Creative Blog Hop

November 13, 2014

I was invited by Kristina and Ness to join in on the Creative Blog Hop to talk about my creative process. And since I'm staying home from work today due to the 'supposed' inclement weather (haven't seen a drop of snow yet, but my deck is covered in ice), I thought it was the perfect time to curl up in some blankets on the couch and ponder a few questions about what it is that I do:

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What am I working on?
In knitting - a big, cozy, tweedy sweater to wear this winter. Something that will (hopefully) fit comfortably over my expanding belly. I also have a sweater vest and a pair of socks on the needles.

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In sewing - two patchwork quilts made from scrap fabrics found in my stash or at the thrift store. I'm sewing these by hand using the paper method.

And around the house - the nesting process has begun, which, for me, means finishing up a long list of projects: painting those chairs in the dining room, setting up a space for the baby and re-organizing the house. A lot more creativity goes into all of this than one might think, especially when you're prone to DIYing solutions whenever possible while somehow making everything aesthetically pleasing.

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How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, I'm not sure how much of what I do actually differs except maybe in tastes. I like neutrals and pops of color (usually jewel tones), and I'm very inspired by nature. Bright rainbow colors generally aren't my thing, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps I'm looking to be soothed rather than stimulated.

Other than that, whether it's knitting, DIY house projects or handmade gifts for friends and family, the things I create have to be beautiful (to me) and serve a legitimate purpose. I don't like to make things that won't get used, to the point that if I spend a month knitting a sweater and I don't like it, I'll take the time to rip back and make the necessary adjustments, or I'll frog the whole thing and use the yarn for something else.

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Why do I write/create what I do?
I write because I have to. It keeps me sane and grounded, and when I'm not writing here or for work, I'm scribbling away in my journal.

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The same could be said for my knitting, crocheting, cooking, gardening, sewing and other handmade endeavors. I've always known that living a slower, more simple life was the only way to keep from getting out of touch with myself. I was severely depressed in my early 20's because I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do, and I did everything I could to avoid the future because the standard college-educated American career track looked so incredibly unappealing to me. It wasn't until I started writing and creating that I began to discover who I was, and found a more sustainable and healthy pace to exist in.

Not everything I teach myself to make and do becomes a hobby. For instance, knitting has definitely struck a chord with me, but I'm not totally sure I'll be interested in taking up spinning or dyeing my own yarn. Still, it's important for me to take the time to learn and try these things if for no other reason than to understand the meaning behind a hand-knit sweater and the garment industry and the difference between fast and slow fashion. The same holds true for food and gardening, and so many other things. I'm motivated by the idea of connecting with and understanding the basic necessities I used to take for granted.

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How does my writing/illustration/creative process work?
For creative projects, I have a 'research mode' and a 'get stuff done' mode. The research mode can go on for days - weeks, even - and consists of gathering inspiration, reading tutorials, looking up the right materials and generally getting myself comfortable with the idea of diving into the work.

Often, my research mode covers more than one project, which makes it easy for me to go from finishing one thing to starting the next. I only work on one project at a time (usually), which makes it seem like I get things done quickly when there was actually a lot of behind-the-scenes work that went into preparing it.

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As for writing, my mind will prod around certain topics, phrases or words throughout the day, and I try to always write those things down somewhere so I can refer to them later. I have a lot of notes with fragment sentences or ideas, and sometimes they'll connect into a bigger picture.

For work and home, I usually start all my writing on paper. There's something about having the pen in my hand that lets me breathe and think more clearly about what I want to say. Once I've figured out how to begin, I can usually transfer over to the computer and finish from there.

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A big thank you to both Kristina and Ness for inviting me to participate! If you haven't seen their blogs, you definitely should. They are two of my faves. And because I'm getting this post in just under (or on) the two week wire, I'll have to take a cue from Ness and edit this post later to insert the folks who I've e-mailed to ask about participating once they've replied. Check back later to see who's next on the blog hop!*

*Update: For the next stops on the Creative Blog Hop, check out these posts from Lola Nova and Adventures in Making!

The (Belated) Summer Egg Count

November 10, 2014

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The light is fading earlier and earlier each day, and the chickens, one by one, have been giving up their daily egg laying tasks in exchange for a good molting. And because we don't use artificial lights in our hen house, it'll be interesting to see how far into fall we can go before we're completely out of eggs for the year. Right now we're down to one layer, Seven of Nine (top left, laying in my flower pot), who continues to drop eggs like a machine.

I know I haven't kept up with reporting the monthly egg count this summer, but that doesn't mean we haven't religiously marked the numbers on the calendar. I'm not sure we'll do this every year, but it's fun to see which of our girls produces the most, and to keep track of which chickens go broody most often (Starbuck), or not at all (Amelia Pond). We also like to mark down any strange illnesses or maladies that come up throughout the year. I initially kept a chicken journal to jot down such things, but I've since decided it's easiest to use a calendar. It's quick, easy, and there's just enough space for a few notes.

So, without further ado, here are the chicken stats for June through October:

June
Starbuck: 23
Seven: 16
Amy: 25
Milly: 23

Total: 87

July
Starbuck: 17
Seven: 17
Amy: 25
Milly: 11

Total: 70

August
Starbuck: 14
Seven: 22
Amy: 23
Milly: 22

Total: 81

September
Starbuck: 14
Seven: 8
Amy: 3
Milly: 24

Total: 49

October
Starbuck: 0
Seven: 16
Amy: 0
Milly: 13

Total: 29

And here are the grand totals:

Starbuck (Buff Orpington): 68
Seven (Australorp): 79 (and counting)
Amy (Easter Egger): 74
Milly (Black Copper Marans Mix): 93

Grand Total: 314 eggs

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With 93 eggs total, our grand champion layer, Milly (on the right), managed to outlay the rest of the girls by a mile, and I'm still not sure our second place layer, Seven of Nine, will catch up to her despite the fact that she's still laying eggs. Poor Milly has always been a rather ugly bird, and she looks even worse now due to unfortunate molting patterns, but her eggs are lovely. She's a Black Copper Marans, so not only are her eggs a rich, dark brown color, but they're also the biggest eggs we get.

As for our loser, Miss Starbuck, I'm sure she would have performed better had it not been for her monthly session in the broody box. That's ok, though. Of all the birds, she's definitely the friendliest.

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Last but not least, the molting. Luckily, most of the girls have managed to shed their feathers gracefully, but you can see bald spots and pinfeathers when you lift their wings or move their old feathers aside. For the most part, we try not to handle them much during this time because it seems so painful, but we also try to give them a good once-over every now and then to make sure all is well.

For those of you who own chickens: how far into the fall and winter do your birds typically molt? Do any of your hens continue to lay throughout the winter despite no artificial lighting?