The operator of the Dibbler is the Supreme Being of the farm. Each and every plant owes its life or death to the accuracy of the Dibbler’s holes – if a seedling is too far from its intended place in the bed, a cultivator will soon come along and end its happy little green life. A plant’s chance for success is decided by someone else at almost every stage of its life. Was it transplanted at the right depth, at the right time, in the right place? Did it get a row cover to protect from bugs and birds or was it left to the mercy of early frosts and geese? Has the field been irrigated or is it relying on the clouds to provide? Obviously, there is not much a plant can do to affect its circumstances so these external forces are really the only chances it gets.
For a person, there can be many of the same kind of seemingly final life events; born into poverty or wealth, availability of education and healthcare, the love and attention of a family or caregiver. Nature vs nurture is a hotly debated topic and is something I am nervous to even dance around. I have been incredibly lucky with regards to almost every one of these circumstance – I love and am loved by my family, I live somewhere that a good education was readily available, I have been encouraged and supported by my loved ones to pursue my own interests and I am, on a day to day basis, strong and (as I am hearing more and more often) otherwise healthy. Because of this, I feel like I have to do everything I can to make the most of what I have been given and do something worthwhile with my life, like I owe it to whoever was operating the Dibbler and transplanted me in a straight line. I’ll not only grow beautiful leaves but I’ll produce the best damn tomatoes you’ve ever tasted (in this metaphor I am a tomato plant). There are also constant reminders in my life of how important it is to take advantage of what I have while I have it and not take anything for granted.
I’ve been diabetic for almost 10 years and it has been a struggle to come to terms with how this is a factor that is completely out of my control and that I have to learn how to work with it instead of rail against it. Increasingly over the past two years I have been unable to digest proteins – first meat, then dairy, and now soy. Like the diabetes, my doctors and I believe these intolerances are the result of an autoimmune disease. Since I was 14, my body has been hell bent on destroying itself without even knowing it. We are still doing tests to figure out what this mystery disease is, and because I am still on my parent’s insurance, it is something I can afford to do and will probably be able to afford to treat. It is definitely something that I avoid thinking about for the most part – my most used pep-talk for awhile has been ‘Being upset doesn’t help, doing something helps’. Since there is nothing I can do to get my body to stop being an idiot, I do everything to make sure to not forget that I am still alive and living and not dead yet and until I am physically incapable of it, I will be out making the most of my life.
Until now, studio time has always been fit in around work. I have always wanted to make it my priority but have never actively created a schedule that made it so. Moving 2000 miles to satisfy a gut feeling, it only seems appropriate to finally be making what I love doing my priority.
I have been writing up workshop proposals (and so far have had every submission approved), I have been arranging my weeks so that at least 2 days a week are 9-5 studio work days, and I have been actively engaging with other artists in a variety of ways.
My workshops are geared towards younger students – starting at age 7. I want to keep working with kiddos and be able to introduce them to whole new ways of thinking and creating. One workshop is a beginner’s knitting theme. We will be making our own knitting needles and learning basic knit and purl techniques to make a small summer satchel or bracelet. The other workshop is a 2 session beginner’s shibori class – we will be using natural vegetable dyes to create silk scarf samplers. I want to teach some weaving workshops and have been playing around with building inkle looms and card weaving.
My workspace is about as fancy as a chair set up by the edge of my mattress. I use this space to eat, type, sew, watch movies, sleep, and hang out. All-in-one-in-one. But it does the job for now, especially since I’ve been focusing mostly on quilting and embroidery. Once I have a series finished I’ll post some pictures.
I have been, not entirely on purpose, surrounding myself with people who are also arranging their lives to accommodate their work. Being an artist, it seems, requires a good amount of selfishness, naivety, and bullheadedness when the naivety wears away. To be willing to live like a rat and bust your butt to make rent and enough extra money to buy lumber to make stretcher frames, to put your family through all kinds of stress because they know you are living like a rat with 2 bachelor degrees, a teaching certificate, and 2 semesters of grad school under your belt. To choose to work in the dirt and to ride a bike to make ends meet instead of a Mon-Fri 9-5 job that you sleep through and hate. I need to be friends with people who are choosing to do this too; extra validation in times of self doubt, extra motivation in times of self confidence.
I feel incredibly lucky to be able to even have the option to live this kind of life. I am lucky to live somewhere that I have enough job options to choose from that I can turn down a 9-5 in favor of a whenever-to-whenever. I am lucky to have good doctors that can help me be able to work and be healthy despite being diabetic and having numerous food allergies and nutrition issues. I am lucky to have the opportunity to pursue what I love, to work with people that I love, to be happy and not feel like I am wasting the chances I have been given.
