Seasons Greetings

Lake of apostrophe intentional, I mean greetings across several seasons, not this festivish one in particular. If you enjoy This Is That, I offer a hearty, “It’s Winter!”

I feel like I have stuff to say and I’m kind of tired of saying it on Facebook &c, so I’ve reactivated this fickle little blog, amused to see that my last post was just after the Yuletide (Winter!) of last year. Hello, goodbye, hello.

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Get On The Pot

Some of my (very generous!) gifts this Christmas came in the forms of money. I hemmed and hawed about what I wanted to spend it on. I would really love some tall brown boots, several books, maybe some yarn (I’ve been practicing a lot of knitting this winter)… but on a whim I checked out the Winter Activity Guide put out by the City. Put together, the money was enough to cover the tuition for an introductory pottery class. And there was ONE spot left. It was clearly meant to be.

Pottery
Not my image, click through for original.

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I’ve always loved it always wanted to try it for myself. I love the stuff you can buy in the local, hand-made shops but it’s never quite what I would want in my own home -the finicky, critical artsy side of me wasn’t satisfied. Now I get to fiddle around with yet another medium and Oh.My.Gourd. It’s so, SO damn awesome. I’ve only had one class but I spent the entire time absolutely beaming, trying to not exclaim, “THIS IS SO FUCKING COOL!!” the whole time. (Not even kidding, I stifled my outbursts with even bigger grins.)

I turned the first exercise (a pinch-pot) into what looks like a small cauldron (with feet and handles), perfect for salsa or a single serving of soup. The second exercise was to make a mug using slab-building. I had a hard time deciding what fun to add to it, so I gave it an oval base, circular mouth, narrowed the neck, drew a tree-shape into it with some tools and made the handle look like elf-ears. We’ll see if my technical can hold up to my creative, they haven’t been fired yet.

This week we start throwing. I may have to tape my mouth shut to keep the glee in check!

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Feathered Friends

I cannot tell you how happy it makes to me to have my own wee flock of chickens.

Eggs!
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Thank You, Lisa Gerrard

I cannot stop playing this song over, and over, and over, and…

It’s lovely to hear MsGerrard singing in English. I love the soul. I love the more typical DCDish vocal backing melodies. I love the shooka-shooka modernish beat. Goodness.

Crazy people moment. Yes, one of those. When seeing DCD live this summer in Vancouver, I felt it. THAT. That sense of something beyond all of us. That the world truly is a magical place and some have been given, sent a GIFT for creating beauty barely discernible amidst the noise and movement. MsGerrad has said in interviews that she feels herself a conduit. I felt god. God. It was there. I wept. I felt full. I felt (still do) grateful.

Thank you, Lisa Gerrard.

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Labels

I prefer not to be thought of as a cheap drunk, but more of an effective imbiber.

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Adventures In Art

I should probably write a post about my first solo gallery art show (said with enthusiasm and confidence that there will be others). While it’s still fresh. Haha. Fresh is relative, no?

It was wonderful. Not only are the staff at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre incredibly helpful and supportive, they’re easy going -just what an over-thinking yet naive artist like me needs. Kathryn showed me what she had learned from previous shows about hanging pieces, forming groupings, height, all that stuff that I hadn’t even thought to research for myself. It took me all day to get it hung; fortunately, L was in preschool in the morning and piggy-backing with a friend’s nanny for the afternoon; fortunately I live pretty close to the KWNC so running home for lunch, hardware and extra frames when I dropped a picture and broke the glass; fortunately I didn’t have a lot of pieces.

North Wall

It looked… good! Like a real art show! I know, I shouldn’t be so shocked. Maybe not shocked, just… proud of myself for pulling it off, humbled by the offer by the KWNC, excited about what could happen.

I sold 6 pieces! And not all to friends!! Granted, 4 of the sales were to friends but I had one complete stranger contact me via the info on my card and she bought 2 pieces. Not that purchases by friends don’t count, purchases from strangers that don’t necessarily feel like they are obligated to support me (you know what I mean)(right?) are somewhat more.. encouraging. As though, “Hey, maybe my work IS appealing!” Yeah, I could work on my confidence a bit.

The comments in the guest book were also very encouraging. I suppose a part of me wasn’t sure how an exhibit of 90% insect portraits was going to go over. Of course, I think insects are fascinating, beautiful and worth putting into art. I just don’t know how appealing it would or could be to the general public. I’m starting to think that it’s better than I’d hoped.

As for What Is Happening Now? Well, little. L is in Kindergarten 5 days a week now and.. well, that time doesn’t seem as big as you’d think. Granted, it’s been kind of insane around here with the gardening/produce/chickens season(s) this year -and once that was over I had a lot of catching up to do around the house plus, dammit, I need (and deserve!) a bit of Down Time. I’m just now really feeling like I can put the Art Shoes back on and work on projects that have been on my To Do list since.. oh, July. Then again, Yule/Christmas is only 6 weeks away, so I should probably start working on all those projects….

