Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Photo day

Today is absolutely glorious. It has been in the high 60s, maybe lower 70s. A perfect day for being out in the dye studio. My friend Linda came up to dye wool yardage for rug hooking and I gathered some of what I've been dyeing these last few weeks to photograph for my Etsy shop.

I decided it's so nice out here that I'd do my editing here, as well. Each piece of product has been photographed from many angles and exposures, so it can take me a day or more to edit a few hours' worth of photos, especially if I need to color adjust using Photoshop. I try not to do that unless it's absolutely necessary, but I strive to get my final photos to match my product exactly, on my monitor, anyway. It's always up for grabs what happens when it shows up on someone else's computer. I just know it has been disappointing to buy things on line, only to have them look entirely different when they arrive in the mail.

Music is my constant companion when I'm working. I am acutely aware of how it can put me in different times of my life and change my moods in seconds. Today was Blossom Dearie and Buck Owens. The next time could be opera. I just never know what will strike me until I start working.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Follow up to my last posting

The comments you have sent me on my previous post have been warmly received...thank you for taking the time to write to share your experiences and feelings.

To Caralee...my hat goes off to you in a BIG way. Building our own home was never a possibility (Roger was still living and working in California while I oversaw the project), and I was exhausted enough at the end of one year to question my sanity (in fact, I was truly losing it). I don't know how you're hanging in there all these years, but it's quite clear from your website that your home is going to be nothing short of spectacular when you are finished. I will look forward to hearing about your experiences in your indoor greenhouse, and am very curious about your chest freezer root cellar. We have both solar greenhouse and two underground rooms for vegetable storage, and we have yet to get them calibrated and working properly for us.

To Teresa...how interesting that you have friends up here in Carson...a community I know little about and have only driven through. Earthships were of interest to us and part of the reason we were delighted to move to this area, where alternative construction and systems have been embraced for more years than many in our country have even been aware, I suspect. Some of them are just spectacular, and proof positive that you can live this life and not be living like The Flintstones. Again, hard work if you're doing it on your own. Oh...and I'm with you on the hot water! I have water stories galore, including just plain living without it for weeks on end, in the rental house, with no outhouse available; those were the same years I had to strain all the faucet water through one piddley little U.V. filter so I didn't end up getting sick from the creek water my neighbors were filling the cistern with (rental house again). The thing is...I can make adjustments and live this different life, it's just a different mindset, and one needs to be prepared for it. (P.S. Please get in touch if you're ever headed to my area...I'd love to meet you at Taos Cow for an ice cream. In fact, next time you and Brenda are in our area, Jack, we should all meet and have a visit.)

Kittie...how good to hear from you after seeing you often on Jack's blog. It's pretty clear you've been there, done that, with the "simple" life. Thank you for confirming my suspicion that my own simple life has to start from within. Speaking of Buddhism...one of my dearest friends in the world is a Tibetan Buddhist nun and is coming home from India this week to live here at Fort Martie. I am hoping to learn lots from her.

When we built our home, our systems were planned to give us three days' worth of independence if we had no sunshine. The years of additional electrical luxuries and two people vs. one living here have strained this original plan. Also when we built, there was no local option to feed back to the grid. In fact, it was almost 5 years before the grid and telephone lines even came up our road. Ten years on our original batteries was a good life for them, and technology has improved. We are a work in progress.

I have actually had people argue with me that what we do isn't, environmentally speaking, without its pitfalls. Well, probably so. I know making our panels and batteries (not to mention disposal or recycling of them one day) leaves its footprint also. But what doesn't? I heard a report this week about all the chemicals that come out of our bodies from our medications and enter the water streams when we take showers, not to mention the sewage issues we could all guess about. And those "clean" nuclear power plants that are starting to raise their ugly heads again? While I understand the arguments on both sides, would you want to be living near one, or have the nuclear waste buried for eternity in your neighborhood, as my friends in Carlsbad, New Mexico, do? Not in my back yard, you say???

So if we can each just pass the word that small changes really can add up...replacing incandescent light bulbs and not leaving lights on where they are not needed is a big start...perhaps we can help those who don't have any of this in their day to day consciousness.

I'd like to think our government will take a stronger stand in this direction, but right now, I'm low on the optimism that had my spirits buoyed by having a change in administration...but that's another posting I probably won't do. Oh...and Caralee...I'm with you on the health care plan. What an embarrassment to be such a "powerful" nation with so many sick and uninsured citizens...and one of the highest infant mortality death rates amongst industrialized nations. It's easy to be sanctimonious if you have had the ability to pay for good health care, and don't know what being on the other side of the fence feels like, isn't it.

