Sunday, November 29, 2009

New garden made of junk

The Man and I found a bookshelf while walking today. He went back to get it once we got home. It was made of boards, two boards deep. He cut the bookshelf in half so now it was only half as deep. Then he stapled wire mesh and fabric to the bottom and put wooden feet on the bottom to raise it off the ground. He put these new planter boxes on the roof of the garage where it is sunny all day.

We filled them with soil and now I have my own little square foot garden. He is very proud of finding garbage on the street at 10AM and turning it into a garden by 4PM.

So far I have planted rapini, cabbage, chard, shallots, lettuce, spinach and basil. I transplanted some of the plants that had sprouted in my buckets. I'm not sure what they are. I'm soaking some chinese pea seeds and will plant them tomorrow. I still have the other planter to fill. I feel so lucky to live here. When other people are watching snow cover the ground, we are planting cool-season crops. Soon it'll be spring (although the native plants think it already is spring) and we can start planting the warm-season plants.

I finally have a real victory garden. Victory over the tyranny of a fully corporatized needs hierarchy.

A new label is needed

I need a new label to apply to all these posts I've been doing lately. I'm not sure what I'm doing, but I'm striving to find my new place in the world since the big hike. It's like a continuation of the journey, but without a clear destination.

I keep putting my posts under boring news or consumerism, authentic life or maybe adventure, but I need a new label that better describes this process. It's not really news, and it's sort of related to anti-consumerism, but too vague for that. It is a process of finding authenticity in a world that forces us to behave so much like the plastic that chokes the environment, but without any real definition, it's hard to define as my authentic life. It's not that adventurous, but it is my next big adventure. I don't know what I'm doing or what to call it.

Scavenging, foraging, canning, gardening, not going back to the cubicle, being frugal, learning about portable living, examining life and my world after two summers living in the forest. Is there a word for that?

City foraging

This morning, The Man and I decided to walk to our favorite coffee place.

Along the way, we noticed pecans falling furiously from a tree in the neighborhood. Birds were busy pulling off the pecans and dropping them to the street. I looked closely to see the birds and saw a green head with a red patch of feathers appear. The tree was full of Lilac-crowned Amazon parrots! It is a well-known wild flock of parrots that lives here.

Since this is the best time of year for foraging food for our own parrots from the neighborhood, I had remembered to bring a plastic bag with me. We grabbed the pecans as the parrots were throwing them out of the trees and put them in the bag. The pecans are green and unripe, but I remember eating unripe walnuts as a kid. There used to be walnut orchards where our housing development was built, and some walnut trees remained. We would eat them green as kids. They were quite tasty. The flavor reminded me of lettuce. Since the birds were also eating them green, they must be good to eat this way.

As we walked away from the pecan tree, we noticed macadamia nuts on the ground. We grabbed a few of those, but our parrot has a hard time opening them. So do we. The only way we have found to open macadamia nuts has been with a C-clamp. And that is only marginally successful. Crows like to drop some kinds of nuts in the street and wait for cars to run them over. I'm not sure that cars are able to open macadamia nuts. Usually, the macadamia nuts lie uneaten and unbroken under the trees.

We walked to the coffee place to have breakfast and then walked home. We are both sore from a 15 mile endurance hike yesterday. On the way home, we walked along a street with a lot of magnolia trees. A few years ago I had seen crows eating the magnolia pods so I started collecting them for our parrot. She likes to eat the red seeds inside. We collected fallen magnolia pods until our bag was full.

We also noticed a wooden bookcase left discarded on the side of the street. The wood is rough and unfinished, but it looked like good wood. The Man plans to remove the rose bushes that are not doing well and put in a long, thin area for gardening. We can use the wood from the bookcase.

City foraging can be fun.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm going to need a new job soon

I'm going to need a new job soon. The trouble is, I don't know what kind of job to do and I don't know where to find a good job.

I read the ads on Craigslist and hardly ever do I see anything that I would really like to do. I wish I could meet someone who would know of a good, low-stress, decently-paying job who could put in a good word for me. It seems like the best jobs come word-of-mouth anyway.

