Saturday, June 26, 2010

Custom Sewing Table

I finished paying off the commercial sewing machine and brought it home. Then, I realized that I'm used to sewing on a huge table. For dealing with stitching the ends on yardage and stuff, a 20" deep table just isn't enough.

Thanks to TJ and our tool shed, I was able to design and build exactly the table I want. In a larger space, it will butt up against the machine table. In this space, it sits at 90 degrees and lets me move the cloth around me as I work.

Here's how we made it:

[Start with a weather-beaten banquet table]

[...and a piece of plywood]

[...lots of tools]

[...and a ton of filling and sanding]

[...and poof! There's a folding sewing table built for the space]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oh, Deer! (Not for the squeamish...)

Some days just don't turn out how you expected at all. Today was slated to be a routine day of food arrival and storage for a big gathering that starts tomorrow.

On one trip, the driver saw a deer hanging out near the road, alive. On the way back, she was on the side of the road, dead. They brought the groceries home and went back to get her. She was still limp when they got there, and just had traces of rigor mortis when they got home again.

Our friend, Badger, is able to dress a deer in just a few minutes without getting any blood on himself. I stepped in to help and spilled a cup of blood down my leg and into my shoe.

In all fairness, this was my first time helping to dress a deer. I'm not good at it, but it was way easier than I thought it would be. It wasn't gross or weird, just completely natural. Two hours after she arrived here, this animal that would have rotted by the road had been transformed into delicious food.

We ate the liver and heart tonight. The rest of the meat has to brine for a couple of days before we can eat it, but then we'll be having a feast. And it's a good thing, too, with 175 of our friends visiting for the week!

Of course I didn't take any pictures with blood and tallow all over my hands. These were taken immediately after we were done...

[Deer head and skin (in headlights)]

[Ribcage, guts, water for cleaning]

[two of the meat trays]

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Creek

I'm finally home. Between the stuff with my bio family, food poisoning and other stresses, it took me way longer than normal to find my bearings this time. It finally clicked today when I took time off from work to listen to the creek.

And then I realized that, thanks to modern technology, I can give y'all a glimpse into this world. Here it is!

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Sewing Machine and Lessons

[My new, powerful machine]

It's funny how things work. I stopped by to talk to Karen, the co-owner of Select Designs, a production sewing shop in Wolf Creek (and, incidentally, one of the few businesses in this tiny town.) I just wanted to ask if she had a source for used commercial sewing machines.

Well, as it turns out, they are changing directions with their business and have some machines on hand that they're ready to part with. I've been shopping online for a few weeks, so I know a bit about what's out there. She quoted me a fantastic price on a beautiful machine and then, as if that weren't enough, offered to train me on it and let me come use it under her tutelage until it's paid off.

Sweet! Today we sealed the deal and she got me started on it.

This machine is made to do only one thing very efficiently: stitch in a straight line. No fancy stitches or fiddly mechanisms to go out of temper - just lots of power:
- The 1/2 horsepower clutch motor can run the machine at 5500 stitches per minute. That's 10" of sewing per second. Scary! Productive!
- It uses a brake that lets it stop as fast as it runs.
- It has a knee lift so I can keep both hands on the work and turn corners quickly.
- It holds two cones of thread so bobbins wind automatically while sewing, not as a separate operation.
- It sits in a sealed oil pan and is lubricated continuously by an integrated oil pump.

Even if the machine didn't run faster, these last two features would save me an hour every day.

This was a short day in their shop so I just ran through lessons for a couple of hours. She had me do exercises to focus on speed control, straight lines, turning corners, braking, and continuous turning of the work to follow a line. This machine works just like the home machines I've used for decades, but WAY faster, more powerful and more responsive. I'm pretty good with it after just a couple of hours. I think it'll surpass the speed of my home machine the first time I use it for real work and still leave plenty of room to grow.

[Tonight's sunset at Wolf Creek Sanctuary. Breathtaking!]

This stuff with my dad has me turned inside out emotionally. I'll get through it and definitely be better off.

It's funny that I have no problem setting boundaries around energetic availability among the rest of the people in my life, but family is different. They treat me like crap for decades and I keep on working to gain their approval. There is no amount of work I could do that would cause them to treat me like a member of the family so I need to stop trying and remember that I have another family that appreciates me.

Slapped With Reality

...or another version of the story at the very least...

My best friend is great! He sent me a "kick in the pants" email yesterday on the topic of going to help my dad. It's exactly what I needed.

You see, I am a very generous and forgiving person by nature. I want to help everybody and just be respected for who I am. When it comes to my family, though, I need to just let go of that. There are times when I *should* hold a grudge and let people reap the harvest from the ill will they've sown. This time, "people" means my dad and his wife. They don't seem to hold any respect for me, and they don't deserve my help, regardless of recent events. This is a very difficult thing for me to realize.

