Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bye, Bye, Muffins

[First day, first bowl of milk, chicken stock, olive oil, and cat food. Look at those hip bones and that frozen tail!]

[Second day and he can't get enough petting and crawling all over us, especially Rivers]

Today was a tough day. I had to trick my little friend, Muffins the cat, into a cat carrier and send him off to the Humane Society.

He showed up here about a week ago, super skinny and with the tip of his tail frozen flat. He wanted to be petted, and couldn't stop shivering. He warmed up after a little warm food.

He ate about 5 bowls of bacon fat, olive oil, chicken stock, milk, and kibble that day before he started to slow down. He spent the whole afternoon glued to the spot where the food bowl was, staring at the door. Every time we came out with another bowl of food, he'd purr so hard he looked like he was shivering all over again.

That night we found out that he was living under the office, but the following night was slated to drop below 20 degrees and he didn't seem strong enough to survive it. I made him a bed in the tool shed with a light bulb for warmth. He wasn't so sure about it so I put the food bowl next to it, smeared it with bacon fat and convinced him to give it a try for about 10 seconds. Some time in the middle of the very cold night he decided it wasn't so bad after all and I found him curled up in the bed under the lamp in the morning.

There was brief talk about letting him stay. He's gorgeous, extremely personable, and would be perfect for keeping mice out of my yarn and cloth stash. But, sense prevailed. He seemed to have worms, needs to be neutered, and needs his vaccinations at the very least. I don't have money for that, and we have a policy preventing us from bringing more cats on the land anyhow. They really mess with the natural balance in a place like this. We decided that he had to go to the Humane Society. I really, really wish he could stay with me.

He stayed in his heat-lamp box bed day and night for about 5 days before we could borrow a cat carrier from our friend. When it arrived, we only had two days to get him used to it and lessen the trauma of the whole trip.

That night, we put the new carrier next to his existing bed and put some food in it so he'd explore the carrier when he was safely alone. It worked. The kibble was gone in the morning.

The next night, I took away his bed and replaced it with the cat carrier, hand feeding him burger meat inside of it to give him the idea that it was an OK place. He slept in it that night. Yes! This was going to be easy!

And, it really was. As H├ęcate drove up, I walked out with a piece of burger, lured him into the cat carrier and closed the door. He wasn't happy, but our familiarity with each other helped him to stay calm. I sat in the car with him for half an hour before they left, calming him as much as I could before the scary drive.

I have to say, he looks so much better than he did a week ago. He's put on a lot of weight and turned into a beautiful cat shape, even with his slightly distended belly. It's nothing a little wormer can't fix!

I was sad that I couldn't go with them but today was the final swap of materials. My weaving contract is well and truly over with everything I didn't own returned for good.

[He's not happy at the moment, but he'll have a much happier life adopted into someone's home]

They tell me that he travelled without much noise and was fairly calm when they arrived at the Humane Society. They took him in and told us that he didn't have a belly distended from worms. He's pregnant. And female.

I'm glad that the kittens will be born in a good environment and have the care they need. I'm going to miss my kitty.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Web Store Is Up!

[Harlan making fringe]

[Wonder taking pictures]

[Working on the web store from my strange loom desk]

This was a strange and amazing day. Black Friday, they call it, the biggest shopping day of the year.

I'm having a tough time with the big transition in my career, from a contract weaver making someone else's cloth and paid (very little) by the yard to a self-employed weaver making my own cloth and sewing my own merchandise from it. In order to get paid, though, I also have to sell it. This transition is being difficult because I have no money and few raw materials, just a big batch of cloth.

My next steps are easy to understand: I'll sell enough stuff to pay for a trip to Portland, host a trunk sale up there, and use that money to buy my next batch of thread and pay the fees to do my first shows this Spring.

To sell my first batch of stuff, I spent the last few days setting up a full-featured store on my own website. I needed the ability to offer discounts, coupons and such, and have them all combine on-the-fly in an easy-to-use system. I also needed it to track inventory and prevent double-selling the same item. I did it! And today I worked all day to get stuff listed in there.

My goal was to have a "Black Friday Virtual Trunk Sale." It turned out way different from that. You see, the last time I did this sort of thing I had a cable modem with blazingly fast network speed. This time, I had nothing like that. Tinker and Wonder loaned me their network extender so I had internet up in Halston, but it was super slow. It's the same satellite connection from Garden House, but split through another layer.

Then, I missed my own deadline for having samples sewn and ready to photograph. I got them sewn, but forgot just how long it takes to cut and make fringe on the edges of scarves. Wonder showed up to photograph and stuff wasn't ready for him.