Martie, signing off from atop her soap box...with apologies that this post is so screwy looking...I wrote it in Word and copied it over, apparently an HTML faux pas

Saturday, March 27, 2010

When the simple life isn't

When I first moved to this part of the mountain, I rented a great house that was off the grid. This was right up my/our alley, as our intention was always to build some sort of alternative home and be responsible for making our own power.

The four years I lived in that house were quite the education, to say the least. I had a small group of solar panels that were so high up on the roof, only Santa Claus or Spiderman could have gotten up there to clear the snow in winter so I could get power. The batteries were probably on their death beds when I moved in, and my first winter there, I quickly learned that the generator the landlord had so generously left for me had a broken pull cord on it. Oh...and did I mention the home made 12v refrigerator that had an interior temperature of about 50F and no freezer?

There are lots of stories that go with that house. For now, I just want to say that having that experience was the basis for making sure when we planned our own system so that we would have ample power, plenty of backup, and no single point of failure. It all worked pretty well until the years slowly filled our home with the trappings of the power world...freezers, flat panel televisions, computers, printers, and so on. It's funny now to look back and to think I originally returned the top of my stove to be exchanged for a more traditional warming oven like you'd find on a wood cook stove, so we'd have no more phantom electrical loads from the fan and light and clock (if you're not on to phantom loads...this is all the electricity things like your television use when you're not using them and you think they're not using electricity).

This past fall we had an additional set of panels installed and an entirely new inverter system. We now have the ability to produce electricity to feed back to the cooperative. Instead of those small batteries we had before, we now have batteries that weigh a hefty 1,200 lbs. each. The inverters live in a cupboard on the outside wall of our house (thank heavens...I am weary of electrical noises and buzzing). It was all just great, for a while.

It appears now there is trouble in River City. Something didn't get hooked up properly and the batteries are always in recharge mode. It's causing a smell to leak into our house (think: crates of rotten eggs). Thank heavens Mr. Sunflower is an electrical engineer and has the ability to trouble shoot and work with the team who did the installation to try to find a way to make this all work as it should. If I lived here with this alone...well...I think I wouldn't want the bother.

We're still getting power (from the grid instead of our own system), but it's causing me to really think about how (and why) we do these things to ourselves. We look for some level of simplicity in our lives, and end up creating the same mazes we left behind. Do I love having a freezer after living without one for 4 years? You bet. Do I love using my microwave for reheating my coffee? Yepper! Would I want to have no surplus electricity and not be able to use this computer? No way. Oh...and ask me how passionate I am about my clothes dryer, after tromping through mud and snow to bring in clothes from the line for those 4 years!

So, here I am, conflicted. Sometimes I think maybe it was just fine when I had limited batteries, one 12v light bulb and used a kerosene lamp at dinner time. I ate a far healthier diet with little refrigeration. Now that I think about it, I read a lot more in those days, too. Oh...and in retrospect, those 4.5 years without a land line telephone we're so bad, either.

So I think what I'm concluding is that the simple life is something I need to create in my head more than relying on my surroundings to give me that feeling. Maybe I should start there and work from the inside out?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Busy, busy times

Once in a great while, an opportunity comes along that will end up being a highlight of one's lifetime . Such an opportunity has come my way...and I've been waiting to tell you. I've decided my relative silence here on the blog will be better explained if I let you in on it.

I recently got the news that we will be grandparents again. This is something we weren't sure could ever happen again. The joy is immeasurable.

My daughter in law will need lots of help. She now has a 4 year old to care for, along with a business she manages while my son is at sea for months on end. I am going to move back to the coast, early in May, and make myself available to help in all the ways I can to help her. This will most likely mean being gone from Taos May through fall.

I am taking my show on the road. I'm packing up a spinning wheel, projects to work on if there's any spare time, and my Etsy inventory and business is going with me...so I can conduct business from there. I have been working hard these last weeks to build up an inventory of product to take with me, knowing my time will be limited there. I have only about 3 weeks' of production time left, in and around other events that are happening between now and May. My brain is going 1,000 miles an hour most days. I'll get some photos of the finished products up when I have some time to get things together and get the camera out.

I'm also planning to take you with me...I've decided it will be fun to share my "other world" with you. I know you've already seen bits and pieces of that world with me over these last few years. It's a far cry from my quiet life here, but I'm totally up for it. I'm kind of excited...I've decided to go "native"...go to the beach as much as possible with my grandson, play in the ocean, get a tan (much to the chagrin of my dermatologist), and maybe even get that tattoo I've been threatening to get for years...and who knows what else.

For now, I'm leaving you with a couple of photos of our grandson, one with his Opa, and one with his Mimi. For someone who wasn't blessed with lots of mothering instincts, I sure am loving being a grandparent.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The grub worm report

Somewhere in the very early 80s, I think it was, Mr. Sunflower took me on a three week driving tour of the midwest, to meet his family, visit his alma mater, and see where his family has farmed corn and soy for four generations now. It was the first time to meet everyone, and I was a nervous wreck.

