Sunday, July 31, 2016

Musical happenings ...

July and early August brings us the NH Music Festival, an extraordinary event--and so close to home, which thrills me. I went to opening night this year. The deciding factor was Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto. If you have never heard this, do yourself a favor:

If nothing else, listen to the 2nd movement. Image yourself lying supine, floating around the heavens on a cloud... it starts at 21:10 in the video.

The evening was sheer pleasure. Opening night at the festival includes--gratuitous with ticket--wine and/or champagne, cheese, crackers, fruit--as you will. Pre-concert and during intermission. Very impressive. Before intermission, the orchestra played Handel and Haydn. Bliss. Beauty. Perfection.

I attended my second concert last Thursday: Brahm's Requiem, formally: Ein Deutsches Requiem. Oh my word. To begin with, Brahms is one of my favorite composers. One of the very first pieces I ever taught myself was his Lullaby. It was in a book of music we received from my Aunt Emma. I well remember sitting at the upright in the living room--with it's missing keytops and a few broken keys--but hey! It was better than nothing!!--learning how to play it. It sounded so fresh and beautiful and deep and meaningful. A fabulous, fabulous concert. Overwhelmingly powerful at times with the orchestra and choir at full throttle. Honestly, I was drained when it ended. Drained in the best possible way.

On a smaller scale, we held our summer concert this afternoon. It too, was full of joy. We played in a new-to-us venue: A Unitarian Universalist meeting house in Norwich, VT. Very serene, joyous space designed in an almost Shaker-like simplicity. High cathedral ceiling; great acoustics! We enjoyed standing room only! Golly. Much, much fun. Cookies, fruit, and juices post-concert. Lovely community gathering.

Now I can bring my energies to focus entirely on my lesson material: Bach's Arioso.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Wee Problem ...

Oh, oh. It's evident I'm a little out of practice at the loom! As I was threading some heddles just now, I realized that I neglected to distribute them evenly on both sides of the central hooks which hold the bars which hold the heddles. It's no big deal, I can bend the bars that hold the heddles just enough to get them off the hooks and thereby allowing me to shuffle the heddles from one side to the other. But in the process of thinking it through, something made me look at the draft again. Oh, no!

Two things: 1) As it was I had just enough heddles to thread this draft: I have no extras floating around; and 2) looking at the draft again I realize that I missed the fact that the corner block threading was given only once (it's not quite obvious unless one is really alert) and I should have counted it twice (because I need one on each side of the center panel). Oh, no!

Some tense moments. What to do? I would need to order some more heddles, wait for them to arrive, and get them on the frames. Ordering isn't a problem, but there's no way to add heddles after threading has begun. Not on this loom, anyway. Oh, no!

"Think of a solution," I thought. "Make it work," as they would say on "Project Runway". Could I make up some string heddles and get them on the frames? Ooh, that would be a lot of work and I'm not sure what the result would be. Should I order some more heddles and cut the top and bottom loops so I can get them on the frames? Seems such a wasteful thing to do. Oh, no!

I came close to deciding to scrap the project. Start over with something new--or the same draft--but start over. I decided to hold off a bit. Maybe a solution would come. But what? What can I do? Oh, no!

Well, a solution just came to me. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a solution I can live with... The center panel of the draft is a motif of 24 threads repeated ten times. That's 240 threads, hence 240 heddles. If I repeat the motif only 4 times (e.g. make the center panel quite a bit narrower) it would free up 144 heddles--the corner block requires 140. It works. Oh, yes!

So my runner is still going to be the width I had planned on, only the center panel will be narrower. Will it look unbalanced? Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell. (I think it probably will.) At any rate, I think I will still enjoy it, and I will enjoy the process of weaving it, for sure. And I think it's better than starting over and losing all the work I've already done. Oh, my!

Live and learn.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Orchestra Summer Concert ...

When the winter season came to a close with our concert back in March (or was it April!?), a plea was made by the conductor looking for volunteers to take over some of the tasks of running the orchestra. Hence, I joined the executive committee and offered up my experience with graphic arts and made myself available to help with promoting the orchestra. We've been meeting every other week since then, discussing ways to grow the orchestra, acquire some name recognition, and lure people to our concerts. I was promptly set to making a membership drive poster in an effort to attract more instrumentalists.

Summer orchestra rehearsals began 5 weeks ago with the same guest conductor we had last summer. The music we are playing is fun, beautiful, and exciting. Handel (Oh, how I love his music.), Bizet, Rossini, and Sibelius. Selections from The Water Music, Intermezzo from l'Arlesienne Suite, No. 2, Barber of Seville Overture, and Valse Triste. A relatively short, pleasant, satisfying, summer concert. The concert is next Sunday. We have our final rehearsal Wednesday and will have a pre-concert warm up to review a few sections.

