Practically Embracing Technology

That’s his head on the bottom of the screen

My son is in college in Florida. He and his fellow animation students are given more homework than is humanly possible to accomplish in the allotted time. Incredibly, he made it this far, past the middle of March without paying the inevitable price for countless sleepless nights augmented by no time to eat either. Then, this past weekend, he spent the entire weekend unable to work due to a fever, headache, and just plain malaise.

 He and I have been “skyping” alot. It is a great way to show each other drawings that we are working on, and I will admit to helping arrange furniture in one of his illustrations, etc. You can even view each other’s desktops! But this weekend, we reached a new height of intimacy. He suddenly disappeared from the screen and when I asked him what he was doing, he replied “Folding laundry.” Then he explained, still off camera, that he thought he had better make the bed in case he suddenly needed to sleep again. Sure enough, he lay down on it in front of me and I could just see the top of his familiar head. After awhile, I continued working, and realized that he had fallen asleep on camera. I called his name softly, and he woke up long enough to agree that he needed to take a nap. So we agreed that I would leave the camera on so as to be able to wake him in a while,  and went out and worked in my garden. When I came back an hour later, there was my boy, just the top of his head, still sleeping. So after awhile, I woke him up so he could eat some dinner, which he didn’t feel like doing. It was as though he was home again…in his usual corner only this time actually really  “on the computer” more literally than he ever was in the flesh…

Crisis Farm

Looking south at the house, west to the mountains and bathtub, northwest to the collapsed barn

No one can say I’m not inspired by my surroundings. I have just had the blissful epiphany at the age of 51 that everything I’ve done and not done up until now is what my life is about, and so it is time to make drawings about this. My husband and I have felt very unsure about the big move we made out of Manhattan 10 years ago and up to this old farmhouse on 12 acres in the Catskills. There is so much to say about what has been difficult that I won’t begin. But I think that the photos above give you some idea of our engagement with this place. I am using the word “engagement” very consciously, as it is used to describe battles and war missions; but also as it refers to engagement to be married forever, as in, hopefully in love.

And it wasn’t until my son went off far away from here, to Animation school and met a friend there who was apparently (and much to my son’s surprise) envious of my son’s upbringing on a “crisis farm” as they coined it. That appellation has really pleased me. It explains the whole thing. Not only were we reacting from the crisis of experiencing 911 in NYC, but we were anticipating every crisis that is and may be coming…fuel shortage (note the plastic vegetable oil containers all over the place left over from fueling the diesel jetta for over 100,000 miles and the heaps of fire wood for heating the house on wood), the food crisis (organic gardening, bee-keeping, maple-sugaring, raising chickens, all a must), the crisis in education epitomized by the awesome structure that sculptor and friend Matt Bua is helping my homeschooled son to erect in the yard to satisfy the “Shop” mandate for 7th grade.

So, our place screams of our engagement. You can see bee boxes stacked up against the wall of the house on the left; you can see gardening tools and the wheelbarrow, not neatly put away, because you can also see at the right, our huge collapsing barn. You can see 2 greenhouses way in the background, one small useful one for the 70 or so chickens, and the other a “crisis farm” mistake…a detour into intensive aquaponic gardening that didn’t pan out,.
looking north to the veggie oil car and my studio…
So, this early Spring weather has me outside every morning working on 3 drawings that document my view this Spring of life on the “crisis farm”. If I can, I may even extend it on to a fourth drawing continuing the 180 degree view…There is no end to the view here….

I just realized reading back on what I wrote that I have solved a 10 year problem of what to call this farm…we sometimes have to come up with a name for farm market venues if we want to sell honey, eggs, or raspberries, and now we have it: Crisis Farm. Forget Raspberry Ridge and Joy Farms.

Did You Ever Bake a Cake by Accident?

Nana’s cake in foreground, ganache cake behind

So it was getting late, and I had baked a “Nana’s Cake” which is a simple yellow cake. One of the kids wrote the recipe on a big gray piece of cardboard many years ago, and we have that version hanging on the wall in the kitchen just for cake emergencies. My daughter’s team had won their indoor soccer game and it seemed cause for a mild celebration; thus the cake.