The low-stress jobs that seem to suit me best usually involve some kind of domain of arcane knowledge that needs to be mastered. Lots of little details. A bit of creativity thrown in puts me in heaven. Add some repetitive, mindless work, either physical or not, and it adds up to the perfect job for me. Examples:
  • Flower shop. Lots of little details about every kind of flower. Lots of mindless work processing the flowers. Creativity arranging the flowers.
  • Web production. Lots of little details about HTML, browser bugs, scripting languages. Lots of mindless work assembling web pages. Creativity writing good code.
  • Mental Health. Lots of little details about medications, side effects, diagnoses. Lots of mindless work helping people clean their homes. Creativity solving problems, trying to help people.
  • My whale job. Lots of little details about what sounds like a whale and what doesn't. Lots of mindless work locating whales. The only creativity is in looking at the pretty colors of the screens, but my mind is free to think about things.
I would not mind if my next job was temporary. All jobs are temporary anyway. And part-time is also good because I would like to take classes. Entry-level in a nerd field would be lovely, too, because I love working with computer nerds. Even though I've had jobs in nerdy fields, I don't mind entry level all over again because it is more fun to learn and grow than it is to move into management or be bored doing things I have already mastered.

I was thinking about the plight of workers as we age after I spoke to my sister on the phone yesterday. She asked me how The Man was doing these days.

He goes through these phases where every day he trudges off to work certain they are going to fire him. He'll be working almost 24 hours a day and he'll be under a ton of stress and miserable and then something will go wrong and he'll feel full of dread that he'll be fired. Eventually whatever the issue is blows over and he's not fired and everything is fine again.

It's a terrible, stressful way to live and yet he feels stuck in it because he is over 50 and doesn't feel like there are any other options for him. He believes this is the last high-paying job he will ever have. Once this one tosses him out, it's all over. Wall-Mart or Home Depot will be the best he can ever hope for after this because the world has no use for men his age. And once that happens, he believes he will lose everything. His house, his retirement, the works. I hate watching him live in constant fear like this. It doesn't seem like the money is worth it.

I'm almost at that age of being considered worthless myself. Our world is set up so that you better do everything you can between the ages of 25 and 50 to make as much money as possible because it's downhill for most people after that. Maybe even before the age of 50.

During the years you are capable of working, this is what I think you should do:
  • Save all of the money that you can. Live super frugally.
  • Don't buy lots of stuff except maybe for stuff that will last a long time and truly enhance your life. For me that might include things like a good musical instrument or a trusty bicycle pr even a pick-up or a van, but not include lots of electronic gadgets or a vehicle that you could not live in or use to haul stuff.
  • Don't go out much, or if you do, do it cheaply.
  • Don't put stuff on credit cards that don't exist long after you pay for them. That means meals out, fashionable clothing, entertainment. Only use credit cards for convenience and pay them off completely. If you have to use them to buy something you can't afford to pay off, whatever it is better be really good and long-lasting.
Save up all your money up because the first 20-30 years of work have to be stretched to cover the last 20-30 years of your working life. I'm not talking about saving for your retirement. I'm saying you have to save for your later working years. That's how bad it is. You will work for 40-60 years but only half of those years will make you a good salary.

I think I've kind of blown my good working years pretty much because of going on the hike. This gap in my employment may have shut me out. The gap may have advanced me 15-20 years to where I have to find jobs that old ladies in their 60s will do. What do they do anyway?

Anyway, with my good earning years possibly over, I feel like my fate is sealed. Poverty forever. Now I just have to figure out a way to manage within it. Unlike Tony, I don't worry so much about losing everything because I don't own anything. I just have to figure out how to survive with nothing. It seems there are ways to do it, and since I've lived on the trail, I think I can manage some of those ways if it comes to the point where Tony has lost it all, or kicks me out, whichever comes first

So, I'm looking for a low-stress job that can be part-time, temporary or full-time. Preferably above minimum wage. And I'm also looking for opportunities to meet other people who can lead me to such jobs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Homemade deodorant

I make my own deodorant. I got tired of buying deodorant. It is expensive, often does not even work, and comes in a plastic container that you have to throw away, adding more toxic plastic to the environment. Some people believe that the active ingredient in antiperspirant is toxic to the human body. My homemade deodorant does not have that ingredient.