In my new capacity doing promotional material, I designed a poster. The background image is my back yard! :)

Sleying the 8-shaft

There are so many possibilities in the craft of weaving--endless--I sometimes have difficulty deciding what to weave, in which structure, in which colors. So, so, many possibilities.

To be sure, one of the projects I have in mind for the 8-shaft is double-weave color blocks. So very beautiful and full of color. But I'm not starting with that. What I'm really in the mood for is another overshot pattern, but overshot really only needs 4-shafts not 8. No matter, I'm going for it. I'll use only 4 of the 8 as an exercise in getting to know this new-to-me-loom.

So I've decided on an overshot with border draft called "Norse Kitchen" as a table runner. I'm using 10/2 white cotton for the warp and weft tabby, and 5/2 cotton in a burgundy color named "lipstick" for the pattern threads.

I couldn't decide on an epi (ends per inch) for the warp. I found some overshot patterns in the same yarn weights I'm using calling for 24 epi, and I saw some for 20 epi. Originally, I opted to go with 24 but I kept going back to the examples of other weaving I'd found and just couldn't get settled with it. I finally, in my final decision, decided on 20 epi, only to discover after doing the calculations that it wouldn't fit in my loom! So I compromised and went for 22 epi. Glad that's finally settled.

I wound the warp yesterday and proceeded to completely mess up one bout by losing the lease cross. Oi! So I made a new bout this morning and finished sleying the reed this afternoon. Post inspection, I found 3 warp ends hanging around on the wrong side of the reed. La dee dah! Drat! Toughie, this one. One of the ends had simply slipped out of it's reed, and that was an easy fix. The other 2, somehow, had been missed, so I had to re-sley half the reed to make room for them. Well golly! But now it's done.

I have started threading the heddles and discovering the difference 8-shafts makes in dressing the loom: A bit more reaching. I hope to have it all threaded in the next day or so (there are 458 threads).

We had a very pretty moon this week. These pics taken a day apart ...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A new loom ...

Tools of the Trade, 8 shafts, 10 treddles, 27" width. And it's mine.

I received a message from a high school classmate last week saying he was wrapping up the estate of an elderly man whose deceased wife was a fiber artist. She had 5-6 looms, as many spinning wheels, and a lot of yarn; much of which has spent too many days visited by mice and moths, which is a bit sad because there was so much of it. My friend was asked to see if he could unload them. "Sure, I'd love to see them, maybe I'll be interested in one (or more?)," was my response. So I went over and found two 39" 4-shaft LeClerc's, a 27" Tools of The Trade 8-shaft, a 6-shaft Macomber rug loom, and 2 or 3 smaller looms that were wanted by family. Most of the wheels, including one great wheel, needed repair of one sort or another. I don't need another wheel. What with my great wheel, my castle wheel, and my flax wheel I'd say I'm reasonably well equipped.

I have wanted an 8-shaft loom for as long as I've had my 4-shaft Herald loom, so when I saw the Tools of The Trade, I knew almost immediately that, yes, I would love to have that loom. A little elbow grease would remove the mouse stains and it would clean up nicely, quite sure.

My understanding is Tools of The Trade was a one-man operation in Fairhaven, VT. He is no longer in business, and from what I can gather, his looms are sought after and desirable. It's a lovely loom, nice size (not too big), well made. My research gave me an idea of what to offer and it was accepted.

The loom is now--for now--between my living area and dining area in the main room of my downstairs. I will need to consider carefully where it's permanent location might be, and I think any plan for rearrangement of furniture will have to include getting rid of something(s). There comes a point where, after bringing this and that into the home, the walls start to bulge and the only solutions are 1) buy a bigger house, or 2) unload something! Number 1 is not an option.

Oh. But I now have an 8-shaft loom. I cleaned it up this afternoon. :)

One of my favorite views of the flower beds, taken yesterday before the rain:

I was just now reminded by a commotion on my new deck that I had left a partial bag of bird seed on the swing this afternoon. Plan was to bring it inside after I finished something else--which I cannot remember--and obviously didn't remember the seed as well! It is now in the possession of a lucky black bear. They've been around a lot this year.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pics of the garden ...

A few of my favorite pics from the garden this spring and summer ... so far ...

I call this one "piano fingers":

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Critters ...

