There’s No Place Like Home

I’ve been away, again. Got home about midnight and finally had a decent night’s sleep. Travel is enlightening and I always come back with a greater appreciation for the world I’ve visited, but also for the world in which I dwell—my friends, my garden, my home, and my dog all look a little sweeter to me. Each time I return I promise to be kinder and make more time to be with them and enjoy the moments I have here.

Sunrise this morning proved the world was abloom—redbuds, tulips, hosta poking its green tips through the earth, lilacs. France is lovely, but truly, there’s no place like home. 

Clothespin Pleasures

People who hang out clothes get lots of environmental brownie points. But long before clotheslines represented doing without for the greater good, I loved to clip sheets, sleepers, and socks to the line. I actually felt guilty about taking the time to do something so pleasurable rather than using the much quicker and more efficient dryer. Hanging clothes on the line was and still is my very own brand of hedonism.
The appeal is not just the smell of freshly hung clothes, or the fact that once hung, many need no ironing. And it’s not just feeling the sun on my back or hearing the wind swish through the walnut trees, or of catching sight of kingbirds chasing white moths or the oranges and pinks of blooming daylilies. 
It’s the way clotheslines display textiles, threads splayed to catch the sun. And I get to handle each piece of fabric twice…once in it’s limp, mangled, wet stage and again when it’s crisp and flapping. And when I do I am reminded of where each textile fits into my life. The red-and-blue dishtowels I wove more than 15 years ago that still get used weekly, the hand towels monogrammed by my mom, even the rags that used to be my favorite nightgown or a diaper that belonged to my now-grown children—these fabric bits and pieces conjure everyday kinds of happiness. 
I adore my antique quilt and the silk-embroidered table runner from Iraq, textiles so precious that I protect them from fading and friction. But my clothesline let’s me feel the density of knit sweatshirts, the airiness of linen skirts, the raised stitching on days-of-the-week dishtowels. It feeds my obsession for the tactile and visual elements of textiles, past and present, and lets the daydreams and memories unfold with the napkins and fly with the sheets.

Seed Savers

In my previous post I mentioned a three-hour drive to Decorah, and it was to visit Seed Savers for today’s post on Etsy. I’d been to Seed Savers once before, but it was autumn and after a hard frost. It was lovely, but not quite like going this time of year, when the urge to garden is strong (in late October, my gardening instincts are usually ready to be rested and revived by several months indoors).

At any rate, my friend Anne (see post below) and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Decorah and especially appreciated John Torgrimson, the Seed Saver executive director who showed us around. The work they’re doing there is nothing short of amazing. If you haven’t read the Etsy story, please do, because it explains some of what Seed Savers is about. If you’re really interested, make sure to visit their extensive website, because I could only fit so much into an 800-word post.

One of my favorite facts that didn’t make it into the story is that while at the grocery store you might be able to buy 4 kinds of potatoes, Seed Savers has 800 kinds. And they have more than 4,500 varieties of tomato seeds! Their seeds are available online and at 500 seed racks around the country. And if you’re in Iowa, make sure and plan an afternoon at Seed Savers—nearly 900 acres, with hiking trails and gardens.

The Egg and I

Earlier this month I headed three hours north for an Etsy story and my friend Anne agreed to accompany me. Anne and her husband live on a farm close to town and there’s always much to anticipate as I drive down the road to their house. There’s a guaranteed welcome by Penny the dog and the sensory delights of checking to see what’s blooming along the path to her front door. (This time—roses. See below.)

Anne and her husband have an incredible amount of energy, and along with the flowers and pets, there’s usually something new to admire. Each year they plant an enormous vegetable garden and her friends (me included) wait for the inevitable email saying they have way too much asparagus or rhubarb and we’re welcome to stop out any time and get some.

This summer, they’ve added six chickens to their farm. Years ago they had chickens they butchered, but it’s been a long time and these six are likely to be egg-layers only…Anne says she just can’t imagine eating them this time around.

Before we left on our road trip, she took me out to the lovely little outbuilding they’d cleaned up for a coop, and we gathered eggs. The chickens pecked at my painted toenails while I shot photos, then escaped out the coop door. We rounded them up without too much trouble and then marveled at the eggs they’d laid—they’ve been producing an egg apiece daily, and Anne (a former caterer and fantastic cook*) has been making all manner of egg dishes.

