Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All Aflutter

[New Footbridge thanks to Acorn and his crew ]

The energy of this place is through the roof right now. There were tons of people at dinner last night with many more expected today. The hootin' and hollerin' was going late into the night, and it's sure to be even more of a ruckus at the bonfire tonight.

The weaving is coming along nicely. Yesterday I wove a set of ruanas with a light-colored weft. It's amazing the difference from the dark weft. It almost looks like a different warp.

[Dark Weft, Light Weft]

I walked out of my house this morning to go down to the office and post this blog entry when I noticed that the birds were going crazy! Both types of jays and the flickers were raising a ruckus over something. I stepped into the meadow just in time to see a red-tailed hawk high-tail it off the property. We don't see them here very often, maybe a couple times a year.

Yesterday my weaving break was a quick trip into the forest to look for chanterelles. I found a bunch, but not the yummy kind. These are the beautiful woolly chanterelle (Gomphus floccosus). You CAN eat them, but they're not very tasty and can cause "delayed gastrointestinal distress". I think I'll just appreciate their beauty.

[Wooly Chanterelles in the fir and madrone duff]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mushrooms and Cloth

[Yesterday's Basket is Today's Jar (with the source tree in the background)]

An hour's work picking and slicing has given us a Winter's worth of mushrooms. Yum!

Here are a couple of pictures of the weaving in progress. This cloth is just beautiful! The contrast between the light warp and the dark weft makes it sparkle.

[Threads on the beam]

[Cloth with Maroon Weft]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Mushrooms

["Mine!" (Yes, that's a basket is packed full of mushrooms)]

I couldn't bear the thought of letting the oyster mushrooms rot on the tree. I got up a couple hours early, extended the ladder another 8 feet, and pulled down another 10 pounds of deliciousness. After an hour of rinsing and slicing I had packed the dehydrator to capacity. Winter is going to be sweet! There is still at least 15 pounds left on the tree, but it's fully 35 feet in the air. The worms are going to get those.

[By tonight these will be crispy, storable food]

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mushroom Cream Sauce Recipe

[Dicing mushrooms into spoon-sized chunks]

Here's the recipe for Jared's amazing cream sauce. Serves 80.

40 c diced oyster mushrooms
2 1/2 lbs salted sweet cream butter
3 c chicken stock
4 c half and half
1 bottle merlot
14 T dried thyme
1 T salt
1 T ground black pepper
3 T sage
1 T oregano

Collect, wash and dice the mushrooms.
Melt butter at high heat in a huge wok.
Add the mushrooms all at once.
When they're half cooked, add the thyme.

In another bowl, combine half & half, chicken stock, wine, salt, pepper.

When the mushrooms are cooked and giving off liquid, add the bowl of liquid ingredients. When it boils, add the sage and oregano. Continue cooking on high heat, stirring constantly,
to reduce the mixture until it's creamy and the butter blends with the milk. (About an hour)

[That's a lot of mushrooms!]

[The sauce is cooking down]

This sauce could be served over pasta or baked into a casserole. We'll let the gathering chefs decide how they want it presented.

We passed around a bowl of the sauce like it was soup. It is unbelivably delicious. The flavors all meld to create a sweet and flavorful sauce. Yum!

Related Post:
Oyster Mushroom Bounty

Oyster Mushroom Bounty

There are still no chanterelles, but the land blessed us with an amazing mushroom gift today. Right across the creek from the kitchen we found a dead standing Alder tree covered with fresh oyster mushrooms. The only problem is that they're 20-30 feet in the air.

[This is the section we harvested today]

Not to be deterred, we hauled the extension ladder into the creek to harvest some. When I got close enough to touch them I realized just how big they are and just how many we have. It's hard to judge scale from far away.

[Waaay up the tree]

We had grabbed a big cardboard box to carry our catch to the kitchen. After a few minutes of harvesting Jared wanted to rest his arms. No wonder! In 10 minutes I had picked about 15 pounds of mushrooms. That box was heavy!