There has been plenty of activity about the place, spring and summer--so far. The latest bit of unpleasantness has just now been resolved, but not after at least a month-and-a-half of mystery and frustration. I first started noticing the disturbing odor in late May! At first I thought it was the pile of straw which I removed from the bird room and which rests out back, not too far (not far enough, at any rate) from the house. It's my intention to move the pile and move it I will, after several "must attend to's" have been attended to. I have certainly hoped that pile was the source of the odor, because it would be a simple explanation with an easy remedy. Yet, there have been suspicions that the problem might be something more difficult, specifically: mouse activity between the floors.

Oh, a mischief of mice practically over ran the place last month! Luckily, a solution presented itself before I had to resort to an unpleasantness I don't like to think about: killing. The solution was offered to me by the mice, themselves. Yes! They did indeed, teach me how to catch them... I keep my bird's seed in plastic containers under the kitchen counter. One of the containers is deep and stores parrot food. One morning I discovered that a mouse (with or without accomplices) had chewed through the hard plastic cover to gorge himself on pumpkin seed. It irritated me greatly that they had figured out how to reach the seed, so I purchased a heavy, heavy plastic pail with strong lid and started hiding the seed within.

Then my trip to NYC came up and I was away for 4 days. When I returned late that Tuesday evening--with a non-functioning car--I immediately noticed an unpleasant smell about the kitchen, but couldn't pin point it. It wasn't the garbage bins. Did I have some old, rotting food in the fridge? No. Two days later I had occasion to retrieve something from under the cabinet and discovered that the old plastic seed bin with the chewed hole in the cover contained 3 decomposing mice! Apparently they had crawled in through the cover, fell to the bottom, and could not get out. I felt badly they perished this way, but learned how to make a mouse trap for future needs.

The odor in the kitchen dissipated quickly. The persistent odor in the living room area, however, persisted. Returning from shopping this afternoon--an overcast, wet, rainy day with heavy atmosphere--the smell was getting my annoyance up. I poked around the eaves (I have 2 secret doors in both upstairs rooms that allow me to enter behind-the-scenes spaces up there.) and found a hole where mouse are able to enter, I believe from the outdoors but I'm not entirely sure about that. I will plug up that hole. Otherwise, the smell up there was nothing that alarmed me. There was nothing overwhelming about the musty, dry, attic odor. I was afraid my fear of mice between floors was going to turn out to be true. Still, however, there is that pile of straw out back.

About an hour ago I arose from the settee to go towards the bird room and as I passed the wood stove, it seemed to me the smell was strongest right there. But was it? Or was it my imagination? Well, I should at least open the stove and see if there might be an explanation within. There was.

So glad to have finally found the source of this malodorous air, but sad to discover two rotting red squirrels in the stove. I removed their decomposing carcasses and am at this moment burning some incense in the cavity of the stove.

The air around here is improved already.

It's country living, I understand this. I love the critters around here, but I do wish they could be a bit more diligent in observing boundaries! Next week I will get someone to cap my chimney. Squirrels have entered that 'door' for the 2nd time this year.

Monday, July 4, 2016

All decked out ...

It has been a dream of mine since moving here, and dreams can come true. I moved some equity from savings into the house, which given the current state of world economics, is probably a good thing!!

If you've seen my house, you may recall what it looks like:

I'm endeared of this house in all it's humble simplicity. It's my first, how could it be otherwise? Besides which, it has warmth and character, no cookie cutter abode here.

But as I have previously--probably numerous times--mentioned, plans for a deck have been in my mind since moving here. On Tuesday, a few weeks ago, the contractor arrived:

It didn't take long, and at the end of day 2, the bones were taking shape:

By the end of the third day it was clear my dream was going to be a reality, and it was going to be bigger than I imagined in my mind. 22'x8' on one side and 20'x8' on the other:

They constructed it in one week--amazing to my mind! I am absolutely thrilled by the results. It's constructed of southern yellow pine which I need to let cure for a season before staining or painting. I think I will stain, but most likely not too dark.

I have since started painting the trim around the windows in an effort to make them look bigger and bring some interest to the house. I think it's working. (Since this picture was taken, I have painted all the windows except the one on the 2nd floor--I need to find someone who can manage heights. Either that or get a bigger ladder--I think if my ladder was longer I could probably manage it.):

The bed of marigolds has made a very nice showing since those pictures, as well:

Finishing with a few flowers for the Fourth:


It just occurred to me that I have not shared my "Zick Zack" shawl. It's the "Zick Zack" scarf pattern which I adapted--by increasing the needle size and yarn gauge--to make a shawl. I had enjoyed knitting the scarf so much that I jumped right into the shawl and loved every minute of it. A very enjoyable knit.

When that was all done, I started in on a stranded hat in Russian motifs. I shall be ready for the season in 4 to 5 months from now (can it really be so soon!?)...