That's where Harlan came in. I showed him how to fringe and the pipeline fell into place. He fringed the scarves, handed them to Wonder to photograph while I wrote up listings, attached the photos, and announced it all through Twitter. Even with help, it took all day before everything was up on the website.

But it's there now! Please help me spread the word by telling people about what I'm doing and sending them to my store: blossommerz.com.

I'll be leaving the special Grand Opening discounts in place until a) I make enough to pay for my trip or b) next Tuesday. After that it will just be a regular web store with moderate discounts.

Thanks for helping to spread the word!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Black Friday Virtual Trunk Sale

[A tiny bit of sun lights up the snowy hills]

I'm super busy this week getting ready for my first virtual trunk sale on Black Friday. In preparation, I'm sewing up a storm and setting up special one-day discounts on my web store.

You will be able to browse the sale by visiting my website: blossommerz.com Come and be among the first to see new merchandise and have access to special web-only deals, all while helping a craftsman to become self-sufficient.

I'll be photographing and listing new items throughout the day on Friday, so keep checking back! And, I'll be live on Facebook most of the day to answer questions. Make sure we're already friends!

And, finally, I'll be hosting a private in-person trunk sale in Portland in a week or two. Come by and enjoy refreshments and lively company while doing your holiday shopping! Date and location TBA.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No More Weaving Contract!

[Two paths: one is clear and predictable, the other is new and tough to see.]

I quit my weaving contract job today. We had already pared our relationship down to a bare minimum, but now it's over entirely. Those of you who saw me burning contracts in the Samhain fire, that's what it was about - trying to save the simplest part of our relationship by killing off the others. It didn't work.

Ending all of our contracts is actually a fantastic thing. If we had gone forward, it would have taken me three more years to fulfill them and be successfully independent. With the new plan, I'll be independent immediately and financially successful on my own within this year. I will probably be at the income level that our contracts projected within a year and a half. All I've done is trade a slow, predictable plan for a fast, unpredictable one.

I gained many things from this relationship. Firstly, experience. I've woven over 1400 yards of cloth, giving me irreplaceable experience recognizing, fixing, and preventing the problems that can occur when weaving wide cloth. I am now an experienced production weaver.

Secondly, retail training and direct experience with customers of handwoven cloth. I now know what catches their attention, what they don't notice, and how to design cloth and merchandise to please them. I also know how to sell to them. My experience at Rennaisance Faires has taught me which sales techniques work and which ones don't.

Thirdly, the confidence that comes from real experience. I KNOW that I can design and weave beautiful cloth that customers will love and I KNOW that I can lead customers through the steps of falling in love with my stuff and paying me for it. I can tell them honestly that the cloth will last for decades and get softer the more it's washed. I've seen it. This confidence is priceless.

Deciding to quit this last part of our relationship is a long story, fraught with personal growth and interpersonal drama, but I don't think that my blog is the place for gory details. It's the place to tell my story, and I'd rather focus on the next chapter than to dwell on the last one.

Without a customer to pay me just to weave cloth, I will need to make a living solely from selling my own cloth. It's going to be a trick. I've got little money, some cloth, and some yarn. It will be a "shuffle puzzle" to move forward and end up with lots of yarn and cloth without going broke.

The first step will be to take the cloth I wove earlier this year and sew up attractive things from it. I'll be making scarves and shawls to sell over the holidays. I've got a few leads on low-entry-fee craft shows in Portland in December. I'll also be putting together a "help a faerie survive the transition to self-employment" fundraiser in Portland and, perhaps, San Francisco. I'd love feedback if any of you locals from those cities have ideas about where to peddle my wares during December.

Stay tuned! Things are about to get exciting - or, at least as exciting as they can for an independent weaver in the 21st century.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Snow!

[The frozen outhouse is pretty to look at. And yes, the trees are plumb - the building is quite crooked.]

[Sheryl the Scarecrow is looking a little chilly.]

We woke up this morning to find the whole land dusted with snow. It was 32 degrees and windless, making for a very delicate and wet display that we knew would only last a few hours. Sure enough, it was gone by noon.

Having spent a number of winters here, I forget how rare this is. We didn't get any accumulated snow last year. It was especially fun watching the wide eyes of Southern California natives who've never lived in a place where this happens. We all turn into giddy kids in the face of this beauty.

[My new, safer oil lamp.]

This year I'm engaging in a magical practice that makes for a lovely addition to the home environment - keeping the Summer Sun alive behind glass. On Samhain day I used a quartz sphere to light a fire from the dying sun and capture it in a glass oil lamp. It's beautiful and quite safe, but I have been looking for something that's even safer.