[Jared and the Oysters]

We looked back at the tree and realized that there is easily another 30 pounds left to pick from the FIRST FLUSH! Oysters can be picked every few days and they just keep on fruiting.

[One mushroom, for scale]

I think this will be the first big gathering where we will serve a major meal featuring our own wildcrafted mushrooms. I'll write a whole post about the amazing mushroom cream sauce that Jared made tonight. It's enough to feed 80 people if we pour it over pasta or use it in a casserole, and it is crazy delicious.

I'm also researching to see if Oyster Mushrooms can be dried, frozen or otherwise stored. We could easily have a year's worth of mushrooms just by picking a few flushes from this one log.

Related Post:

Drop In Place Hearth

[The plywood hearth base fitted around the stove]

This week, along with weaving like a mad man, I'm installing a hearth in my cabin. I just don't like the idea that the people sharing my space during the gathering could burn it down by letting a spark jump onto the plywood floor. Besides, where is the hearth spirit going to live if there isn't a hearth?

(Update: there was a cricket chirping in my house last night. Guess where? On the hearth, of course. And it's not even done yet. Looks like good luck to me!)

It gets complicated because I don't like the location of the stove as it stands. I don't have the time or energy to move the stove, reconfigure the pipe, and then lay the tile. So, I'm going to tile a piece of plywood that fits around the stove. When the stove moves, so will the hearth.

This project has been a challenge from the start since I'm limited to whatever materials I can scrounge to get it done. We have a big stack of mismatched tiles behind the tool shed. After two hours of shuffling and digging I came up with a design that I like. It uses every available tile of several styles so there are no small batches stranded. It is also restricted to just 4 types of tiles on the surface so it's not too chaotic to look at. Just sort of chaotic. Putting this together was like a weird game of tetris.

[The new hearth sitting on a wheelbarrow]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another Beam Tied On

It always seems like a miracle to me that I can tie 1200 knots and pull them all through the heddles and reed without particular incident. When someone unfamiliar with weaving looks on, they think it's sorcery. "You tie 1200 knots and don't have any real tangles?" "That's impossible." "You are a freak of nature."

No, it's the culture today that's freaky. People all over the world do this sort of work every day. Many people in the U.S. did this until recently.

[1200 Tiny Knots]

[A Closeup of "The Tangle"]

[All pulled through]

[Cut off, tied on, ready to weave]

This time I used the Boyce Weaver's Knotter to help with the know tying. I need more practice, but even still it shaved off an hour. A 9 hour job was done in 8 hours. Yay!

Related Posts:
The Boyce Weaver's Knotter, How It Works

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poof! The Green Is Here!

[Every inch of soil is covered with seedlings]

It's easy to tell when the wet season is here to stay: trust the plants. We had some rains early in September, but the plants knew better. The rains this week are the real deal. The creek level rose, the ground us staying wet, and the mosses are bright green.

The color show is shifting and continuing. Maples are losing their leaves while grapes, apples and locusts are just turning. The cherries are gearing up for a bright red show next week.

[The North Gate and Grape Arbor]

I'm settling into my caretakership here and finding the balance point between caring for this place and building my weaving business. Tomorrow I'll post pictures of the beautiful gold cloth I'm weaving while I watch the beautiful gold leaf show.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Foggy and Wet

[Teatime Panorama. Notice that the ridge has no top.]

It is so quiet here these days it's hard to believe that there's a gathering brewing. I hope lots of people come early and get to see the fall foliage display before it's gone.

Right now my time is fairly consumed by weaving and preparing for 100 people to come and visit. It's my favorite holiday and the first time I've been here for it in years.

I did, however, carve out a few hours after dinner to work on a new fundraising project, spawned from this "Picture A Day" blog. I'm taking high resolution pictures with a good camera and making them available on T-shirts, book bags, water bottles, greeting cards, calendars, stickers and more. All of the profit will go toward future marketing efforts like buying some of these items for the sanctuary. You can see the fundraiser store at

As a long term open source developer and advocate, I don't believe in restricting access to only those who can pay for it. I'm also making the raw, full size images available in a web gallery on Picasa. They are free to use with attribution for any non-commercial purpose. If you want to make money from them, let's make a deal!

