the orchard for a good cry, and a chance to breathe the cool fresh fall air.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hop Harvest

Well the time finally came to cut down the hop bines and pick pick pick and pick some more!
It started last week really, when the Hubbinator and I looked up at the deep green vines and agreed it was waaay over due.
The Hubby put an ad up on the internet which read=
"MMMMM!! Fresh Homegrown organic hops! We don't use sprays. Gently caressed by the Sun! Carefully tended beds! Pony Poo fertilizer! Lady Bug aphid wranglers! Oregon's best liquid sunshine throughout the season!"
The phone calls began in earnest, and Iam happy to say it all went well. Over some coffee we sat in morning cool and picked hops until our fingers were yellow with the sticky resin, and the courtyard smelled like, well pungent, like good hops. Or it's cousin Cannabis Sativa, But that is a good thing, as it means the hops are ripe. People came and went, happy as heck to have fresh hops to brew with.
We have two varieties=Willamettes and Nuggets. The buyers wanted Willamettes most of all, so they went for a higher price, due to scarcity . The Nuggets sold too, and now we only have enough left for us to brew a batch of Yuletide ale with.
Note to Self= Brew Yule ale this week...

Hop Orgy at the Lucky Lab
We also went to the annual ho
p picking fest. at our local brew pub of choice , the Lucky Labrador.
It was a grand time and a record weigh in of over 125 lbs. of fresh hops! Mountains of hops piled on table tops, pitchers of real ale, happy people enjoying a day sharing a common effort=Bringing in the harvest.

The above is of Myself(in the big sun hat, with my mouth open...thanks honey...nice shot...ahem)
and Wolf Woman. We laughed, drank bier, discussed upcoming elections and realised too late that we should have worn long sleeves..hops are scratchy.
The batch to be brewed from this is called "Mutt", since all the hops chucked into the wort are different varieties.
Now I know that here in Willamette Valley entire families once earned their wages picking hops from dawn til dusk. It was hard, itchy work, little communities sprung up to support the migrant workers.
For some interesting old photos from the Depression era of Oregon hop harvesting, and a little history on it=

So Autumn is coming, just a few days away for the Equinox. But Nature has already starting showing the signs that the wheel of the year turns once again. It is these rituals of planting, growing, harvesting that make life full.
Whatever you harvest this year, may it be abundant and what you need.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pine Cones

Greetings everyone! Imagine my surprise when I discovered that some of my freinds actually read this blog! More than one and less than 20, so heck that's pretty good...I admit I am not a regular writer. I love writing, but since my back got all crunchy, sitting for any length of time was extremely painful. Also Iam not a fast writer. I like to drink coffee, listen to polka and really think about what Iam going to say here. So it takes a little time, and I don't always have time.
But today I do!
This weeks adventure=
Making Pinecones

Here Iam standing at our Little Giant power hammer.This mighty machine was built back in 1900 ish. Making it the oldest thing in the shop next to myself and the Hubbinator. No it's true. My Uncle Max(saint Max) from Nebraska found this mighty beast and shipped it out to us , thus saving our shoulders from eternal tendonitis. It has a 25 lb blow, meaning if it were to hit your hand it would be very very painful and messy.
Iam operating it by stepping down on a bar at the base, this engages the the gears and tells the machine to hammer slow, fast or "Holy Hell who let the horses out?!!!"
Some sort of a power hammer has been in use by blacksmiths since oh...the iron age. The Hellenic Greeks used them(Hail Hephestus..) Water powered hammers and then steam powered hammers have been used to forge everything from plough shares to the giant cogs of the industrial revolution.
But for my humble use this week, I was forgeing 2 inch square solid bar into pine cone shaped blanks.
Before and After

After I bash the heck out of the square stock in the power hammer I take it to my anvil and shape it up. I could build a fancy forming die to use in the power hammer but I just didn't take the time. I also wanted to enjoy the hand forging, and practice my skills. So, from square, to a wedge shape, then I round it up to a pine cone shape.

Forging away

The corners getting rounded, all the flats need to be curved so when I chisel it will bite into the steel.
All this is hot work. I usually don't wear a glove on my hammer hand, but thick steel radiates some monster heat..and frankly I got tired of it. The handsome shield behind me was built by our freind Bob, who is also a smith and wily craftsman.