I did not use deodorant all during the summer while I was hiking the PCT. It would not have done me any good. I got used to not using it. I think I sweat less under my arms now.

I make my deodorant with baking soda and cornstarch. I put a small spoonful of cornstarch and two or thee small spoonfuls of baking soda into a small, plastic container. I got the container in a package with other containers sold as a kit of little containers for camping. Then I add a tiny bit of water to make a paste. I also add a little bit of essential oil for fragrance. This time I used a cucumber scent. It smells like cucumbers similar to how Midori melon liqueur doesn't really taste like melons.

I have been using this now for a month. It really works. I have gone for long walks around town, gone hiking, and it prevents odor. I still smell like the cucumber fragrance when I go to bed at night. I do get sweaty, but not stinky.

It makes me happy that I can have deodorant for a fraction of the cost with far less environmental damage and less of my hard-earned money going to help some big giant corporation dominate the earth.

I would like to learn how to make my own skin lotion next.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Off-course retirement

I don't have enough savings in my 401K to have a golf-course retirement. Not that I'd want that, but there's not even enough for a single room hotel retirement. Mine will be an off-course retirement.

Recently when I opened up my statement and there was barely anything in there, thanks to the meltdown that now I'm bailing out (something wrong with this picture), I knew that there never would be. The system is rigged.

So now it's time to start making alternative plans. I'm going to be very poor late in life, but I know it doesn't have to be bad because I've hiked the trail. Nature is beautiful. I can live there half the year and somewhere very cheap the other half.

It'll work out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music in my head on the PCT

One tune was stuck in my head most of the time while hiking the PCT this year. It's called Pachelbel Canon.

Its rhythm seemed to match the rhythm of walking perfectly. It's a tune that if you don't know exactly how it goes, you know enough of it to make up all kinds of variations. It's a never ending tune. It goes round and round again until you are driven mad.

The other main tune that got stuck in my head was Leader of the Band. I think the rhythm is similar to Pachelbel Canon.

I think the proportions were about 70% Pachelbel Canon, 25% Leader of the Band and 5% assorted Irish Traditional tunes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Qunice butter

I am making quince butter in my crockpot. I've already cooked it 12 hours. There are about 4 to 10 more hours to go. I hope it will be good. I got the recipe for quince butter here.

I decided to make quince butter because last year at the La Huerta garden we sampled the quinces. They were not good to eat off the tree. They are sort of woody.

The following week, several of the ladies who work at the garden brought in better ways to taste the quince. One brought in a store-bought quince paste, which was kind of like an aspic in a can. It was quite tasty. Another brought in homemade quince butter. It was rich and spicy. We ate it with crackers and fancy cheese. Wow, amazing!

Update: I completed my quince butter. The recipe said to save 2 cups of the sauce and then cook down the sauce with the lid of the crockpot slightly askew. That seemed to work, but when I put the 2 cups of sauce back in, the sauce would not continue to cook down. I tried to cook it for several more hours but it never cooked down. So I figured that would be as good as it gets.

Then I decided to try canning it because there was so much. I have never canned anything before. I bought some small mason jars and put the sauce/butter (it's a little more like sauce than butter) into ten of the jars and boiled them for 20 minutes. Seemed to work.

The quince butter tastes yummy by the way. It's like applesauce but with a richer, spicier flavor.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rain Barrels

We've got rain barrels. If it ever rains, we'll be able to store free water from the sky. We can use it to water the plants instead of paying for expensive water from the city.

The rain barrels cost $50 each. We bought two.

You are supposedly point one of the gutter drains into the rain barrel's top opening to fill it up. Our house does not have gutters. Oops.