My inner whip cracker says, "Enough writing! Back to work!"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fire, yay!

[A Cardboard Box Fire Is HOT!!]

The fire restriction is lifted! We have six months worth of collected cardboard to dispose of so last night was a crazy fire party.

I don't have much time to write today because of beautiful weather, an impending gathering, my first picture-based fundraiser, and a backlog of weaving.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Steamy and Warm

[Our peach tree doesn't make fruit, but wow! The color!]

The rains are here, and we're doing pretty well. The humidity makes 55 degrees feel warmer than it did last week. It's nice!

Zac, our illustrious president, was hellbent on having some visible work done for the gathering, so he recruited help to get it done. We now have an addition to the tool shed so our newly tuned-up mowers can stay dry. We also have a greenhouse full of Winter crops: leeks, kohlrabi, kale, garlic, chard, and more. Thanks, Zac!

[It may not look like much, but that new roof will help protect our valuable tools.]

I forgot about one feature of Winter here - the everpresent sound of rushing water. The creek had risen a foot in the last two days and provides a beautiful backdrop to the bird-filled soundscape.

I'm finally excited about the upcoming gathering. I have heard from lots of old friends who are coming, many of them helping to make it happen. It'll be great to see them and to meet the next generation, most of whom were born in the 80's. They are the future!

I do have some bad news, though... I took over the cider fermentation project when Kinder left. It won't be done in time to drink around the fire. Instead, I'm turning it into a delicious apple mead to spice and serve hot at Yule. There will be five gallons of it, so we better have some visitors to help us celebrate when the dark of the year comes!

Weaving is going along nicely. I'm trying, with limited success, to get people to bring their projects up the hill and hang out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Now It's Wet For REAL!

[View of the garden from Gargoyle Lounge, my new morning tea spot]

We are an aching bunch today. Yesterday's weather report told of rain without end so we ran around to make sure the land is really ready.

We bucked and chopped two more truckloads of standing dead wood from the forest, hauled it to Garden House (the main community cabin) and stacked it in the shed. Then we gave the thirsty bridge another coat of waterseal and put away everything we could find. I finished collecting pine needles for my cabin's kindling just in time for dinner.

[Dead Man's Foot fungus sticking out of the ground beneath the Naraya tree]

As I was collecting, I looked down and noticed a fungus sticking out of the ground. It's called Dead Man's Foot, Pisolithus arrhizus, and it yields a beautiful dye for wool. The colors can range from a deep brown to yellow. ( I wish I had known that we have it on the land. These last few weeks were the perfect time to scour the pine forest floor for it. I might brave the rain and do it anyhow.

Our rushed preparation seems to have been warranted. It's raining so hard today that we have runoff already. The weather report still shows no signs of the rain letting up.

[Mishka, the amazing land mechanic, getting us ready for mowing season]

Mishka left for a much-needed break. She just can't stop herself from crawling underneath our vehicles when she's around here. Her departure leaves us with less than 10 people on the land to prepare for the big gathering. We're talking about organizing a "work party", oxymoronic as it sounds. We'll be serving hot fruit!

My bobbin winder came yesterday, so today will be the first rainy-weather craft and storytelling circle in the weaving cabin.

Monday, October 12, 2009

There's Gold in the Valley

[The View from Birdhouse Row]

Last night was the Coordinating Council meeting that approved my caretaker proposal. Now I have to make good on my campaign promises and start working to get our membership more invested and involved here.

The rains are coming back tonight, this time for real. It looks like steady rain for the next week. We're trying to pack in as much wood as possible before tonight.

I'm glad to be working in the parking lot because today's the day my new bobbin winder arrives.

[Grandmother Maple looks good in Gold]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Goodbye, Good Friends

[Bye, Bye, Bus!]

