Monday, December 12, 2011

Yuletide Comes..

The Giant Tree

We held our Yule celebration over the weekend, friends came by for feasting, drinking, and good cheer. To decorate we went out to a local tree farm to get a $5.00 Douglas Fir. These trees were so cheap due to their being slated for clearing, as the farmer wants to replant these 5 acres in hops. Always a good thing in my beer loving mind. So, the Hubby wielding the mighty Husquavarna, laid low this fine tree, and we brought home. Not only did it provide the tree for inside our home, BUT the limbs were used to decorate the pole barn for the party. All for 5bucks. Not bad!
The gathering was awesome, Iam still culling pics to post, but today isn't so awesome.
My lower back degenerative disc/arthritis hell is flaring up..and I feel miserable. So Iam feeling bummed out today. Trying to not slip into the death spiral pity party of regret, but it isn't easy.
You see, my choice of career isn't helping my back, having an artsy job with no health insurance, or really, much of an income sucks. alot. At 46 Iam faced with starting over..but how?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Clotted Cream Experiment

My First Attempt
Okay, after years of watching cooking shows or travel shows from England, I had to attempt making clotted cream myself. Watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall slathering great gobs of the stuff on homebaked scones drove me over the edge. That's it. Iam trying this!
So I wrote to Farmer Paula in Devon, England, for her advice. She made it seem so simple, that even I an American could do it. Although I can't use the slowly cooling engine of my tractor to warm the milk, but that's okay. The stove top will do.
I searched the web for "How to" sites, ones with good photos of the process, as I wanted to see what it was I should be looking for as the milk transformed. I ended up watching a clip from Edwardian Farm to see how my experiential historian hero Ruth Goodman, and expert clotted cream maker Margaret Burra,(Iam sure I spelled her last name wrong! Please forgive me Margaret.) went about it. This was a great help. Seeing what the cream "does" as it begins to form, hearing what expert cream maker Margaret said about the process was beyond helpful.
This is one of those skills that would have taught to you when you were a girl, part of helping with the dairying, preserving, and cooking. You would know by sight what it was supposed to be doing. So I researched and after much hand wringing I got on with it. went to a dairy, bought some whole milk, straight from the Guernsey.

I did not take any pics of the process. I was nervous enough trying to make sure I had the water bath for the milk pan right, that I honestly forgot to snap pictures. Next time.

I also made creamscones, not the big fluffy American kind, but a more biscuity kind, and I mean like American baking powder biscuits, the kind you roll out. I used the recipe found on the Cream Scone link, at the Historical Foods site. They turned out pretty yummy, I needed to roll them out a little thicker, but hey, they tasted great! I also used my hedgehog cutter from IKEA, any excuse to use the cute little thing.
The cream formed, after an hour or more of slow, slow slow warming on the stove top. I placed the pan of milk in a water bath, so it would not scorch on the bottom. Sure enough a shimmery film of cream began to form on the surface of the milk. I had read everything from 1-12 hours of cooking was needed. I went with 2 hours, then allowed it to sit for 24 before I skimmed off the Clotted stuff. I didn't get much, but I don't know if it was my technique(or lack of) or the fat content in the milk. BUT we did get about a cup and 1/2 of rich, creamy goodness..

The Hubby came in and helped himself to a warm hedgehog with a great blob of cream. He smiled. Finished that one off then had another, and another. Pausing for a breath he asked " Is it wrong to eat clotted cream and scones for dinner? Would it it be all that bad?"

So, I need to call up the dairy, and get some more juice so I can have another go, since my first attempt was such a big hit. After all my longing the cream truly was as fabulous as I had thought it would taste. Thank you Ladies of the West Country, I hail your dairying alchemy.
The Parsnip/Mandrake
I was yanking up some parsnips for dinner and this one came up with two "legs" twisted around in a neat spiral. I am always amazed by root veg, and what they get up to in the earth..It was delicious cooked as fritters, in brown butter, along side Wild Boar sausages.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dragon Screen

Hey! Remember that Dragon Fireplace screen from last year? No? I can't say as I blame you, I never followed up after I posted about the thing during production..I was not in a bloggy mood much last year, so here it is when I finished it in the fall. Sorry for the delay, I just got busy with everything else..
The Dragon Handles
Dan carved the heads on the handles, built the frame, I designed and forged the dragon on the screen, laid out the runes, and welded it all together.

Handsome Mr. Dragon
When it was finished it weighed like 100lbs..The thing is huge, and the clients don't even have the fireplace built for it yet..Knowing the folk who ordered it, I think this was a commision of mercy, as we were truly hurting financially at the time (still are) . Charity, no, honest pay for honest work yes. I was born in the wrong time, I need a wealthy jarl,to hire me to make this kind of thing for his high status hof..

