Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lots Of Time To Study

Well, I got some bad news last weekend. I had gotten special permission to stay onsite at the faire, including the right to use the electricity behind my booth during the week. Then I paid my "crew camping" fee. A few days later, Poof! The power was cut off. The explanation was that the county forced the site manager to shut down all electricity except to the food court for some reason having to do with health codes, fire danger or somesuch.

Well, this changes everything. I can't sew. I can't work on office work. So, what to do? Study.

I've got two topics on my plate right now: patternmaking and the foundation of a new monastery. There are two books I'm reading for those purposes:

Helen Joseph Armstrong has written the textbook used by most patternmaking classes in fashion schools. I'll study her book, try out as much stuff as I can, and decide whether I want more schooling after that.

I am finding that handwoven cloth is more suitable for clothing than it is for accessories. People are willing to pay more for something they'll wear, especially if it's versatile. Bags require a heavy cloth or a sturdy lining in order to do their job dependably, and people don't care as much whether their accessories are handwoven.

Before the holidays, I want to have some new garment designs under my belt: a versatile, lightweight unisex short-sleeved shirt, and some simple lightweight unisex pants with hidden pockets. I can't sell them in Annie's booths, but I can find my own outlets next year.

While chatting with a friend a few weeks ago, I have come to realize that there are many similarities between the Radical Faeries and Alcoholics Anonymous. We're a bunch of people with very different backgrounds, trying to run organizations with a distributed power structure and no "leader". I'm reading this book to see how AA made the decisions that they made to create the stable organization that they have. Perhaps there is wisdom in there that will help as I try to wrap my head around the best way to structure this new monastery.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mi-Fi & Apps That Make Me Happy

[The Tiny Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot]

Virgin Mobile has rolled out a new deal: prepaid, unlimited mobile high-speed internet for $40 a month. It's a cheap pay-as-you-go plan, giving fast speeds with no contract. You just pay in advance for any month you'll be using it. They use Sprint's 3G network so there is a HUGE coverage area. We even get reception on the sanctuary, but it's slooooow...

This setup is perfect for me because I need reliable internet access only when I'm travelling to shows. It's the show that pays the fees. I don't have extra money at other times to pay for a service I don't need or can't use.

This is what made me leave AT&T. There's no service in Wolf Creek, I don't need it there, and I have to pay for it anyway. Oh, yeah, and it's more like $80 a month for phone and internet.

This newfound pervasive internet connection is allowing me to change how I do things at shows. One thing that's becoming important is to keep notes of all the tasks that need to be done in preparation for a show. I've changed todo list programs to one that will store all of my items out of sight once they're completed.

It's called Egretlist, and their method is brilliant: you create todo lists and enter items into them. Once you've checked an item off, it will disappear from the list in a day. Here's where it gets smart... Those checked items disappear from view, but they're not gone. They are backed up in a service called Evernote.

The next time I do this show I will go into Evernote, make a copy of the list, and uncheck the items in it. Poof! The todo list is restored in Egretlist. It's a ready-made preflight plan with no extra work on my part.

Evernote is a nifty service on its own: it stores notes, web clippings, audio files, and more. They are accessible from a client on any smart phone or computer platform. They can also be browsed from any internet browser. Most usefully for me, my notebook contains all of the content without an internet connection, and the iPhone has the ability to store content as well.

[Shopping list Egretlist]

[Evernote has a copy of the list and remembers it forever]

The other big thing that the Mi-Fi is enabling for me is the creation of contracts. For a year and a half, Annie and I have been "winging it", doing our best to communicate as our relationship gets more and more complicated. We've done a great job, but there are a few times where one or the other has felt taken advantage of because of unclear communication. I didn't bring a loom to this show, knowing that it would simplify things and give me time to tidy up some of these loose ends.

To enable smooth communication, I've decided to use Google Docs to write these agreements. This allows us both to access them, make changes, and leave comments for each other to review. There's no fear of doing irreparable damage to them because revisions are all stored and reversible.

And now, thanks to an app called Office2, I have editing capability right in my pocket. When I'm out for a walk in the hills and an idea hits me, I don't need to make a todo list item to type it up later. I can turn on the Mi-Fi, open the document, and enter it right then. Instant gratification.

[Office2 can access Google Docs...]

[...and give me an interface to edit them]

Speaking of walking in the hills... Today's my day off. My two hours of coffee and internet are up, and I'm going for a walk...

Faire Weekdays

[Leftover tomatoes]

Week days at the fair site are lonely. There are a few other people, but they keep mostly to themselves. A few days ago I met a wild woman named Sue.

She took me to all the places we're probably not supposed to go, including the property off the back end of the site. It's a huge tomato field full of the remains of harvest. These are a far cry from the delicious tomatoes in the greenhouse at home, but they're better than the ones in the store - these are actually ripe.