I read about a couple who lived on their own land in the woods in Oregon near Crater Lake. Their land had no well so they collected rain water for all their needs. Oregon gets a lot of rain so I'm sure it worked well. Santa Barbara doesn't get as much rain. We'll see if it ever does rain this year.

Collecting rain sounds so sweet, but it's actually illegal to capture rain water in many places. I think that is absurd. Apparently it is not illegal to capture rain water in Santa Barbara since it was the City itself that sold us the rain barrels.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A new book on the way

I am writing my book now. I decided I would take my trail journal from this year and write another book like I did last year. I finally got it all transcribed into my computer. I had five small notepads of pencil written text to type. Now all I have to do is clean up the writing and fill in any gaps with things that I will remember when I read it over again.

It was fun to read about my journey all over again. I kept a version of my journal on this blog, but in Oregon and Washington there were not very many places to update my computer journal along the trail, so I would just type up an entry remembering what I could. I left a lot out. My online journal seemed more crabby and unhappy than what I had written each night in my tent. I really had a great time out there.

Lately I have been so busy. I have my part time job at the whale factory, my volunteer day at the garden and lately I've been getting a lot of web development work on the side. I can't keep up with it all. And now I'm trying to write my book on top of it. I hope to have it written before Christmas, but it may not happen.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Long hike today kicked my butt

Today I convinced The Man to hike with me on a preview of a big hike I am planning for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The plan was to hike from the Romero trail along the Old Pueblo Trail to the San Ysidro trail and return to the Romero trail along the Edison road. I specifically wanted to find the way to the Old Pueblo Trail since I was not familiar with it. This wouldn't be a long hike, just a small preview of the part I was not familiar with.

When we got to the trailhead, The Man had a pouting fit so I told him I didn't want to spend the day with someone who was going to pout. He turned around and left me. I had no phone or money. So I just started hiking.

I found my way to the Old Pueblo trail and followed it all the way to the San Ysidro trail easily. Once I reached the San Ysidro Trail, I headed up the McMenemy trail to the Saddle Rock trail to the Edison Road to Hot Springs trail, through the bamboo tunnel of doom and up to Cold Springs trail and then up the West Fork trail to Gibraltar Road and then down Rattlesnake trail to Las Canoas road. Then I walked along Las Canoas where I saw a bobcat in someone's yard, then I walked down Mission Canyon Road and took the horse trail through Rocky Nook Park. I walked through the Mission Rose Garden and then through the city streets to my house.

I'm not sure how far it was, but I returned home around 3pm and was very tired. I had forgotten to take my prednisone again and by the time I started the long descent down Rattlesnake trail, all my skin was hurting with every step. By the time I was nearing home, the long road walking and the long walking in general had me feeling pretty tired and sore.

It was just like old times on the PCT. Hiking all day long, getting sore by the end of the day. I didn't do the same amount of miles I used to on the PCT, but I still hiked all the way across town today up and down the canyons of the foothills of the mountains, which is pretty good.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Poison oak and prednisone

I got a terrible case of poison oak from my hike last weekend. It started popping up on Monday. By Tuesday I could feel it oozing from my eyelids. So I went to the doctor and he prescribed prednisone.

Prednisone is awful. It tastes awful when you swallow the pills. I don't know if it's the pills or the rash, but I feel swollen all over. My legs still itch horribly all the time. The rash is like a solid pattern all over my legs instead of stripes and patches like poison oak normally displays. I think it went systemic on me.

I forgot to take my prednisone yesterday and by mid-day my skin hurt all over. I still feel achey, even though I remembered to take the pills today. It also affects my voice. It feels like a strain to speak. My bowels are unhappy and I had a stomach ache today, too.

I don't know what is worse, the rash or the cure. Without the cure, the rash would be worse, but it's hardly helping. My skin feels hot and hard. I woke up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night even though The Man slept with a wool hat on.