The Pink Fist of Rohan
This is an utterly staged pictured to give you an idea of how I chisel the pine cones open. I heat them to yellow, swiftly place them in the vice, and using a curved chisel, "cut" out the petals of the cone. Iam not being ultra realism driven on this , but I do want them to look real-ish.
So I slowly work my way down the cone, turning it, cutting into it. Laborious as heck.- and if some other smith has a better 'n faster way then please send in your tips for consideration.

It was hotter than heck outside the day I started this. There I was, in my thermal shirt trying not to get a radiant burn from 1500 degree steel, sweating my arse off. Some people go to fancy spas and spend big bucks to be uncomfortably hot and sweaty. I get it for free!

The Results

Ta da!

A pine cone. Now I have to make four more, add the branches and pine boughs(another process) and add it all to a handrail. I know I grouse about being hot , sweaty, tired and all but when something turns out well it really is satisfying.
So tune in later to see the rest of it progressing. Hope everyones Lunasa was groovy, and the harvest is abundant for you all..

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hops hops hops! That "wicked and pernicious weed!"

Here it is, our glorious hop yard..well all 15 feet long plot of it.But it is our hop yard, all organic, Wassailed along with the apples in early January.
The handsome rooster stands proudly atop our Maypole, the garlands of mayday replaced by the deep green vines of Willamette and Fuggles hop vines.
They peek out of the earth around the end of March and every late August we cut the bines down, heavy with aromatic hop cones and haul it all to The Lucky Labrador Brewery for an orgy of hop picking. We are not the only hop farmers (be it a tiny enterprise) to bring our hops. No this is a community affair.Folks bring their hops to the brewery and in a frenzy of pint imbibing and scratchy hop vine wrestling we pick the hops. We drink ale, we laugh, we celebrate a community harvest of itchy, scratchy goodness. Our hands become gummy with the resins, our hearts full of joy at being a part of something so ancient and good. Growing what we eat, growing what we drink. The magical brewers take our hops and brew it into a fresh hopped IPA. Crispy and bitter. Parking Lot IPA, as that is where we stand around barrels picking the hops. Out in the parking lot.
We have a lovely time.
Mmmm beer. Good beer.

Mister Rooster..
High atop our 25 ft. plus Maypole stands Mister Rooster. Mighty in his plywood glory, symbol of masculine fertility, he has weathered wind, rain and recently an awesome lightening storm..(actually after a huge strike right over the house we thought we lost him, but no, he survived old Thor's wrath!)
The hops have reached his eye, and since this was taken he is now wreathed in green. Little tendrils of vine reaching out to grow even higher if they could

Hop Cones to be=Burrs
Look closely at this picture...see the teeny tiny little "burrs on the light green bit? Those are baby Hop cones. Yep. Hop cones.
They start life as side shoots , that quickly turn into little burrs resembling burdock burrs.
By the end of July these will be full fledged hop cones. Like fish scales they lie one on the other. They grown up to three inches in length, and at the end of August they are sticky with resin.
Hop cones are the female reproductive parts of the plant. Hops are also related to another plant known for it's relaxing effects, Cannibus Sativa...Yes it's true. Would I lie?
For more scientific and other info refer to this groovy link, where I got the title quote above=
And if your feeling daring and might want to try your hand at growing your own =

Ya see the thing is, there is a world wide hop shortage. many factors are involved, but it is a fact that hops are precious commodity at present. Worth their weight in it were.
Well..all I know is it makes me happy to watch them break through the earth in spring, grow like crazy all summer and in the fall we harvest them to brew good ale.
Here's to the hops! Here is to tradition! Here is to the folk who grow what we eat and drink!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Here piggy piggy...

Wild Boar

Here he is a wild boar that I forged up three years ago, and only now hung up on the smithy wall.
I love Wild Swine, and I know they are pain in the butt to farmers, yes they are over running the vinyards of France and Germany but I like them still.
They were also sacred to my ancestors, so much so that they wore boar crested helmets into battle, see link=

I made this for the fun of it, a rare thing. Working in the forge is almost always for paying clients these days. I don't make the time nor have the time to just be an "artiste".
Too many other things need doin around here.