What Carl pointed out is that I'm not really in a strong position to help my dad, and it's partly his own doing. Here's the story... Two years ago I decided to pursue weaving as a profession. While working a day job that barely covered my bills, I did six months of research, took a couple of courses on planning and starting a small business, and worked with a few business advisors to write a detailed business plan and pursue funding. Then the banking industry all-but-collapsed. Lending dried up "temporarily".

So I called on my dad for the first time in my adult life. I wasn't asking for a handout. I was asking for a loan in very specific terms with a clear, conservative plan to pay it back. His response? He didn't even call me back. And when I finally called him, he gave me the cold shoulder, saying merely "I don't buy it." He made no offer of assistance less than the amount I was asking. No terms like "start it yourself, show me that you're serious and I'll help you get to the next level". Just a simple "no" that translated to "you don't deserve my help in any way." I told him that I would have liked his support but that I'd just go ahead and do it on my own.

That was the last time we spoke, about a year and a half ago. In that time I've done just as I said. I borrowed some money from friends and bought my loom. I've spent the last year as an apprentice, earning relatively little for my work while I learned the ropes of production weaving. This year I set ambitious milestones for myself and have met them all. I have now acquired the materials for my own batch of cloth, designed and wove it, made products from it, and test marketed them to thousands of customers. This week I'm putting together a small booth and refreshing my product inventory to prepare for summer craft fairs.

If I had startup capital a year and a half ago, I'd be that much further ahead of where I am. I'd be in a place where I could really help my dad without much personal sacrifice. (Actually, my experience has shown me that my production and earning estimates were grossly conservative. I'd be doing GREAT if I had had even moderate funding.) Instead, I'm in a place where I am still pinching pennies to get my business off the ground.

Yes, I *could* pack my studio into the van, go east and help them out, but why *should* I? Yeah, he's my dad, but where was he when I needed support? He didn't even have the decency to call me back.

"Are you really in trouble here?" was his last question when I called him. No, for the first time in my life I was not making a decision based on desperation, just making the best of whatever situation happened to be in front of me. I was finally taking charge and pursuing my life goals. And with no support, the going would be way rougher.

It has been rough. But I am making it and realizing that I have another family - my friends. I've lived with them longer than I lived with my biological family. They understand and respect me WAY more, and they care more about my actual well-being.

It's doubtful that the family would have taken me up on my offer to help anyhow. They seem to perceive me as worthless and undesirable. I think they need to believe that in order to treat me like a pariah. It's just not healthy for me to engage with people who behave that way, even if they're "family". They've made their choice clear over the years: they would be better off without me. Well, so be it.

I'm sorry that this realization is coming in the midst of the most difficult situation Dad has ever faced, but I'm sure that his family will get him through it. That family doesn't include me now any more than it did in the past. I'll save my kindness and generosity for people who deserve it.

Thanks for the clear thinking, Carl. I owe you one.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Life Throws Curves

The other day my grandmother sent a message: "Call about your Dad. URGENT!" Then I saw an email from my youngest brother.

Uh-oh. I'm not close to my family, so two messages at once means it's serious...

My dad was riding his motorcycle through Utah with a friend when a blinding sandstorm kicked up. As they were pulling off the road, a vehicle crossed the center line and hit them.

I don't know about his friend, but Dad is finally in stable condition. He's got lots of broken bones and it looks certain that he'll be paralyzed from mid-chest down. He should be heading back to Rochester, NY soon to continue treatment closer to home.

My dad's a big-hearted guy with a fantastic (and relentless) sense of humor. He has always kept ridiculously physically active with several jobs and a million projects at once. It's going to be tough for him to transition to his new life. He'll have to go through intense physical recovery, a major overhaul of his house, and the psychological shift to a life that looks nothing like he's used to. I have no doubt that his stubbornness and sense of humor will see him through.

In the meantime, it'll be rough going for everyone. Dad's got a wife and four sons. His wife works for the Post Office. The youngest son lives in Texas where he's a physical therapist, just out of school for a couple years. The next son lives fairly close, but has a job, a wife and a baby to care for. The next son has a wife and five kids, constantly struggling to keep afloat in an area of economic depression. The oldest one (that's me) has no wife, no kids, and just transitioned to a somewhat portable life as a professional weaver, struggling but stable.

It seems clear which one would come home for a while to help Dad to get through this, but for one hitch... The family hates me. Yeah, I'm strange, artistic, free-spirited and, like my dad, don't mince words when I have something to say. I really don't understand the hatred, though. We're all a little strange.

So now I'm looking hard at my life. I've got some big decisions to make regarding the next steps for my weaving business, but I really see nothing preventing me from packing up my loom and materials for a few months' work and heading east. If the family could stand to have me around, it seems like I could take on enough responsibility that we could all keep our lives somewhat in order while we help Dad to get through this.