I called to my daughter to get out the “Joy of Cooking” and look up an icing recipe that didn’t require unsweetened chocolate as we were all out. She began searching through listings in the index and reading aloud mis-pronunciations of “Marzipan” and “genoise” (or somesuch) and then she got to “ganache” which, mispronounced sounded like a kind of icing. I absent-mindedly encouraged her to look at that recipe. She did and when I got to it a few minutes later, I just started assembling the ingredients carefully paying attention to not mixing the sugar in with the tiny bit of flour. I did remark to myself, “Hm, that’s odd that this icing recipe calls for a half cup of flour.” But I soldiered on through the rest of the directions,  wondering about the 5 eggs also, but reassuring myself that they get warmed, so that must make sense as an icing recipe. It wasn’t actually till I got to “spread evenly in the baking pans” that I suddenly realized that  I w as not making frosting for the original cake; rather, I was baking a second cake. A much fancier cake than the first. We melted some chocolate chips, added vanilla extract and called it a day on the first cake.

Yet another day (and into the night) of “doing it the hard way! But then we did have two cakes to choose from…..There are moments when the “hard way” pans out.

Maple Fire Anonymous

So it is often lonely doing things the hard way. (I think that Sarah Palin calls this “being a maverick”) While most Americans are shopping on Saturday, or having their nails done, or visiting art galleries, I’m still out here dragging firewood from up and down the road, and yes, off the collapsing barn. (see last post)

So it was wonderful to realize that last night, what had been billed as an art opening, turned out to be a secret gathering of “Maple Fire Anonymous” people. I was not the only one there smelling faintly of smoke, with dry chapped hands, and smudges of soot behind my ears. I was not the only one there out early on cold mornings to skim the ice of the buckets, and to empty full ones. I was not the only one there who had been too busy with sap for the last month to spend much time “in the studio” as they say.

How important to have acquaintances and friends who say helpful things like, “well, I just use old scraps of sheet metal to block the wind”, and “It’s supposed to go down below freezing again tonight.”

These friends are wise about more than just making maple syrup too…one of them stated with certainty that wearing glasses at our age just weakens the eyes, and as we stepped up close to look at paintings in the show, he did not produce glasses. He said the key is to look at small things under very bright light. So today, in addition to continuing the maple fire, I did not wear my glasses all day until evening when I kept trying to see what page to find”crepes” in the “Joy of Cooking” index. It looked like pg 690 at first so I tried that but got “About fruit pastries”, then I tried 590, but got “About flavoured oils”. After one more failed attempt, I admitted defeat and borrowed my husband’s glasses. Oh, no wonder; I had been reading “crisps” as “crepes”.

Still, I plan to take the taps out tomorrow as it is certainly time to clean the house and work on some other projects….

As the world mostly turns….

Its last days were peaceful….

The barn finally collapsed three nights ago, heavy with some rain and a little snow, and then finally that night blown by a bit of wind…A few of us heard the sound in the wee early morning hours before dawn. Others of us slept through.  

We had at first wanted to save the barn. It took a few years to face the fact that we didn’t have $100,000 or so to rebuild the entire back wall, take off the existing roof, rebuild much of the roof support system, and then put on a new roof, not to mention that every window needed to be rebuilt and so on and so forth.
Once we faced the fact, I tried next to interest the “We BuyOldBarns” folks, but it was too late. They could see from my photos that much of the wood had rotted out and no matter how hand-hewn it was, it wasn’t something they needed to deal with.
So then this year, we have all been so aware of living right next to a huge dying relic from the past. It has felt sort of sad and it is a bit of a burden. It is part of what makes my husband feel overwhelmed about living here. It’s a huge sagging reminder of what we cannot accomplish.  
So it’s actual collapse three nights ago was something of a relief; kind of like waiting for someone on life support to take their last breath. The funny part now is that we are making maple syrup outside right next to the barn, (and yes, burning some barn wood in the fire!) and it is still gasping every so often, with creaking shifts downward.  
So while the rest of the world turns, mine is sagging slowly down to earth.