Two beautiful people rolled off the land yesterday. Seacth and Kinder found work an hour and a half away and realized that they'd be unable to plug in the way this place needs, so they moved away for now. It's going to take us a while to pick up the slack from their contribution here, but that's the nature of this place: constant change.

The weather says the rains will be here for real in a day or two so today's a busy day getting things dry and ready for the big gathering: just two weeks left!

I am loving the Boyce Weaver's Knotter and the help it gives me in tying on a new warp. Tomorrow's the day my new bobbin winder arrives. Yay!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Season of Change

[Unretouched photo of the little maple at sunset]

Change is upon us. The days are growing shorter, the nights colder. The community here is maturing. We're looking seriously toward Winter and what we want this place to be for the next SIX MONTHS. It's a long way 'til May Day, and things that get swept under the carpet in the warm, dry months will sit staring us in the face when we're all holed up in the same cabin.

The community is stepping up to the plate and taking positive action to make this Winter a beautiful one. I'm excited to be a part of this place again. Let's see what happens when my caretaker proposal is reviewed at the Coordinating Council meeting tomorrow night...

As for weaving, the new bobbin winder arrives on Monday and I'll be zipping through a 75 yard beam of gold cloth. Then comes Peacock and a raft of tea towels of my own design for a Winter fundraiser.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Endings, Beginnings

[It's a cold, still morning]

I'm up a little earlier than usual because my mind keeps going back to last night. It was a very dramatic Community On The Land committee meeting. The "visitors who don't fit in" were accelerated in their departure. (I guess it isn't fair to use the passive voice there. I was facilitating the meeting where we asked them to leave faster. Everyone else agreed.) They say they'll be gone in three days if they don't need to wait for a check to arrive. For the amount of pain they've been causing, the community is happy to pay them to leave faster. Thankfully, another visitor offered to donate the cash because the organization doesn't have a budget line item for "paying people to leave faster".

As for beginnings, I got some feedback on the draft of my caretaker proposal at the same meeting. People seem to like it and support my vision. It will go before the Coordinating Council on Sunday where they will decide whether I can stay here longterm as a caretaker of this place. Right now the sanctuary really needs the skills that I bring to the table, so I think it will go smoothly.

Becoming a caretaker would mean that I'm not moving back to San Francisco. I'd go down, pack my stuff, and move it here. This is a huge step in my life, but one in the right direction. It would make my budget less tight, and put me eight hours closer to Annie, the weaver who's hired me to weave for her and is helping me get started selling at the Renaissance Faire.

Immediately after the meeting last night a bunch of visitors arrived on their way to Portland, including the fabulous Stella Maris. It'll be nice to spend some time with them this morning before I start my day of weaving.

During tea this morning I am watching a pair of shy, tiny and beautiful yellow-rumped warblers catch insects in the meadow. It seems like they don't like me watching them so they sit in the tree behind me, swoop down to catch a bug and return to the tree. When I turn to look, they flee and return a minute later.
[Image from the iBird Explorer app]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Weather Like The Moon

[Morning frost on groundcover raspberry leaves]

These days it's icy all night and sunny all day. At night I wear a wool hat, longjohns and a sweater in a 20 degree sleeping bag with a wool blanket and down comforter on top. In the afternoon I'm stripped all the way down to a t-shirt so I can be comfortable while I work.

[Another view of the most spectacular color display on the land. It's even more breathtaking in person.]

As I write this, I can hear our newly reconditioned chainsaws purring away as today's woodcutting crew removes recently dead trees from the forest to make sure we're warm this Winter. Once it's out of the woods and away from the poison oak, I'll be jumping in to help buck, split, haul and stack it.

The situation with the "visitors who aren't fitting in" is very tense right now. One of them was going to leave two days ago when the couple"broke up". Last night he wordlessly appeared at dinner and nobody wanted to cause a scene because it was my birthday party. The caretaker on the land realizes that the situation needs to be dealt with so I think today will be the day. It is not acceptable to create a violent scene in the middle of the night and think that we will silently let it drop if you spend two days in the parking lot.