I remember the afternoon I met his mom and dad like it was yesterday. Retired farmers, they spent their winters in Florida and their summers near the family in a small town near the farms. We were invited to their place for lunch. We were all terribly nervous, and conversation wasn't just exactly flowing. Finally, Roger asked his mom: "Well, mom, what's new here in Roanoke?" (population 400, I think it was, but don't quote me). Her reply, with tinges of angst: "Well, them grub worms is eating the church lawn again."

I was in shock at the news, and I immediately fell in love with her, right there on the spot. This was the part of America I had been missing in my life, and I felt like I had landed right, exactly, where I should have always been. I probably started purring.

So in the years since, with all the travel we both do, we use the term "Grub Worm Report" for our evening telephone conversations, the sharing of the little day to day things that matter not to anyone else but us...the dogs did something funny, the neighbor's old truck broke down in the middle of our road again, those pesky squirrels were attacking the chains that keep the lids on the bird feeders in place...you get the idea.

So, after this long preamble, here's my weekly grub worm report:

We had some absolutely drop dead, gorgeous days this week. One of my highlights was watching the snow glacier on our roof make its slow journey to the ground (it took about 6 days). I captured photos on March 12 and then again on March 17...with the final crash happening on the 18th, while I was out walking in the yard. (Note: this is classic grub worm material.)

I saw my first prairie dog this week, on the ski valley road. While I know they are not beloved by many, I still find them amusing...probably because I don't have to live with them. It was a great sign of spring. I also saw one of our yard bunnies out a few times this week...ditto. I watched a pair of birds, well, frolicking, and then inspecting another of the bird houses out in the yard.

I've been reading a fun book..."The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner. Weiner, a former NPR reporter, visited a researcher in Switzerland who has spent a decade or more building a database of information about where the happiest people in the world are, and what makes them so happy. This book is a lighthearted account of his visits to approximately 10 of those countries. It has been great entertainment, as has my other travel reading this winter.

Last, but not least...Friday a snow storm ripped through here like I've seldom seen. The winds were wicked and I honestly felt like there was a possibility I could wake up, house intact, in Farmington yesterday morning. (Luckily, this did not come to pass. I couldn't bear another serious relocation, I don't think.) It's melting fast, though, and I've discovered I'm feeling a lot more charitable about snow since the end is in sight!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Seldom do I get to see a finished product from one of my fibers or handspun yarns, so when I do, it really is a big reward. As those of you who sell on line know, it often times feels like you've put your little beloved creations into the postal system (think: bottle in the ocean), never to be heard of again.

Not so with my long time friend, Penni, who started spinning again this past year. She's been an ardent supporter of TaosSunflowerToo fibers and faithfully sends me photos of her finished yarns and the projects she knits with them. She's an amazing spinner...often times getting 600 yds and more from a mere 4.0 oz. of hand painted roving. Then she knits fabulous lace shawls with these yarns and often times gives them away. (Lucky you if you're on her list!)

Yesterday I received this shawl photo. It's from one of my Free Fall rovings she purchased last year. Who says you can't do much with a single 4.0 oz. roving??? Certainly not Penni!!

Thanks, Penni, for letting me share this with everyone. It's far too beautiful not to. You do me honor with your work. XOXO

Monday, March 15, 2010


I learned this evening that Peter Graves, star of countless films and the wildly popular '60s program "Mission Impossible", died yesterday of an apparent heart attack.

I watched them eulogize him on the news, but never once did they mention my favorite of his roles: Jim Newton, owner of the Broken Wheel Ranch...along with his son, Joey, and best yet, their horse, Fury. I had a crush as big as all outdoors on Fury, and yes, while we're at it, Peter Graves. Forget Joey...I was going for the big guy.

Those days of T.V. westerns are very special memories for me...as is the memory of one handsome rancher who stole my little girl heart.

I hope he gets to be with Fury again, wherever they are.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring is in the air

For all the crabbing I've done about the snow and dark skies this winter, I have to tell you that the snows this week left us with an absolutely gorgeous day today. We went to town to have lunch, and I was busily snapping photos like a person starved for snow and blue sky. I wanted to share a little piece of this day with you.

Something in the air has changed, as well. Maybe it's all in my head...maybe it's real. I've had potential tenants surveying the birdhouse in the carport this past week (Mountain Chickadees, I believe), and Hairy the woodpecker has been happily beating the daylights out of the vigas in the same carport...leaving his sawdust below. The robins seem to have moved on, after being here most of the winter, but I've seen a fair number of blue jays this week. Not the Stellar jays, but what I call the scrub jays. I love them both.