Thistle gate

Thistle Gate in Situ
A few posts back , there is a gate drawing in chalk on our shop floor=Here is the gate coming together. It has taken way too long to get this gate built, partly due to other projects, and also to the challenge of engineering as you go, being challenged by every job to learn new skills and be a clever monkey..
The deceptively simply loop at the bottom of the pattern was not as simple as it seemed.
Steel or iron will bend to your will, but that's the problem too. It will bend were you "tell" it to bend. If there was a mistake on your part working out the steps to forming whatever it is you're wanting to form.
From forging a flower to bending an 8 foot loop there is a logical(well, sometimes) path of how to make something.
"If I want this then I have to do A before I can do B.."
This process of deconstruction to construct is part of creating ironwork, and a behavior that I and most blacksmiths I know engage in when we are out in the world. We can't help we, we look at ironwork and try to figure out how it was built...
"Look at those gates, they must have had to put the twist in first and then slid the picket in after, and then riveted it" Says the Hubbinator to I.
"Yeh, but look at this, " Says Me, " they obviously forge welded this to this.." Etc..
It's kind of wacky, but we can't help it, we like to figure things out.
Which leads me to the Jig of Mordor=

The Jig of Mordor
It took me several days of fussing, cussing and thinking to come up with a forming jig(a thingy to shape metal with, used when you have many of the same shape to make)
In fact is was truly a pain in my ass, and nearly ended my marriage. Yet, here it is, a big loop that accurately reproduces the same loop with curved ends. Looks so innocent sitting there doesn't it? So simple, how could this be so hard?
Well, it has to do with my fuzzy chalk drawing, the design itself being very precise, and and no room for wiggle at all in the way the peices fit together. The first jig was a tad too big, thanks to my fuzzy drawing which got tightened up.
The loops are made out ten foot lengths of steel, that must first have a curve put into them at the ends, then wrapped around the jig to make the loops. They have to be exactly the same or the eye will be drawn to any dissimilarity in the piece. The design is Art-Deco, and very clean.

-Then there was the butting of the heads between blacksmiths, the pressure of looming deadlines, a few stressful days .. get the picture.
We prevailed and now the gate is ready for it's hinges and lock plate.
Can't wait to get it out of here!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Poppie heaven

Here they are.The lovely poppy seed poppy.
Every year I await their bloom, and this year the huge plants that self seeded from last year have burst open in a riot of crimson, burgundy, and pink. An Art Nouveau dream.

They are sown by the wind, scattered by my wanderings through the garden. This year they are over 4 feet high, the nodding heads heavy, the ruffled leaves like the skirts of Belle Epoch ladies.
I can't help but think of them as fancy women from a late Victorian Paris nightclub, can-can on the stage, absinthe in their glasses.
In the late summer harvest the seeds for baking, sprinkled on Ukrainian braid, baked in sweet poppyseed cake. Their culinary uses tie me to the centuries of Slavic women who used them as medicine, in cooking and for sacred offerings.

And I love them for their beauty.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Hot!

The month of May started cold, with hail, and snow, and lot's of rain. We were wearing sweaters last week this time. But not now. The current temp. is 91 degrees. The wind blows hot, the plants are drooping in the sun. Great for my hops which if you watch them, are actually growing an inch an hour. They love this weather. I do not. Sure I am a big fat wuss when it comes to heat. Some of my family comes from the sun drenched islands of Dalmatia on the blue Adriatic. My olive skin and long nose attest to this fact, BUT the other half of my family come from places that produce freckled, fair skinned folks. Britain and central Germany.
So while I love the warmer weather once it hits 80 Iam hot, bothered and sweaty.

Meanwhile, Iam crawling around on my knees doing a layout drawing for a gate. It's an art deco piece, for a truly lovely 1920's era manse. This is actually a pleasant job to work on , as the shop floor is cool, and Iam in the shade. But next week it's back before the fire, hot or not.

Friends ask us if we work when it hits 100, as it can here in the summertime. Well, yes and no. We work until we can't stand it, or we work in the early morning, take a break, and then return.
I know that blacksmiths all over the world where it is much hotter, work in far worse conditions temp wise. The ancient Greek and Roman artist's portrayed Vulcan/ Hephaestus in little more than short kilt and sandals as He worked. Or nekkid those naughty Hellenics.
Drawings of more mortal smithies show the men working nearly naked, and in 100 degree weather I can see why one would be tempted.