Last week I found it: an antique oil lamp designed for British cargo ships. It has a very solid brass enclosure with four thick glass panes protected by brass bars. It is pierced with tiny holes in the bottom and again on the edges of the bottom lip so it can sit on a table and still breathe. The top is a hinged and securely latched brass lid with vent holes too small for moths. The whole thing is sturdy enough to withstand being tipped over, too big and square for that to happen anyhow, impermeable to mice, and spends most of the time hanging on a hook completely out of the way of any other danger.

Inside the enclosure, the lamp itself is held in place by long rods that travel up two opposite corners. This keeps it stable and gives a simple way to lift it out. The hurricane is fastened with a screw so it can't come loose from the lamp, either.

Every morning I pull the lamp out, transfer the flame to another lamp and add oil to this one. I think it could burn for two days on one filling, but I'd rather not risk losing the flame.

Here's a trick I learned a few years ago... When keeping a perpetual flame, you can use it to light your gas stove pilot lights as well. Then, if your lamp goes out, you can relight it from the stove and keep the same flame alive. This saved me last week because my old lamp ran out of oil while I was in town buying more. Careful handling will keep me from having to go down the hill for fire, but at least I have a backup plan if I need it. Thanks for the tip, Eldri!

It will be exciting this year to carry the flame from Samhain to light our Yule fire, our candles for Brigid, and the Beltaine fire. This is the flame I always use to light the wood stove so that even in February my cabin will be warmed by the summer sun. It also makes a delightful night light, especially on these cold, dark nights when the heat of summer seems so far away.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkeys by the Firepit

[Turkeys by the Firepit. At about 1:00, watch them start calling to the raven flying overhead. They don't even seem to notice that I exist.]

Living in the woods is beautiful. As Thanksgiving approaches, it becomes more and more clear why Wild Turkey would be a traditional food. They are numerous and completely unfazed by our existence. It seems really silly that we're budgeting to buy a turkey in town when they're just begging to be eaten in our own back yard.

The sickness here on the land was HORRIBLE, but seems to be passing. I was knocked out completely for 9 days in a row, putting a huge dent in my weaving production at a critical time for holiday preparation. Today my lungs are still under siege, but not so bad that I can't work. At last!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Day In The Weaving Studio: Time Lapse

[Time lapse: one day of production weaving compressed to two minutes.]

Here's what you're seeing:
1. Cloth winding onto the takeup beam. Every tag on the white string marks a yard.
2. Winding bobbins to weave off. Watch the cones get smaller as the box fills up with wound bobbins.
3. More cloth winding. This time you can see the warp threads unspooling from the beam at the same time.
4. More cloth winding. This time you can see the dobby bars moving through the box and the weight going up and down to keep tension on the takeup beam. Notice the unwoven fringe section as it moves through the loom.

A while ago, I decided to show what a day in the weaving studio looks like. I've said before that contract production weaving is extremely repetitive. I just do the same thing over and over, creating yards of cloth for Annie to make into garments to sell in her Renaissance Faire booths.

There's a terrible cold going around the community. I've lost a few days to it now. One day I'll have a debilitating head cold, the next day I'll be fine. Two days later another explosive sinus nightmare, the next day I'm fine.

Today it's serious enough that I can't ignore it. My lungs are full of fluid and my body aches from fever. I'm spending the day in bed with a jug of water and a bottle of Nyquil. It's giving me time to write a blog post, though! (In between the wasted but asymptomatic hours of dammerschlaf. Thanks, medicine!)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Samhain's Over

[Tonight's Sunset in Time Lapse]

Whew! This gathering was a whirlwind. I got home from my trip and poof! There were a hundred people for dinner.

By all accounts except financial, this was the best Samhain on record. The evening fires were focused and stayed on track. The big event involves a night of stories around the fire. And that's just what we did: passed on the stories of our ancestors. It is strange to realize that I'm an elder here, but it's certainly true. Only one person at the fire had history longer than mine. What fun we had telling these whippersnappers about the old days!

The lack of elders is for several reasons - the plague wiped out our membership in the 80's and 90's. And those who are still alive don't come around so much. I think we should work on getting them back next year. Their stories are important and the community here is mature enough to want to hear them.

Next on the community's plate is getting ourselves moved into the Garden House for winter. We need to get the kitchen set up, decommission the big kitchen in the barn, and figure out how we'll live together in close quarters 'til spring.

Next on my plate is reconfiguring my cabin and weaving. There are three of us living there this winter so I've moved most of my boxes of stuff into the newly watersealed trailer. Now I've got to keep my nose to the grindstone: there's a batch of cloth due next week.