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What A Life

So, yeah. This is what it is and I am what I am. Life is good. Very good. I don’t get as much ‘work’ done as I’d like, not even close. I have good days, I have mostly bad days (as far as ‘work’ is concerned) but as far as Life goes? Fuck yeah. I am happy. Marvelously happy.

And I have a metric assload of pumpkins (and other squash) from the 2012 garden season.

Outside

I also have chickens. 4 of them. It’s the ‘off’ season and they’re pullets (teenagers) but I’ve got 4 eggs (after a couple of months having them) so things are looking up!

I won’t make any promises about posts but I will say that I miss the regular posts. I find the less I expect myself and pressure myself to commit, the better I do. So we’ll leave it at that.

(It’s nice to be back.)

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Hi Hey

Carpenter Ant

Queen Carpenter Ant (Camponotus herculeanus) post wing-drop. 11x12 inches, acrylic, watercolour pencil and charcoal on wood.

5 weeks until my Solo Gallery show. EEEEEEEEE!!

Plus, it’s Get The Garden Going Season. EEEEEEE!!

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Sad Beautiful Respectful True

I’ve recently been introduced to Kevin Kossowan’s blog, as his banner claims: cellar, wild, garden, local -his blog is all about food. He’s in Edmonton which is fantastic, it’s been rare to find people taking the local self-sustenance thing so seriously and doing it so well locally. I’m just beginning, he’s got it down to a science and artform.

I just finished watching The Kill Floor video, along the lines of my own recent education and at first I tried to write down some quotes from the butcher, but decided it was all too good, and am just posting the video itself.

From this post:

Episode 27 – The Kill Floor from Kevin Kossowan on Vimeo.

The ‘hard’ parts are near the very end.

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True Grit

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time but had a hard time putting it all into words. SO, I’m just going to run and see where it gets me. I imagine I’ll hit all of the necessary pit stops.

Eating meat has become so simple in our culture. Too simple.

I’ve seen Fresh The Movie, I’ve seen Food, Inc. I’ve read Omnivores Dilemma. I’ve watched this beautiful (yes, beautiful) video showing how to butcher a pig. I have access to local, happy, healthy, natural meats (not to mention insanely delicious).

Meat requires another animal’s death -and that is something that far too many people take for granted, including me. I understand, appreciate and respect that each roast or pack of bacon that I unwrap is the flesh of another animal (‘another,’ yes, humans are animals). I don’t try to protect my children from the reality, either. Chicken is from chicken, beef is from cattle, pork and bacon (practically its own food group in here) are from pigs. Living, breathing, eating, shitting, feeling animals. And that it is so very important to me, and to J, that we respect it. Acknowledge it. Be grateful for it.

I’ve always wanted to go hunting. I first learned to handle and use firearms in Sea Cadets. I found I was a good shot. While living with my mom & step dad on an acreage for a few months after I graduated high school, John let me practice with his 22, I even went ‘hunting’ and successfully shot a grouse. Not a huge feat, but I’d killed an animal that we could eat. I don’t think we ever did, I have a vague recollection of it being lost somewhere in the freezer. Then, while working in Forestry, I was again trained to use firearms and used a 12-gauge shotgun for several months (a great story, if you haven’t already heard it). But when I say I wanted to hunt, most people that I was genuinely appealing to though I was being facetious. I wanted to know how to obtain meat in as simple, as natural a manner possible.

I do still want to go hunting for game. In case you’re wondering about me, I find no thrill in the killing. It’s not some kind of rabid blood lust that I have -I have a strong penchant for DIY when it comes to food. I like doing, making things from scratch. I like learning technique. I like knowing what goes into what I eat. So many times I’ve said to myself, “Why the hell should I buy that when I can do it myself?” I like projects!

Planning for my own urban chicken flock and looking for more urban gardening ideas, I purchased Essential Urban Farmer and read the whole section on raising chickens and through the ‘processing’ section, too, mostly out of curiosity.

When a commenter on an Urban Chicken Group page announced that she had a young rooster who’d started crowing and needed to be removed (roosters in the city make for grumpy neighbours -hell, roosters in my own flock’d make me grumpy, too), I half-joking suggested she turn him into soup. The woman said she couldn’t do that, he’d been too much of a pet for her. I said something along the lines of, “I’ll take him off your hands -but be warned that he’s destined for food.” A part of me was kind of hoping she’d say NO and keep looking for a farm to take him, but she agreed. We set up the hand-over and I came home with a beautiful 4 month old cockerel in a small box lined with pine shavings. Wondering what J was going to think of me, other than that I was nuts.

I won’t go through all of the details, but I did it. We wound up getting FOUR meals out of the 1 bird (roast, leftover meat in fajitas, 2 night’s worth of soup). The instructions in the book are excellent, the meat was surprisingly tender. The soup stock I made from the bones was amazing, so thick with gelatin and so incredibly flavorful. We’d had farm chickens for roasting from J’s Baba years ago, but they were never this.. nice. It could be breed, range-space, diet, or the 24 hour brine rest that make the difference, I don’t know. It could just as easily be that I wasn’t as experienced a cook back then. But, Sparky was amazing. I had been somewhat concerned that my ‘experiment’ in self-sustenance would wind up with a shrug and a drive to the supermarket for a rotisserie chicken. It certainly didn’t.