Every now and then I have the opportunity to see myself through the eyes of someone else. Today while attending an outdoor education workshop, one of the other teachers had a chance to see the interior of my van and skeptically asked, “are those potatoes??” oh. yeah. Those are sweet potatoes, they’re curing in my van because I don’t have a garage. That pile? Those are the parts to a 4 harness loom I’m taking to a farming friend. Earlier this week there was a toad in the front seat. You sure you don’t want to carpool?
Culp Branch, for those of you who live around here, is located on FM 455 in Sanger, the entrance is right across the street from The “Dam” Store.
One of my favorite classes at my current school is Outdoor Education. Who wouldn’t love getting to leave school in the middle of the day to go fish, hike, learn how to geocache (so much fun), and in the winter, shoot a bow! Lately we’ve been going geocaching out at Culp Branch. While the kids are searching for the hidden treasures I am frequently distracted by all of the plant life.
From the beach to the road there are hundreds of plants; wild plum thickets, yucca, pecans, naturalized irises, mesquites and black locusts. I have been there are least 3 times a week for the past 3 weeks. I plan on being there for the wild plum harvest and when the mesquite pods are hanging heavy.
Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata)
Pitcher Sage (Salvia azurea var. grandiflora)
Canadian Goldenrod (Solidago altissima)
Button Willow (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Heath Aster (Symphyotichum ericoides var. ericoides)
I love looking out over the field and seeing all of the grasses and scrappy flowers that have survived the Texas summer and are putting on their last show for the season. Their colors are subtle and easy to miss but are worth taking the time to look for. Being able to take our students out here and have them hike through the grasses and learn the difference between a mesquite tree and a honey locust is one of the most amazing things I get to do.
I’ll write more when I have time – our lives have taken a sudden shift in the opposite direction of where we intended. I had to leave my garden, we’re in an apartment, and we sold our tiny house trailer. We’re not in a bad place, just a very different place.
I’ve got a garden at the school I’m interning at (where I’m also working with the science class, outdoor education, and cooking class) and we’ve stored the bulk of our building materials at a friends. Because of the price of our new living situation we won’t be able to save money like we were before but it is still going to be a good exercise in general frugality. Plus, in the process of moving we have jettisoned over half of our belongings (mostly the things I have accumulated over the past 5 years without any real reason) and have made a (loose) pact to not bring anything new into the apartment unless it is food or toiletries.
The past month has been one of those months that you feel like you’re lucky to survive (mentally and physically) while its happening and can look back on years from now and pretend to laugh at while you hide that it still gives you goosebumps. But it’s done. I can’t say yet that it has made us stronger; just more wary. The series of events that led up to our sudden move made us both bitter and sad. I began feeling like I couldn’t trust anyone. There are still pockets of unease that only time will work to relieve. But the immediate response of our friends, family, and even a few strangers to give up their time to help us out was a great reminder of why it is so counterproductive to be jaded and distrustful. They were a reminder of how even though there are plenty of people who just seem to be genuinely awful, there are also plenty of people who are selfless and kind, and just want to make life enjoyable for everyone.
We are in a place we hadn’t expected to be but it isn’t a bad thing. It is just a new opportunity to work on ourselves and with others. It is an opportunity to be incredibly grateful for those that have helped us, and to learn how to not get so mad at people who we feel are hindering us.
House Sitting Nightmare #2: strolling down the street to check on the chickens to make sure no one else has decided to quit walking and see a large fallen tree in the distance. A few more yards and I realize that tree belongs to the house I’m taking care of. At 6 in the morning I chose to walk right past the tree to the backyard and not acknowledge its existence. I would ignore that it was blocking the sidewalk and half of the street.
Fresh pear wood has such a distinctly pleasant smell; the scorching summer heat worked on all of that sap so much that it felt like I was trying to breathe pear syrup instead of air. I managed to ignore the tree’s presence until about 1 in the afternoon. By that time a friend of the home owner’s had come to the rescue with a brand new chainsaw and was so excited to use it for the first time, who was I to argue?
The tree was gradually broken down; it took only 3 hours of sawing and hauling to get the whole thing out of the street and the sidewalk. The homeowners, my friends, worked on the big pile when they arrived home and now there is almost no sign of the split trunk. There were a lot of nice logs that I’m hoping will dry out nicely for lathe and other carving projects. I’m not an especially confident wood worker and think that starting out with softer woods will be the way to go. If I’m wrong, please let me know. If I’m not, I’d love some project suggestions. All in all, the nightmare turned out to be not so bad, but definitely something I hope to not have to deal with again anytime soon.
Squeak wants to help you with all of your crochet and knitting projects, but must attend to this urgent nap first. Y’all have a good weekend, I’m off to Houston to hang out with my Grandma. If it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t know the difference between purple datura and morning glory. Or that either existed.