I hope it wanes soon. It's miserable. But still, the backpack trip was worth it. I'd go out again right now if I could. But next time I think I will wear Tyvek coveralls or kevlar chaps while doing trail maintenance.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Don Victor Trail

This weekend Trailhacker and I went with some friends to Don Victor Valley, DVV for short. Our objective was to do some trail maintenance as volunteers for the Forest Service. It sounds so official, but really, it was a bunch of friends hiking in the wilderness with loppers and saws trying to cut open the trail.

The reason our friends want to keep this remote trail open is because it is a possible connector trail on the proposed Condor Trail route. The Condor Trail is their idea for a route to take through the Los Padres National Forest. It would be more than 300 miles long and would be extremely rugged and remote.

When thinking of how one might thru-hike this trail, the question of resupply comes up. How would it be done with no nearby towns? One idea is to put bear-proof lockers at places accessible to cars. Hikers would have to put their resupply parcels in the lockers before setting out.

A trail like this would be an amazing adventure. Sure the Appalacian and Pacific Crest Trails are longer, but this trail would be so much more remote and rugged. It would probably take 3 times as long to hike these 300 miles as any 300 miles on the PCT. When I hiked the PCT I followed human footprints. On the Condor Trail you would follow bear and lion prints.

On Saturday, Trailhacker and I got up really early so that we could meet the others on the side of Highway 33 at a locked gate on a fire road at 7AM. Bryan had the key so we unlocked the gate and proceeded down the road to Potrero Seco, a primitive camping area. I wondered how anyone ever camps there if the road is locked. I guess they have to hike in. Apparently there is a trail to follow.

We left our daintier trucks and loaded up into the more rugged ones to proceed down the four-wheel-drive road to DVV. That road also had a lock that we had to unlock. Part way down, we called in to the forest service to let them know we were going to work.

When we reached the bottom of the canyon, we had to cross some creeks and gullies in the four-wheel drive trucks. It was a little bit difficult. We had to struggle over some of them. There were willow trees growing in the road and we had to drive over them, pushing them over as we went. On the way back, the trees had popped back up again as if we had never been through. Sometimes we couldn't even see the road and had to get out and search for it.

When we reached a creek crossing we felt we could not ford, we parked the trucks, put on our packs and started walking. We walked about a half mile to the actual Don Victor trail which was marked with a sign. The sign said it was 5 miles to Madulce, a camp site we hoped to reach by the evening. It was somewhere between 9 and 10AM when we started. I figured 5 miles? That's it? No problem. I couldn't have been more wrong.

We headed up the trail, clipping Yerba santa along the way. Soon we reached a junction of two creek canyons. The correct way to go was up the smaller canyon to the left. It was not well-marked. In fact, the trail so far had been pretty easy to follow, but non-existent in some places, especially at the beginning where the sign was and here where the junction was. Someone had flagged it in the past, which helped.

We took the left junction and spent the rest of the day searching for trail, marking it with tape and trying to cut it open again. There were lots of willows, Yerba santa, poison oak, wild roses and other plants choking the trail. The roses were the worst. They tore at my skin and clothing.

For hours we cut and searched. Sometimes we could not find the trail and ended up in the creek. Sometimes the trail could not be found and sometimes it was clear it had been washed away.

The whole area had been burned in fires the last few years. But still it was pretty. Down in the creek the trees were coming back. Being fall, there was warmth in the sun and coolness in the shade and the sun went behind the canyon walls early so that we never were too hot to work.

The creek was mostly dry, but there were a few places with water. At one place, the water was flowing and we considered making camp. Some of us thought since there were still a few hours of daylight left we ought to try to make it to Madulce. So we continued. But eventually, we turned back and went back to the place with the flowing water to camp.

After my summer of 30 mile days on the PCT hiking on a trail where we could not achieve 5 miles in one day was pretty amazing. We were all so exhausted, too. We cooked dinner as the light was fading and shared a communal salad. Once the sun went down, Tony and I went to sleep in our tent. We tried to find a flat spot, but it was really quite slanted. I kept ending up with only a few inches of space as Tony slid into me and I slid into the wall. I have to say, his blow-up thermarest, which slid under me eventually, is very comfy compared to my K-mart blue pad, but I prefer my blue pad.