SO, a few days ago when I was offered a rooster who was apparently being an asshole and a duck.. I wound up being handed a medium-sized dog kennel containing a rooster and THREE ducks. As of writing this, they are all soaking in a 10% brine solution. Well, the food-friendly parts are.

I expect I make it sound easy and I’ve had very kind comments about how brave I am, pride in me, admiration for my strength and it’s all very flattering and while I do take pride in having taken this extra, large step toward conscious omnivory, it’s TERRIFYING. When the birds are enclosed and I know that I Have A Job To Do, I’m anxious, I’m distracted, I’m procrastinatory (yes, I’m making that a word), my hands tremble. I finally reach a point where I know I’m ready (as much I can be) and I just need to go do it. My hand shake the whole time. My heart is thumping. I am so worried that the animal is going to be afraid, hurt, stressed. I have read and re-read as much as I can about methods and what is purported to be the most humane (and why) and I am confident that my methods are the best I can offer (and that these methods are over and above the humane levels of either predation by coyotes or life in a factory chicken operation).

Still, I’m a sentimental, sensitive, over-thinking meathead. But I do it. Yesterday, J helped me and I am so grateful. Not only because of a different approach that I believe is slightly (yet even) more humane that I wasn’t sure I could do (physical strength-wise), but because there is something indescribable about having a friend, a partner share these moments. It’s the feeling of support, that he doesn’t actually think I’m crazy or that it’s another irrational project. It’s the contribution of his experiences. It’s having someone to show my shaking hands to see how much this really does affect me.

And it really does affect me, on so many levels, which I’ll try to articulate. But first I have to say that I believe this …sorrow in taking another animals life, this respect for it’s feelings and fear for ITS fear.. this emotional response to something so basic as sustenance, nourishment is a gift.

If I felt nothing? THAT would be a tragedy.

And that, THAT, is what our Western Civilized Food System is. A motherfucking tragedy. To see the rows of rotisserie chickens and try to determine which one is plumpest and the best value for our dollar, instead of picturing or at the very least sparing a single neural firing’s worth of energy considering how those birds (YES THEY ARE BIRDS) got there. To decide that it’s a good thing for a drive-thru cheeseburger to cost less than a pound of fresh produce, instead of questioning the logic of putting that crap (SO MUCH CRAP) into our bodies, our children’s bodies. To feel, think, respect NOTHING of the value of food. OF OURSELVES. Because yes, you ARE what you eat. On a very fundamental, physical level.

The choices we make as consumers make a difference. You may say that you don’t have options where you live. Why is that? Because we were fed the idea that choice is overrated, here, let’s make the choices for you, eat this crap in a box shipped around the globe instead of supporting local Farmer Joe -and we ate what we were fed. The result?

CAFO Food Court

 

Is the similarity not obvious? Some neon signs and fake plants slapped into plastic pots to draw attention away from the fact that we’re being herded, confined, steered away from exercise and effort and being fed crap we have no earthly business eating? And, beyond that, dealing with the health consequences of it all?

Food must be more important that that. It *IS* more important than that. Make the choice to try, at the very least. When the cashier at the supermarket asks you if you found everything you were looking for, THAT is your chance to express your choice. Say, “No! Not nearly enough organic produce.” “No, I want tomato sauce in cans free from BPA.” “No, I would like to see local meats.” “No, I want to see GMO labeling.” YOU are the one holding the debit, credit card, cash. Make them earn it.

Or when a crazy opportunity presents itself to you, earn it yourself. Plant a garden to start, it’ll open up your mind and your heart and your whole body will with thank you for it.

And, lastly the title of this post comes from this:

True Grit
True Grit

This is the gravel I collected from the 3 ducks’ gizzards. Some of it washed away as I cleaned it out but I tried to keep as much as I could. At first it was just a curiosity to me, an interesting tidbit of bird anatomy, but then (sentimental me) I attached more to it. It’s a step in the food chain. It’s the birds’ instinctive knowledge that it needs some stony grit in its gizzard to help it properly digest its food -to sustain itself. Just as its my instinctive knowledge that I am an omnivore and I require an animals death to accomplish that. It’s a natural process. It’s complicated. It should be complicated. It’s a complicated process, being a living creature, ultimately turning the sun’s energy and the earth’s chemistry into everything that we are.

Years ago I bought The Joy of Yoga and this passage struck me and I’ve never forgotten it:

You are as natural and legitimate an expression of Nature as a tree or cloud. -Erich Schiffmann

 

Despite technology and culture, we are animals. Even as we destroy it, we are a part of Nature. Holding those tiny pebbles in my hand is a truth.

Disclaimer: In no way am I suggesting or implying that everyone do what I did. Nor am I going to feed my family exclusively this way. Thank goodness for Ravenwood, I have other access to ecological, ethical meats. It’s the idea, the knowledge, the respect for the process that I want to emphasize.

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