At lunch today, conversation turned to my winter doldrums. Mr. Sunflower suggested that perhaps this has a wee bit to do with my getting ready to turn another decade on my personal odometer...or is it ageometer...and I will admit, it has been heavy on my mind. Common sense tells me I'm fortunate to have good health and even be alive, but for some reason, this coming birthday is a real smack in the head for me.

Whatever happened to not trusting anyone over thirty? Ooopsss....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bringing up baby

Well...12" new inches of snow here at the fort at 7:00 a.m. this morning, and it's been coming down most of the day. This has made for some righteous cabin fever within the ranks of the quadruped members of the household. We have discovered that our new girl can yodel and make noises like some sort of demented dolphin when she wants attention. Since she spends part of these bad weather days in a large crate so she and our other female don't get into a fight, I've learned to give her what I call her baby bottle: a Kong stuffed with peanut butter. I've heard of this before but never dreamed what a great source of amusement it could be. Thank you, whoever thought this up.

I managed to get out to the PO yesterday (yes, we had more snow yesterday morning, as well) and found this beautiful tree next door to the post office, calling my name. Another of my examples of the many colors of winter, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar night

Somewhere in the early 80s, I got caught up in the ritual of watching the Oscars. My friend Sherry hosted an annual party at her house, and a few of us would gather around trays of snacks, drink loads of champagne, and hoot and holler at her TV set.

Those were fun times, but long past. Sherry lives far away, I almost never see a film in a theater, I no longer drink or smoke, and my friends here in Taos couldn't care less about the Oscars...so I go it alone.*

After a three hour nap yesterday in preparation for my big night (yawn), I went upstairs to watch. About five minutes in, I realized I needed something else to do, so I sat and hooked those four hours.

Great choice! I rarely work up there at night and I got a lot done. I'm using up some wool I purchased last summer and dyed this fall and winter. It has a partial synthetic content, so it won't take enough dye to give a deep color...hence the pastels. After just finishing a mat hooked on someone else's pattern, this piece is freeform...I am drawing it as I go.

As for the Oscars...well...let's just say I'm glad I had something else to do.

*(Note that Mr. Sunflower has nothing to do with this. He was downstairs with his headphones on, watching a series on The History of Great Britain. I might well have been better served by joining him.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Back in the saddle (gratuitous marketing posting)

As promised when I canceled my mailing list this past week, I am going to post here when there's something new going on, business-wise. I will try to make sure you're aware of this in my title, so you don't have to waste your eyesight or time reading about things that don't interest you.

As of today, I have photographed and edited photos on roughly half my own handspun inventory, as well as some other "destash" yarns at ridiculously low prices.

I am getting ready to start posting some of those items now to my Etsy shop. It's 6:15 MST...give me about 30 minutes before you start seeing new listings.

Here's an idea I had this afternoon: certain products that I am destashing will have special offers included in the item description...most likely reduced or free shipping (within the U.S. only, sorry) depending on the item...so take a second look when you're cruising the shop...you may find something you can't pass up.

Tonight I will list a few of my own handspun yarns, some destash roving, and some destash yarns. I will continue to post all that I have photographed these last two days over the next week...so check back once in a while!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring cleaning

No, no...not my house...my wool room. Holy moly, am I a pack rat. It is a humbling experience to witness first hand how much I can accumulate when I'm thinking I'm not.

A friend is coming to live with us...so I'm having to face what my friend Tracy calls "the seedy underbelly" of my life. That includes countless boxes of fabric brought with me in 1993 from California (I no longer sew), enough spinning fiber for a few years, ditto commercially spun yarns, and part of my collection of antique and reproduction quilting fabrics (I don't quilt...I just love the idea). Oh...and my snowshoes, skis, about a dozen or more suitcases, back packs and camera bags (I have containeritis), multiple cans of remains of pets past, and too many dead flies all over the floor from when it got cold last fall. I am, if nothing else, a woman of vision. I know I can make this homey and cozy in these next few weeks.

I have also been doing some cyber housecleaning. Some of you may have been on my mailing list and received my letter on March 1 telling you that I will no longer keep a mass mailing list and send out the occasional newsletter. Any news I have about my Etsy shop will happen here, as well as on the bulletin board of my website, Taos Sunflower.com. I have revamped the website from six pages to three for easier navigation and less chatter. I am hereby solemnly swearing to try harder to keep it updated more frequently.

Oh...and the best news yet...it is sunny today, that full up, in your face sun, complete with crystal clear blue skies. I am one happy puppy...yesterday I had actually been on the Mayo Clinic website, researching SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and contemplating ordering one of those little full spectrum light panels that's supposed to help pull you out of the dumps. Here's hoping the sun stays instead!