When I dropped her off that evening she bequeathed to me a dozen brown eggs and all week I ate omelettes and scrambled eggs with toast. I’d forgotten how simple and good eggs can be, and these were so fresh and the yolks so firm and golden.

Summer really is my favorite time in Iowa for so many reasons—the Farmers’ Market and friends like Anne are definitely at the top of the list.

 *An example of Anne’s cooking: The lunch she fixed for our road trip—wraps stuffed with a chicken she’d smoked, along with asparagus and lettuce from her garden, and for dessert, vanilla Greek yogurt topped with sliced strawberries, also from her garden. My MO had been to grab grapes, granola bars, and bottled water. Thank goodness for friends like Anne!

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…

Feeding time
One of the most fun things about writing for Etsy are all the comments that follow the post. It’s very gratifying to know people are reading and that they’ve enjoyed what they read. This time around I wrote about how bird feeding evolved in the United States and I loved hearing from all the people who were enjoying birds at their own feeders, across the country (except for the woman from Georgia who has bluebirds at her feeder…that just made me jealous).

As always, I got excited by the research I did for the piece. Birdfeeding turns out to have a pretty fascinating timeline that includes big name writers (Thoreau), political policy (the Lacey Act of 1900, the first to protect bird and other wildlife), and 1950s suburbia (where birdfeeders were as de rigueur as cars with fins).

It also provides the perfect opportunity to share this clip from Portlandia. I haven’t seen the show in its entirety, but I first saw this courtesy of Monica over at Happy Zombie. I will definitely be checking out this show, soon. Put A Bird On It!!!!!

Playing catch up

Playing, because when I finally sat down to sew again after along hiatus, I was reminded how much fun it is. Catch up, because I finally caught up on a quilt that I started more than a year ago.

I did the quilting over Memorial Day weekend. I agonized over adding something more elaborate, perhaps some free motion flowers where the lines of quilting intersect, but then opted to call it a day at the large diagonal squares—it had taken so long to get this close to finishing that I didn’t want to push my luck. I do like the look of quilting that’s a bit denser than this, however.

I did choose to put some time into sewing strips together to make the variegated binding, which I’m quite happy with. Sewing on binding is such a pleasant task in winter, with the warm quilt covering your lap and the not much to do outside so that watching TV while you sew seems appropriate. I find sitting and watching television this time of year difficult, because I’d always prefer to be in the garden when the weather’s nice. And it’s been anything but cool, of late, so that I’ve been sewing on binding with the ceiling fan going full steam.

The quilt back leans toward Modern Quilting, perhaps, but was actually done out of necessity—I didn’t have enough of any one fabric to make a complete back.

I’ll be away from my computer for about ten days, so Pearl the Squirrel won’t be updated for awhile. There may be an Etsy post while I’m away…keep your eyes peeled!

Putzing about

Not a lot of piecing has gone on this past week, but on Memorial Day I did have a chance to sit at my machine and quilt a top I made long ago. I’m having a little fight with myself over whether to stick with the simple outline quilting I’ve already done or to add some free motion quilting. I’ll share it when I’ve got it completed.

This weekend is Arts Fest in Iowa City. Sadly, we’re in for rain today, but last night the weather held and we were treated to a concert featuring Sarah Jarosz and Darrell Scott. Sarah’s a mere 19, but a terrific musician, singer, and songwriter—Darrell’s guitar playing made people shake their heads in awe. He’s also a powerful lyricist with a fabulous voice. The highlight was when they played together at the end of each of their sets.

Finally, I had to share a few photos of my garden. Yes, I really do live in a house with a picket fence (it’s a bit of a fake, however…it just runs along the front, but then peters out on the sides and doesn’t really enclose anything completely). My William Baffin rose and our peonies often bloom on Memorial Day weekend and it always makes me feel as though I live in some kind of fantasyland…the rose (depending on your definition) is totally out of control, or creates a charming bower that people walking by have the pleasure of passing beneath.

New camera and a newly green world

I can’t help myself. I try not to resort to pictures of my garden, but right now it’s impossible to ignore. The daffodils are done and the redbuds are nearly so, but it’s still an amazing sight. I just love early spring, when the plants in their beds are so tidy, compact, and perfectly colored and formed. No insects have had a chance to lay waste to the foliage and even the rabbits have yet to wreak their usual havoc. I decided it was time to move beyond my point and shoot and bought myself a new camera last week, and between that and the scenery, I couldn’t resist. Please forgive me.