[Moonflower, Datura stramonium]

At night, I've made friends with another member of the nightshade family. These beautiful flowers have an incredible fragrance, like candied lemons and perfume. I visit them every night before bed and enjoy their sweet scent, but with respect.

This is not a plant to treat lightly. Every year, bored teenagers eat parts of it because they've heard that it can get them high. (Statistically, this is the age group attracted to this experience.)

The trip usually goes something like this:
- They don't think they are altered.
- They disassociate from reality, not recognizing their friends or surroundings. Often, they don't even know that there are people trying to interact with them.
- If they are able to see their friends, they talk in gibberish and behave as if they're making sense.
- They lose motor coordination, crashing full speed into walls, furniture, through windows, etc., but don't register pain.
- They continue to run around doing strange things with little physical coordination, often injuring themselves in the process.
- They often lose memory of large chunks of time, sometimes all of it.

So, these kids wake up one to three days later in a hospital or police station, if they're lucky. If they were home alone and nobody found them, they'd wake up injured in a house that's completely trashed, with little or no recollection of what happened. Or they wouldn't wake up.

But she sure does smell nice! Just give her the respect she deserves. She's a temptress of the darkest kind...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Made it!

[The tomatoes are almost ripe]

[Wispr and Harlan harvest greens]

[I backed the trailer in!]

This last week has been a blur of working, painting, packing, driving, shopping, driving, and more.

The final result is that I'm onsite to set up for the Northern California Renaissance Faire in Casa de Fruta, California. (It's near Gilroy, south of San Jose.)

I practiced backing up with the trailer in our parking lot before I left. The end result there was hours of frustration and a determination not to back the trailer without more training...

On Monday I went to Lowell to pick up the clothing and brooms for the show. Then I came home, packed them into the trailer and got ready to go. The last thing I do before any trip these days is to raid the garden and pack a cooler with veggies.

Well, that gave a little solace when I got stuck in a little town called Zamora. I stopped for gas and the van wouldn't start again. This is why I pay for AAA. It turns out to have been a loose wire, a hot starter, or some other undefinable thing. When the AAA guy got there and wiggled some wires it fired up like a charm. Funny it didn't do that for me.

What this little pause in my trip gave me, though, was a chance to cut open a melon that Harlan made me pack. Wow! I knew I was in for a treat when I opened the cooler and it smelled like perfume. This has to have been the sweetest melon I've ever had.

I was glad that I ate because once the van was running I didn't dare stop again. I knew I had enough gas to get to the faire site so I just drove without stopping. I arrived, exhausted, and fell into bed. It's nice to travel with a bed in the back.

It turns out that whatever was wrong with the van isn't repeating itself. I brought the trailer in to the booth location and thought I'd give backing one quick try before I broke my back unloading the trailer in a hurry as I blocked the road. It worked! I don't know quite how, but the trailer magically went exactly where I wanted it! Beginner's luck.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trailer Work

[TJ shows where the door will go]

[Look at the details! And this is before caulking, weather stripping or paint]

[TJ is burning the midnight oil to install weather stripping on the underside of the roof.]

While David and I were working on the van and while Wispr was weaving shawls, TJ was working on the trailer. He has created two beautiful roof panels with waterproof joints and overhangs. Each piece is light enough for a single person to lift and sturdy enough that I can strap cargo on top if I need to. They will lock down from the inside for stability and security.

After dinner I helped him to caulk the roof and the rest of the trailer while he installed weather stripping. This trailer is better built than many of the buildings on the land. I will certainly be able to use it for dry wintertime storage. This will free up a ton of space in Halston, making it nicer for the three of us who will live there.

Tomorrow, TJ is going off to tree school with Wonder and Arcana. I'll be putting a coat of paint on the trailer. All of this new wood needs to be waterproof before the trip on Monday. Then I need to practice backing up with a trailer. It's scary, but I'd do better to learn before I need to do it with people watching on the cramped faire site.

Van Work

[David is oiling the parking break pedal. I wish I had a better picture.]

[Restored latches hold a minimalist roof rack.]

(Today's post is split into two parts so I can include lots of pictures.)

David from Boston came back to visit and this time stayed around a bit more. The other day he mentioned that he knows a lot about vehicle mechanics. He offered to show me around the engine of my van and help make sure it's ready for the big trip hauling a trailer to California. I learned a lot and took notes on what needs maintenance before a trip like this. Thanks, David!

Then we set about making the modifications that I wanted to make to the van. I removed that ladder from the back door. All it ever did was get in the way of seeing traffic in the rear-view mirror. One rung was placed perfectly to hide vehicles coming up behind me. I never climb onto the roof and don't trust the door to hold me anyhow. Buh-bye!