Both Tony and I carried very light packs. Tony had purchased a new ultralight pack and tent this summer. The pack was a Golite and the tent was the Six Moons Lunar Duo. The Lunar Duo is spacious and seems very sturdy. We probably could have gone without a tent at all, but we wanted the extra warmth. The night started pretty cold with wind and cool clouds moving in. Eventually it cleared, and in our protected site under oak trees, it was very warm. I actually pushed my quilt off my torso I was too warm.

I tried out the ULA Relay pack I bought last spring at the PCT Kick-off. I love this pack. It fits me just right. ULA makes great packs. They shape them in such a way that they fit really well. The Relay is no longer made. It is very small, probably made for climbers as an approach pack. I was able to pack it with my quilt, the tent pegs, ground sheet and small tent poles (the tent uses trekking poles for the main supports), my cook kit, rain gear, two jackets, an extra shirt, food, water and my hygiene stuff and I still had room for more. The pack was small and light enough that I wore it while cutting the brush and tossing branches. I could not tell the pack was there.

Tony and I both remarked later how nice it is to go light. We are able to carry tools to work the trail and all our gear without hardship. It is so much easier to work and hike at the same time without having to take off our packs or struggle with the weight. We were never uncomfortable. We had more stuff than we actually needed. We are planning now to make special gear for trips like this. Without carrying so much weight on the basics, we have weight to spare on tools or other special gear. We want to make some kevlar chaps so that we can walk through wild roses without so much pain.

This was my first trip into the wilderness since coming home from the PCT. It feels so much like coming home when I go out to the wilderness. I slept well despite the slipping and sliding in the tent. I thought the trip was at least one night too short. We really needed three days: one day to get where we got, another day to reach Madulce and return to our camp, and one more day to return to our cars.

It really surprised me how different hiking in the Los Padres is to hiking the PCT. Five miles in one day. If anyone attempted the Condor Trail, they'd have to be prepared for five mile days. They'd have to carry loppers for insurance to get through. They'd have to be comfortable searching for trail and walking cross-country when the trail could not be found. They'd have to be okay with following bears and not seeing another human being for weeks. It would be an awesome experience.

On the way home as we drove along Highway 33, we saw lots of vehicles parked, their owners enjoying local trails and wilderness visits, and we also saw various homesteads. Trailhacker mentioned how it would be nice to have a little piece of land and a camper and if a fire came through, just drive the camper to safety. No worry about your house burning down. I agreed, and said that it would be nice to live like that because there is so much more to life than chasing a career. There are so many trails to explore and so much wilderness to enjoy. Some things are more important than working.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Don Victor

I'm going backpacking tomorrow. I'm going to Don Victor trail, which isn't there anymore. I'm going to bring loppers. I'm also going to bring a very tiny pack. I'm going to be very ultralight chic.

I'm looking forward to sleeping on the ground and eating mac and cheese for dinner again. Just like old times.

People are ready to give up.

I have had several conversations lately with people who are ready to give up. I think our economy is reaching a point where it's not really worth it to people anymore. They've had a measure of success, but the anxiety of trying to hold on to it is so grim that the alternatives are starting to look better. Even the rewards of an affluent life are not enough. Been there, done that, the thinking goes. It's an empty abundance. They want something more but haven't a clue what that would be.

So they hang on, waiting for the pink slip to come. They have no plans to go get another job as quickly as possible if they get a pink slip. They've reached the end. It's time to give up and try something else. And in a way, they feel hopeful that something better is out there.

It's kind of strange. I wonder what the future holds.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The "how long can I go without grocery shopping" challenge

So I was reading on the Urban Homestead blog that they had a 100 foot diet challenge. The challenge is to eat one meal per week of food grown 100 feet from your door. In other words, to eat food you grow yourself. It's kind of like the 100 mile challenge where you try to eat locally grown food. The idea of challenging you to eat your own home-grown food for one day a week is to show you that food security and freedom from being dependent on corporate food is within your reach.