Unearthing Photos

Grinding Away the Excess
Here are some pics of a nice little project I did awhile back, I just unearthed them, while trying to track down pics of recent work, so I can upload them to our website. However due to both of us being the types who "Make piles of paper" rather than "Fill files and label". I can't find a damn thing in our photo files, as they are not labeled accurately.This means a file labeled 1/11/2011 , Might just be all about our cat being cute , OR it could contain photos of a finished handrail. Or pics of Dan posing in in his kilt at the Highland Games, or all three...Until I open the files I have screwed myself for knowing fo'sure what's in the files...Due to my lack of left brain organisy-ness.
Namesake Thor
So, Here is a detail of the little Viking age Dragons that I made into a fireplace vent grill...The runes are an inscription. It asks for the God Thor's continued protection and blessings on the family who commissioned the piece. Their last name started with Thor, and they are of Swedish descent, so they wanted to thank Thor for watching over their family line so well. I ask for forgiveness at this moment from any professional runologists out there, this was my humble use of Elder Futhark to spell modern English words....grammatically right or wrong, the clients were happy!

Mjollnir, It says"Thor Bless"

This was during the coloring and application of the beeswax mixture.

Cooling on the table, ready for install!

In situ
The clients were thrilled, and it looks so good in their home!They also ordered a drinking horn stand for the mantle. They are proud of their heritage as Scandinavians. I swear, if all I did was forge Dragons I would be very happy indeed! I would love to work on someones hunting lodge, and build hinges, chandeliers, etc...all in the Viking art style...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blogging, no one reads this..

Does anyone actually read my posts? I mean besides my mother? I think I alienate the "normal" folk I follow on other blogs because Iam pagan, or have tattoos, or am pagan. Or Iam just a dull blogger..? I wish I could post daily, but honestly, I don't always have something of note to write about. I will however say that Iam glad the rains arrived here, I don't have to water my gardens, as money is tight and frankly I can't afford to water but the most important plants.. I was ready for autumn to arrive, and she certainly has. Haws (berries) on my hawthorns are red, there are yellow leaves on the trees, my apples are already picked, and the 90 degree swelter is gone. YAAAh! Love the sunshine, but not the heat, it makes me cranky having to stand in front of a 1000+ forge in 95 d. heat...

The rain is pelting down, and all I want to do is go outside and do a happy dance. I think I will, then bake a fresh apple pie, have some hard cider, and hail the turning of the seasons.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Mountain Getaway, Road Trip!

The Long, Slow, Hot, Wind up the Blue Mountains out of Pendleton
 So we took a road trip out to Baker City Oregon last month. Dan was teaching at the Interpretive Center there. Old timey blacksmithing. In 98degree heat,with blast furnace breezes  it was fabulous, he assured me. They do pay him pretty well, and he loves teaching. Even in sweltering heat.
 At the Summit
The Ponderosa forest, it was so dry, but the forest smells green,and the air is clean.
Those whacky Pioneers had a way with words..I think the name says it all about the place.To be fair, the view is gorgeous, and the forest amazing, after the long, hot, dull expanse of Eastern Oregon sage/grasslands the sea of green is a relief.
While we did get to enjoy the hospitality of our freinds Devon and Rachel, however we did not get to enjoy them, well  I mean their company. They were down in Californy, visiting family at the time, but they graciously allowed us to crash/invade their groovy rancho. Here is one of the outbuilding, weathered and surrounded by aspen. 
Me Calling Mom So She Knows We Made It
The cabin is gorgeous,rustic, funky, lists to the left, infested with packrats and I would move in if I could.If you place a marble by the front door it will roll Easterly until it ends up in the kitchen. Rachael and Devon are blessed, hard working and lucky to have this amazing place. I admit Iam jealous.

 In the Morning I had a Visitor
After Dan took off for class, I went back inside to make the bed. Out the window I noticed a flash of red, Miss Fox was eating choke cherries off the dry grass. I know, even as I could hear the neighbors chickens clucking , I stood marveling at her beauty. Sorry hunter friends, she was cool.
 Don't tell anyone but there is a fox
She nibbled cherries for a while, until I came outside, and called " Hullo vixen!" We looked at one another, just for a second and then she dashed off. Good foxy, you should be afraid us humans. Now I hunt, and I understand the damage a fox can do to livestock, but this was special to me. Observing one so closely, and candidly. That was the theme for me this trip, wildlife. Plenty of wildlife.
 Off on my Hike
While Dan was working and slaving away for us, I went on a nature hike. Up into the woods, to see the elk, deer, and owls. All the while thinking, "Please Don't let a Mountian Lion eat me today.." This is cougar country, they are part of the land, and we share it with them, the problem arises when they lose fear of us, and or we look just too much like dinner. Which in the grand scheme of nature, we are, dinner I mean.
The land that surrounds our friends ranch is owned by some groovy people who allow folk like me to hike it. It borders public lands, so there are bridle trails that weave their way across it.Along with these are game trails galore.There are also basalt rock outcrops up on the hillsides, which make perfect paces to sit and eat your lunch from or  watch for your prey from. Especially if you are the resident male cougar. I was informed, after I returned from my  hike, that He had eaten the neighbors lammas.   I was told they hired a tracker to find it. The tracked it but did not shoot it, and so the "Big , no, HUGE male Mountian lion is roaming free." They tell me this after I found the big kitties fresh cache of a partially eaten elk stag, and after I realised I need to take a rifle with me from now on.
 Meadow on the Hillside, an oasis of cool
 The Sun rising over the Woods.
 The Trail, There is a muledeer doe hidden in all that.
I just couldn't snap her picture, it was a moment.