Then, we did our best to repair the clamps that hold the roof rack onto the van. They were all rusted solid, but we were able to get them working well enough for now. A 2x4 attached to each side does two things - gives me something to tie onto if I need to pack the roof and acts as a failsafe if one of the clamps goes slack. I don't think I'll be using the roof on this trip, but it's better to be overprepared.

On Monday morning I'll take it in for an oil change and lube job. I'll top up the brake fluid, coolant and tire pressure. Then the van should be ready to roll, running even better than it did on the Los Angeles trip.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Building Excitement

[Bracket closeup. Isn't it beautiful?]

[What they do: strengthen the sides and let me hang clothes at the faire]

TJ is chugging along on the trailer modifications. Yesterday he showed me the brackets that he made to hold the clothing racks. They're awesome! They are sturdy enough to stabilize the sides of the trailer while I'm driving and easy to remove while loading and unloading. During the show, they will hold the clothing still on the hangers.

Today he's working on a removable but water sealed roof that's sturdy enough to hold cargo if I need to use it that way.

[Wispr keeps a watchful eye on the selvedge as he weaves]

Wispr is doing well with the weaving. As expected, his bobbins are lumpy, skinny, and slow in winding. But, they are wound well enough to produce perfect selvedges. Not bad for his first time! He'll certainly be good enough to weave while I'm gone. It's really exciting!

[Harlan and the elderberries]

Harlan stopped by the other day with a bucket of elderberries still on the stem. It was nice to step away from my own work for a while and help get them ready to freeze.

As for my work, it's a little overwhelming right now. Along with packing up to do the show, I'm getting the house ready for others to use in my absence. I've also begun work on the contracts that will help guide us over the next few years as I take over various aspects of the California shows.

And, in between it all I'm weaving to earn money for travel expenses. In my spare time, I'm working for the church and meeting with others to develop the manifesto for a new monastery.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Getting Ready for Faire

[New Pants. Thanks, Wispr!]

Things are lining up for my trip. TJ is back with the MR2 so that Wonder and Vibrant can get away from the faire site on their days off.

Actually, that's a nice way to look at it. The reality is that they aren't allowed to stay on site during the week. I was granted special permission because I'm managing Annie's booth, but the show managers don't want a party atmosphere so groups of people aren't allowed to stay. It's just four weeks, and those guys really want to visit friends in the Bay Area and spend some time at the ocean. I think they'll have a blast and those four weeks will be gone in a flash. While they're off carousing in the two-seater, I'll be enjoying my days at the sewing table, making bags to sell this holiday season.

Anyhow, TJ is back home and working on the trailer. It should be all fixed up in a couple of days.

Wispr made me a new pair of pants while I got the loom ready for him to start weaving. They are beautiful! They're made from a durable piece of light canvas we found on the land, with a top strip of super comfortable brown denim. The bottom features a wide cuff that gathers the legs just above my boots so that I don't need to stuff cloth into them.

Wispr started weaving on the production loom yesterday and did a great job. It was fun to see someone else learning how to work the flyshuttle mechanism. He started out slow and clunky, with lots of underthrowing but rapidly got the hang of it. He wove three yards on his first day! (This is way better than I did when I was learning.) Today he'll learn the critical skill of winding bobbins and then it's just a matter of practice, practice, practice. He's got five days of practice before I leave for California. By then, I'm sure he'll be ready to weave on his own until I get back.

So there you have it! Four of us will be earning an income from my weaving project during the months of September and October, in preparation for Winter. This is the cottage industry that the organization has always talked about, supporting those of us who want to keep living on the land performing the important work of the organization. And we're doing it despite the obstacles being thrown in our way by people who have never had the experience of living here. I hope that, in the end, actions speak louder than words when we are all being held accountable for ourselves.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Booth is Up, Home for a Week

[All done!]

Setup went super fast despite the blazing heat. (or maybe because of it) We got down there Wednesday night and got the poles laid out for the tent. We didn't put it up, though, because the idea was to have me make the decisions so I could really learn how it's done. The next time I put it up, I won't have Annie there to correct me.

When I packed for this trip we had had a cold snap here in Oregon. Knowing I was going to sleep outside, I packed wool socks, an alpaca sweater, a wool scarf, silk thermals, and my 20 degree sleeping bag. Did I bring shorts? A tank top? No.

Thursday morning arrived and I realized my mistake. To keep working in the heat I cut off my jeans and took the sleeves off my t-shirt. Then I had to stop every hour or so and soak myself down in order to keep going. It felt like I was on the verge of heat stroke all day. I spent every possible minute working in the shade and probably drank 2 gallons of water.

At about 4:00 it started to cool down to a reasonable temperature for working and we had a realization: if we kept going and got up at the first light we could beat the heat and go home a day early. And so we did. That second night made me glad for my warm clothes. It was damp and very cold. The next day might not have gotten very hot, but we don't know because we were done with work and driving away before 10:00 AM.