The thing is I stopped wearing shorts in the shop after I had a yellow hot peice of steel slip out of a vice and land on my leg. Ouch. I still have the scar.
So I prefer to roast away in long pants and leathers now.
Oh well back to the sweat box, and more drawing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Spring is springing here at the forge. The robins are busy jousting one another out on the front fence. The male flickers are up early to drum out a tune on the roof. The testosterone is flying out there, and the girl birds look slightly wary of it all. All this groovy energy has me thinking and feeling about the things that make me feel vital in life. The elements of this earth walk that bring me joy, energy, passion and stoke my own inner fire.
One of those things is muscic although Iam not an MP3 geek. I am too cheap, and can't figure out how to burn a cd to save my life.
But I do dig internet radio, and praise to the odd free download. I can listen to music I like, over and over if Iam so inclined. Music I loved ages ago, music obscure, weird folk songs. Or New Wave hits from the 80's...
Like Roxy Music's "More Than This" or "Slave to Love".
I dug Roxy Music's album Avalon so much I wore out my cassette tape of it. Yes that's a cassette tape children, we had them back then, I even had a "Walkman". They have some in the Smithsonian museum if you want to see one. Along with a few Victrolas.
The thing is, if Iam having a crappy day in the shop my favorite 80's hits can bring me out of it.
Madonna especially. "Material Girl" or "Like a Virgin"..There I admit it.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Camping in Funny Clothes in the Snow

Camping in funny clothes in the Snow
Here Iam attempting to look like an explorer. I only need to be pointing off into the distance...
Actually, my buddy Wolf Woman snapped this when I was trying to take a breather.
It is pure conciendence that I look so posed, and heroic-ish. A testimony to her skill with the picture box.
This was taken high up on a volcanic ridge we named Bobcat ridge.
A couple of weeks ago the Hubbinator and myself met up with some groovy freinds for a good old fashioned Fur Trade Era rendezvous. Check out this page for one of the big rondies to see what it's about =
or our local event
The gathering we attended is a smaller affair, and is not a completely primitive event. Primitive meaning every person has to be in period attire, no modern nothing. Period. Tents made of canvas, clothes made of linen and wool and cotton, no rubber soles on them shoes either. Or you will be asked to change them. What seems like a pain in the ass is really a good thing, because you are transported back in time, and can get a sense of what life was like before..before this place was even a country. It is a history nerds(that would be me) dream come true.
But this event we attended two weeks ago is just a small local event. It is not primitive, more a camp out with black powder rifles , archery, and some of us in historical clothing.
You can wear polar fleece if you want to, but our camp will call you a pilgrim, or worse a tourist.
The location is deep in the high desert of Central Oregon, in a place called Millican. Horse Ridge is the actual site. It is a gorgeous place, juniper trees, sage, amazing red rock outcrops.
Coyotes howl at night, and so did we.

Warm inside the Tent
Our camp consisted of several good freinds, all re-enactors of some kind.
We had us , Wolf Woman, Mother Hen, Blonde Bear and Two Girls the fur traders. The nights were cold, so cold, but most of us have woodstoves inside our canvas tents, so there was a good warm and cozy place to escape the cold. Days we spent hiking in the warm sunshine, nights laughing by the fire.
A good amount of bullshitting did occur..

Fire and Ice
Those are not "orbs" in the above pic, that's a snowflake.
When we arrived at the site on thursday we found Wolf Woman building an elaborate stone fire back for our fire pit. She and MotherHen were yarding in big lava rocks to build it, filling the cracks with mud. They constructed while we set up our camp, and in no time they had the project done.
It was a work of art, and labor of love. Most of all ingenious.
It worked so well radiating the heat, that when the snow storm hit friday night we all stood out by the fire. The gently swirling falling flakes began to pile up around us, but we were warm and happy at the hearth.

