Creativity and Pandemic

Jerry Saltz, author of How to Be an Artist, writes, “Isolation favors art.”

It’s true. I work best without human distractions, but isolation isn’t enough. Time, too, is necessary.

Last night, I had time for this: I cut a quarter head of red cabbage and put the chunk into a pan with about an inch of water. I put on the lid and brought it to a boil. I turned the burner down and let it simmer for a while. I ate the cabbage with my dinner.

When I took the cabbage out of the pan, I noticed two things: the patterns on the bottom leaves were lovely on my plate, and the water left in the pan was a rich winey red. I couldn’t let that water go to waste.

After dinner, I got into my basket supplies and teased out a length of quarter-inch flat reed. I coiled it as tightly as I could to fit it into the small pan. The cabbage juice didn’t cover the coil. I added water and set the pan on the stove. I boiled the coil. If I were a better scientist, I could tell you how long I let it boil, but just know it was long enough to see some color happening in the reed and short enough I didn’t boil the water completely away.

When I took it off the stove, I added enough vinegar to cover the coil again, put on the lid, and left my experiment overnight.  This morning I was rewarded with lovely pink reed, the color strong enough to sit between two strands of smoked reed to make a chain pattern.

During this scary time, when my daughter and her family are quarantined and recovering, I will take the gift of time and distraction from what scares me most, and I’ll make a basket.

As they say on PBS’s Gallery America, “Try to put a little bit of art into everything you do.”

Waste Not

I didn’t grow up during the Depression.  I have enough to eat, comfortable shoes, and the right coat for the weather, so my habits aren’t from want.  I’m not sure where it comes from, this aversion I have to wasting anything.

I recycle paper, cardboard, glass, tin cans, and the food garbage in my kitchen.  I’m experimenting with new ways to compost.

I give stuff away to people who might have a use for it…or who might just be throwing it away for me. I frequent the thrift stores, but not to buy.  They know my name when I drive up with the contents of yet another cabinet or closet, and they don’t bother to ask if I need a receipt.  I’m not doing this as a tax write-off but as an obsession to waste not. I have a list of takers, including a place in Tulsa that recycles cloth.

My man thinks recycling is inefficient.  It may be. But he doesn’t complain when I use every bit of a whole chicken: frying chicken legs, thighs, and wings; making a casserole or chicken salad from the breast meat; and making broth and soup from the carcass and remaining bits.  He probably doesn’t realize that I skim the hardened fat from the broth and use it for sautéing. Now, if I could just figure out how to dry the bones and grind them up for the garden!

Instead of questioning why I try to use all the bits, I want to get better at it.  And in case you’re wondering, the hallways in my house are clear. This isn’t hoarding…unless you count books…but using, sharing, and giving.

What are some of the things you use, and how, that most people toss to the side?

From Idea to Fruition

It’s always easier to get an idea than to execute it.

I live on the bank of a deep creek bed.  A couple of dry creeks flank the back yard where I raise a garden and chickens.

Because there are so many trees surrounding the place, sunny spots go for a premium.  A few years ago I put a small greenhouse in one of the sunny spots to replace my cold frame.  I wish I had the cold frame back.  Or the sunny spot.

The green house isn’t big enough to be self-sustaining during the winter cold, so I had an idea. Directly behind the garden and the chicken coops, one of those dry creeks is man deep and two-men wide.  What if I chiseled out straight walls and set them with blocks to the top of the bank?  I’d add a few feet of repurposed windows for height and a clear roof. The two ends would be double paned for insulation and include doors and vents.

When the trees are bare, there is more sunlight.  Because summers are so hot here and spring is so short, wouldn’t winter be a good time to plant potatoes, cabbages, and other cool-season crops in a greenhouse?  Would the depth and the dirt help control the temperature?

This idea resurfaces every so often, like it did today when I was cleaning out a chicken coop and wondering where I was going to put all that dirty, half-composted hay from the run.

You know what I need?  I need someone by whom I can run my ideas, someone who isn’t cleaning chicken coops and weeding garden beds and killing potato bugs.  Maybe that person could say, “Hmm, let’s give that idea a try.”

I’d be glad to help…if I have time.

What I have instead is a son-in-law with his own ideas.  He thinks I should turn that deep, dry creek bed into an aquaculture setup.

Of course, about every ten years we get so much rain that the deep creek backs up into the dry creek beds.  What then?