At first I thought I could not participate in such a challenge because I don't grow much food. But I do grow some food, and I also help grow food at the garden at the Mission.

So then I got to thinking maybe I could see how long I could go without buying any food. We have fruit and chard in our yard. There are still veggies to harvest at La Huerta, and maybe in a couple weeks some bananas, too. And then there are all the various events I attend. People are always bringing extra backyard fruit to share, and they bring in baked goods, too. I could see how long I could go without grocery shopping. That would be funny.

And so today I took home a trombone squash. I cut it up and put it in my crock pot with the rest of the chicken stock I made a few weeks ago. When I got home tonight, it was all cooked so I blended it up smooth with my hand-held blender to make a thick and creamy squash soup. Trombone squash is just like butternut squash. The soup is real good plain but it also makes a good starter that you can add other things to. I saved the seeds. Hopefully one of them will grow in the back yard.

I also brought home some black kale, red peppers and fresh basil and rosemary. I picked some lima beans, too, and shelled them when I got home. They are white with bright red splotches. I have never seen lima beans that looked like that. I plan to plant some and eat the rest. According to Jane, the lima bean bush didn't die last year and was two years old now. That's how it goes living where I do. Annuals sometimes become perennials or nearly so.

With all the veggies I took home today, I could make lunches and dinners, but not breakfasts. So, I think my challenge will be to see how many lunches I can go on food I grow myself. Not dinners because The Man thinks living the good life means unwrapping a package and popping it into the microwave.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I'm learning the fiddle once again

Speaking of canceled Adult Education classes, they canceled my fiddle class. I only attended the class to learn tunes, not necessarily the fiddle. The fiddle was just along for the ride. But taking the class got me mildly interested in the fiddle again.

Somewhere I had a book I bought along with the fiddle. I think I've had the book and fiddle for about 14 years. I went through a phase right after I bought it where I really wanted to learn so I practiced my arm off. I never really got anywhere with it. So I put it away until I got interested in Irish traditional music. I made an attempt to learn the fiddle again, but once I realized you could play the flute in the Irish music tradition, I decided to play the flute instead.

While playing the Irish flute, I met musicians in town who invited me to come to the Glendessary Jam where they play American Old-time music. Unfortunately, the flute doesn't fit in, so I traded one of my flutes for a mandolin and have been playing the mandolin at the jam session. I took the fiddle class just so that I could hear some of the tunes we play at the jam slow enough to pick up all the notes.

The fiddle class helped me get interested in the fiddle again and helped me learn to play the instrument. Attending the Glendessary Jam has helped a lot with the fiddle, too, even though I've been plucking a mandolin. Sometimes just being around music and having it running through your head enables learning. Many aural traditions of music insist that you listen first, anyway.

So, recently I found my old fiddle book and it really has helped me with bowing, more than my class had. All it took was a tiny little demonstration in the book and now I think I'm actually catching on. It's almost sounding like music, although my intonation leaves much to be desired. I'm working on that too. I'm actually having a lot of fun. Maybe I will be a fiddler after all.

Life is so much more fun when you are learning. We should all have time to follow our interests and fill our lives with new skills.

Sewing machine

The Man mentioned tonight that he was thinking of getting me a sewing machine. What a great idea! I thought I could sew things and sell them on my web site. One thing I could probably sew would be circular head/neck/face scarves. I could find interesting fabric in fun colors and patterns.

I wonder if I could I use a regular sewing machine, something I have used in the past and could probably figure out again, or would I need a serger/overlock machine? I have never used an overlock machine, but they are the kind that makes the stitches you normally see on store-bought stretchy clothes like T-shirts. There is a class in serging at Adult Education, unless they canceled it like so many others this year.

Now I'm all excited about it. I could make a little extra money in my spare time. Maybe some day with my books (I'm working on turning my 2009 PCT journal into a book like I did with my 2008 journal), my web site, my web development skills and any other skills I can pick up along the way, I can make enough money to gain a little freedom from total wage slavery.