 Lunch on the Big rock

 Sigh. I want to be there Right Now.

 The View to the North

Entwined Branches, the Lovers Tree
 Back Home, Sunset..
We had a great visit, the bummer being Dev and Racheal were not home, but Iam hoping we can get over there asap and visit. Stop at Amy's in the Ochocos along the way, and spend some good times around a campfire together. It's a wonderful place, but unless you have money, or a way to make money here is no work in Baker. Iam lucky to know good folks who are willing to share their chunk of it.

Vine Hand Railing

All projects start out as sketches. On napkins, beer coasters, or in this case the shop floor.
This was drawn to scale, then transferred to a plywood board.

 Greenman Face
The finished rails, I need to get a shot of them installed, but we have all been busy, and so has the client.
Summer has blown by, we have been working, and I just find it harder to make time to blog.

The main branch is 1 inch  and a 1/4 solid round, it was drawn out using the power hammer, and my right arm wielding a 4lb mini sledge. 

    The tip of the vine was wrapped using an  torch, some tongs, and hammer. I heated the tip, and began to wrap it very carefully.Note big ugly MIG welds that need dressing...I would LOVE  TIG welder, smoother joins, and less clean up..
  Leaf and Vine
There is that mini sledge I use everyday as my regular hammer. There are a few more bits that went into these rails, the back plate for you can bolt it to the wall.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Midsommer pleasantries

Midsummer= Sunna high in the summer sky, peeking through Thor's oaks
Huge old oak trees, at Oaks Bottom Park, the site for Portlands Midsommer festivities.

Sunna shining through the sun hoop.
The two hoops represent, either the Moon and Sun, or a man's testicles. It's any folklorists guess, and Iam sure an elderly Swede would say ", Who knows what it represents, it's just what we do."
I like to think of it as the sun and moon, and I couldn't help taking a pic of the Sun shining through the garlanded hoop. It was glorious!

A happy cock for the top of the pole!
So, if the two hoops on either side of a large phallic pole don't give you a clue about the whole fertility aspect of this, then the big red cock on top should. The male force in nature is being venerated whether all these nice Lutherans want to admit it or not. Really though, the ones I talk to know exactly what's up with the pole, and don't mind a bit.

Mr. rooster, looking majestic

Up it Goes!

Our local Midsummer Maypole being raised
Midsummer has come and gone. The day of our local midsummer festivities was wonderful, we attended, along with others from our local Sons of Norway lodge. The sun shone, people laughed, children sang and danced around the Maistang. It was cool. No surstrumming to be had Iam sad to report.
But there was a beer garden, and lots of good stuff to eat, booths to shop for Scandinavian doo-das, and trinkets. oh, and an IKEA booth. They were handing out free yellow frisbees, with the blue IKEA logo on them. I snagged two as they will be fun at Summerstar, to fling around in the parking lot while I work at the check in gate.
I hope everyone had a good midsummer, and are preparing for the hot days ahead. There's some new ironwor to be put in here, so I'll try to post them soon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Been busy! Midsommer is coming..

Happy Midsummer! Tradtional fare,Surstromming , note bulging can..mmm! It's ready!

Well I have been fairly busy with new work, and orders for our Viking age stuff. This is a good thing! It means we can pay bills, eat and keep the lights on. We have had a rainy , cold and rainy spring so far. Great for slugs, not so great for growing anything except root crops, and even they have been sulking. June is shaping up to be another cool one, but that won't deter us from celebrating Midsummer, the Summer Solstice this weekend with friends. We also celebrate it on the Solstice proper, with a swim in the river, and a picnic. I suspect this year though, it's gonna be a quick dip, as the winter snow melt is still filling the mountain rivers with freezing cold run off. Hypothermia is not part of my plans that day. There is also the added bonus of our own local Midsommer festival on the 25th, (Midsummer proper in most of Europe). This event is hosted by the League of Swedish Societies, and has gotten so popular they've had to move it to a bigger park this year. They will have a maypole, but I bet there won't be surstromming, infamously stinky fermented herring. My Swedish friend Marta assures me I would love it!

Detail Of Hearts

Finished up a nice fireplace screen, bleeding hearts. I designed it, and forged out the pretty bits, and handles,Hubby forged the frame, stretched the screen.

Putting on the Beeswax Finish

We use a traditional beeswax/turpentine finish for most of our interior projects. Those are my lovely hands buffing that metal..

All ready to go to it's new home!

We also built this same client a handrail, but I need to get over there for some picture taking. They were thrilled with our work,and I can't wait to see this screen with a fire behind it. I love what I do and am truly grateful that I get to do this for a living!
Now it's off to get ready for the weekends festivities. Gte some spuds and dill, roast some ribs drink some good beer, laugh and celebrate the turning of the wheel!Have an awesome and wonderful, magical Midsommer, Sonnenwende, Midsummer, Solstice! The Sun is at her height, and will slowly descend back to her winter depths from here on out.