Just yesterday, I started working on a shawl called "Shell Shawl". Progress pics to come.

Wait... "4 to 5 months", can that be correct? Well, yes it is! In four months it will be November. Oh my word, we are speeding through this year aren't we!?

The weekend in NYC

I have decided to make some posts out of chronological order. I may work myself backwards, or perhaps work in random order.

First to report upon was my trip to NYC last weekend for the Pride March. As always, the march was exciting and moving, and set me to introspection and pondering the history of gay rights as I know it, from the 70s onward. Amazing progress on the one hand, still a lot more work to do on the other.

I marched with the NYC LGBT Center as is my usual. It's a fun group to march with and I had connections to the Center when I lived in NY, so it's just logical for me to join them. I had an invite to march with the City Council contingency, but since the Center has a float with peppy dance music, and the City Council is politicians marching, I passed.

Speaking of politicians... When we arrived at 7th Avenue and Christopher Street, our float proceeded to cross the intersection, but just as we marchers were to cross the road we were halted by the cops. I figured it was to let the 7th Avenue traffic pass--which they do intermittently during the march. But the traffic didn't move either. Then I noticed the mayor was in the middle of the street talking with reporters. That explains that! I managed to get up reasonably close to the action and had a very good view of Mayor DeBlasio. After a few minutes, 2 large black vans made an approach from nearby and out of one of them stepped Hillary Clinton! I couldn't believe it! Happy, happy. It made my day. I was about 4 people removed from her. She walked a few blocks with the mayor, shaking the hands of onlookers, then got back in the van and they were gone.

It was beautiful weather last Sunday, the roaring crowds rose to the occasion and showered us with many decibels of cheer. Tremendous fun. Pictures after the story.

I went to work Monday, and half the day Tuesday, leaving the office around 11:45 am to drive to my lesson. Yes, I took the car--knowing full well that my mechanic didn't sound terribly keen when I told him I was thinking of driving it down to the city a few months ago. Never mind, I wanted the flexibility since my teacher moved just north of the city last month and having the car would make getting there very convenient on my way out of the city. His new house is also readily reached by Metro North; just a 30 minute ride, I believe. I will be getting to know that Metro North line well, I am sure. "How can I be so sure?", you may ask. Because this:

That's right! I broke down. Just north of Hartford, CT on my way back home, in one of the suburbs. Sigh. Alternator died--although I did not know that was the problem when it occurred. Having just passed Hartford, the battery light and the brake light came on the dash. Troublesome, worrying. I went some miles hoping they'd go out, and lo and behold they did! Big relief. I decided then to get off the highway to get some lunch and let the car rest figuring it must have been just a glitch. Not knowing the mechanics of cars very well, I did not know what it meant when the car was sluggish to start after lunch, and I proceeded back to the highway. The lights came back on and other indicators joined them: ABS, Check Oil, etc. The speedometer started to go crazy, bouncing all around. It was intermittently sprinkling outside and when I flicked the windshield wipers, they barely crawled back and forth. I knew it was time to leave the highway again, and off I went in search of a garage. The car's condition was deteriorating quickly now and I was afraid it was going to completely malfunction. I reached a stop light with a separate lane for right turns and when I entered there the light was red. The car's idling was weak so I put it in Park to idle. That was the end of it. It was locked in Park and it would not release itself. A few moments later the engine conked out, keys stuck in the ignition. The car was dead.

Thankfully, I have AAA and they arranged a tow truck to come over. It took an hour for them to show up, so I spent some time directing traffic around my poor little car stuck at the intersection. It was almost 5 o'clock and I felt almost certain it would be difficult to find a garage at that hour, and I didn't want to spend the night in a hotel and pay some unknown mechanics to do who-knows-what for who-knows-how-much money. So I decided to have it towed home to my house. My AAA plan pays for the first 100 miles of towing and that left me to pay for 77 miles at the AAA price. It could have been worse. I think I felt worse for the tow truck driver who had to drive me 3 hours home and then 3 hours back! I tipped him well, and we shared some delightful conversation.

I've always wanted to know what it would be like to break down away from home. Now I know. Life is to be filled with experiences, and now I have a new story to tell. :) It was heartening to see more than a handful of people stop their cars and ask if I was OK at that intersection. Boosts one's faith in humanity.

Next morning I had to call a local towing company to piggy back my sick little car to the mechanic's (this one not covered by AAA, drat!), but it was all fixed by late afternoon. Just needed the alternator replaced. Apparently, I had been driving some distance on battery power alone and when it conked out was when the battery was finally drained of all!

Another adventure.

Pictures from the Pride March (Yes, a few of the pictures are a little cheeky, but I couldn't resist them! :) ):