The next morning I awoke and crept out of bed to see the entire world transformed into a snow scape. The sky was just turning a rose color as the sun came up behind the eastern foothills. All was still, and magical. The camp is ours, and inside the tent the Hubbinator is making coffee because he is so sweet. Soft fluffy white snow everywhere, the flakes sparkled in the dawn. I walked down the trail to explore, but the scent of bacon cooking in Wolf Womans tent lured me back to enjoy breakfast with the camp. Later that day we went for a long hike in the new snow, and that was when the pic of me on the rocks was snapped.
It was a good relaxed weekend with great freinds. We packed up on Sunday, reluctantly I might add, and returned to civilization.
It was like a tonic being out there having fun, I can't wait for the next adventure!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What I do of a Day

My life is not the glamor filled orgy of fun and romance many think it is, what with being an arteest and all. Oh no. Sure it's fun to create ironwork that will grace and adorn our clients homes. The satisfaction of seeing them happy, or even elated over the finished work. I enjoy the creative aspects of being a blacksmith, but when you get right down to it, it's work. Like any other job, trade or such. There are days when the work is hard, fussy, dirty, annoying or just a plain old pain the ass. Did I mention tediously repetetive?
Then there is the on going tendonitis in my shoulder, the tendonitis in my elbow, and the cold concrete floor that turns my feet into ice blocks. Until oh, June.
The above pic is of Me self grinding away on welds for the tree project. They first part of the panels have already been installed, they turned out wonderfully, but there are so many steps involved in their production it's easy for me, with the short attention span, to be done with them in my mind. Really done , as in "Please No more trees! Can't I move on to the next project now? I swear I'll be good!!!"
Still, Iam working as an artist and for that Iam grateful. Although it would be nice to be a glamourous movie star, heck, I'd take independently wealthy eccentric who travels alot! that'd be fine too.
Back to the trees....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Turkey Showdown On a Lonely Road

"Is that a dog?"

Recently we took a disposable camera in to have the contents developed. This camera has been knocking around inside our truck for just about a year now.
We had forgotten what was on it, and so our curiosity was happily surprised when we took a peek at the pictures contained therein.
There was the odd assortment of pictures from a Viking reenactment we attended. A Mountain Man campout last Feb. in 17 degree weather...But wait! At the end of the roll were three special pictures.
Could it be?
Yes..I had forgotten we took photos of him.
Yet here he was, in all his glorious might, Mr. King of the Road.
Standing tall and challenging everyone to a fight who dare cross his path on that lonely stretch of road. It all came back..
We , The Best Freind, Hubby, and I, on a lovely day in early spring, were out for a drive in the country.
The back roads are the best to view the flora and fauna, to find an old farm to admire. Maybe stop and take a stroll. We were cruising down (well, if 25 MPH can be called cruising) a particularly lovely farm road, when my Friend said
"Hey, Look at that dog in the middle of the road! Isn't he odd looking?"
I was in the back seat, so I had to lean forward between the seats to get a better view of the "Dog" who was standing tall in the middle of the road, apparently prepared to stop all traffic.

"Yeh, he is really weird looking.. He isn't going to get off the road it looks like." says I.
The Dog was now marching about, back and forth, making an odd sound.

"No.." Says The Hubby. "That's not a dog..." Drawing closer He brought the truck to a complete stop about 10 feet from the "dog", who was in actuality a Tom Turkey. In full territorial display challenging our truck to a duel. It was spring after all, and this was His stretch of road.

"You Shall Not Pass!"

We sat in the truck, listening to his manly gobbling. He strutted quite impressively all the while, puffing up, flexing his wings and dragging the tips of his feathers on the ground to make a
loud, ruffling sound. After a few minutes of this the Hubby decided to roll the truck ever so slowly forward. We watched as Mr. Turkey moved aside, puffing up to what I assumed was full parade dress for a turkey. It was then that the Hubby saw the cause of Good Sir Turkey's display of manhood.

"His Lady Fair"
A lady turkey stood down in the ditch beside the road, her plumage of red and cream was quite lovely, she was pretty as far as turkeys go..I suppose. Mr. Turkey was digging her, enough to stand down a Nissan truck.
The Hubbinator snapped some pics of the lovely couple while we marveled at Mr. Turkeys bravery, and hoped that Mrs. Turkey was sufficantly impressed with his virility.
We drove off to enjoy the rest of our drive, I assume they made lots of little turkeys last spring.
We have decided to try and find the road again, to see if He's still king of the road.