Yesterday as I crossed the meadow, a new bird appeared in a wild rose bush eight feet away and sat pecking open the rose hips, apparently looking for seeds and bugs. It was a Downy Woodpecker with the most beautiful stripes on her face. This tiny woodpecker only stands about five inches tall. It's the fourth woodpecker species I've seen here this year.
[Image from the iBird Explorer app]

Yesterday I received some butt-kicking but disconcerting news. I was expecting to whip out a line of hand towels to bring in some quick money while I design and produce some garments for the big Renaissance Faire in March. Actually, they need to be designed and photographed for the contract which comes out in October. Uh, eek! Good thing I spend all my time thinking about weaving! It's high gear on a shoestring.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


[Dry teasel in a frosty meadow]

Today is my 40th birthday. Last night I took a few hours of private time to work on my vision for the next steps on my path. My cabin was warm from the sunny afternoon, but by 2:00 I was reaching for another blanket.

This morning I bundled up and stepped outside to a meadow so cold and white that I thought it had snowed. Nope, it's just a serious frost. I think this is the frost that will singe the grapes and make them sweet.

[My favorite tree right now is sitting in a frozen field]

While I sit here drinking my tea, I finally got a glimpse of the Kingfisher that trawls our creek looking for fish trapped in stagnating pools. His call is shrill and unmistakable as he runs up and down the creek, but I've never gotten to see him before.

[Image from iBird Explorer app]

Weaving is chugging along. People are starting to support my work by dropping by for a minute here and there. It's nice and makes the day go that much more easily.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dark Night, Beautiful Morning

[Coffee Klatch on the steps of the kitchen]

Last night was "one of those nights" here on the land. The pair of visitors who were having trouble integrating finally boiled themselves over. At 2:30, I awoke to a truck horn in front of my secluded cabin. Then came the drunken screaming, and the death rattle, "unsafe, unsafe!" It looks like their time here is coming to an end. Thankfully, it also looks like they realize how badly they fit in here and are willing to leave without the ugly and painful "formal eviction".

This morning, however, a group of long time community members rolled through to return dishes they'd borrowed for an event in San Francisco. Responsibility, follow through and smiling faces are welcome energies, especially today.

In a few minutes we have our weekly land meeting. I'm pretty sure our ordinary agenda will be supplemented with visitor facilitation. Ah, well!

The weaving is going well, just more of the same. That's production!

[The most I've woven in one piece: 50 yards]

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sad Observation About Granddad

[Granddad Plum is looking thin on top, just like a lot of us]

The rains are here, and so it's just about time for mushroom hunting. I'll be keeping daily watch on the secret golden chanterelle patch. One of these nights I'll serve handmade pasta with a chanterelle cream sauce.

(Aside: I just took a break from typing to watch a Kestrel stalk songbirds at the top of the meadow. I don't think he got one.)

My first fungus of the year, unfortunately, is a polypore sprouting from the dead core of Granddad Plum's trunk. I don't have my mushroom books to ID it properly, but it looks like a white/tan relative of the sulphur shelf fungus. It's the right growing conditions, form and size for that fungus - only the color is different from my experience of them.

[Unidentified polypore fungus on Granddad]

Next time our community's arborist is here, I'll ask him if he knows what the appearance of this fungus says about the tree's longevity. Fungus on tree trunks isn't usually a good sign, though.

Today is another long day at the loom, threading and sleying the next beam. My new bobbin winder should be here soon, though, and it'll be back to yardage.
[An American Kestrel, a gorgeous and tiny falcon. Photo from the iBird Explorer app.]

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wet, wet, wet

[Wet needles on the Naraya tree]

Between weaving and land responsibilities, I don't have time to write much. It's freezing cold and very wet. My back is good enough to work.

Here are a couple of pictures to show how pretty things get in the rain.

[Wet maple leaves in the meadow]