Friday, October 24, 2014

Costumes for Everyone!

Trick or treat!  Here's Mavis the Blue Wizard at your door begging for candy.

I picked up this hat in the bins years ago 

And good ol' Ramon, bustin' out his classic Viking disguise.  He'll take mead, thank you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I'll Trade You.

We were invited to a Harvest/Barter Party and boy, was it cool!  Not only were there lots of interesting and friendly people to visit with, but it was a beautiful day on a great piece of property in the valley.  "What's a barter party?" you ask?  I'd never heard of this either, but I am sure glad that I have now.  Basically, everyone brings things we have grown, harvested, caught, canned, baked, frozen, or made that we might have more of than we need or want and then we all barter for what others have brought.  Also it was potluck.

At first I was stymied about what to bring. Eric suggested baking up some sweet treats, but it seemed like maybe longer-lasting things like canned good or freezable foods were more on-target.  We didn't have that.  Then I floated dog treats by him and he agreed that was a good idea.  Something a little different and when I last made them to share with his coworkers many raves were issued.

The tags say "BACON BONES & BATS For DOGS" with ingredients listed on the bag in case of food allergies.

I tend to overdo rather than under-do if given enough time to over think and so I became less convinced that dog treats were enough.  This is despite the invitation saying that any amount is more than welcome.  So with a just few days to spare, I said to myself, "Eff it, I'm making gin" and went out early the next morning to pick up supplies.

A 1.75 ml bottle of vodka yielded <4.5 pints of gin once "processed."

Plus, I got to use some new stamps I picked up recently to make labels!  One of the few requirements is that all barter items are clearly labeled with what it is and who brought it, so I was required to make labels.

On the day of the party I reread the invitation and worried we weren't bringing enough.  It's our first time, we don't want to look stingy, right? RIGHT!?  Annnnnd since, my friend Tiffany at Fizzy Party, had just sent me a fun "scare package" full of Halloween crafty stuff, I decided to whip out a few handmade Halloween cards (stationary was on the list of popular items from previous years).  I didn't take pictures of all four unique cards as I was feeling pressed for time, but here's how I presented them on the table.  All four were bartered in exchange for a one-pound bag of hand-raked, fresh cranberries that another guest had picked up on a trip to Wisconsin.

Of course, I had planned to take a few photos of the tables laden with produce, home-canned and homemade goods, but we were having too much fun visiting, enjoying the weather and views, and paying attention so we could learn how it worked for me to hassle with photos. Sometimes you give up documenting the moments to actually live them.  You'll just have to imagine an large, clean, brightly lit garage/shop with 3 or more tables and some sawhorses with boards on top stretched down the middle, all covered with colorfully table clothes and loaded up with great things.  There were fresh, dried, and canned fruits and veg, frozen meats, knitted and sewn things, various forms of alcohol, baked goods, handmade cards (in addition to mine), glass art, seeds, bulbs, and roots.  I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, too.  It worked like this: the host and hostess started by introducing themselves and describing what they had to barter and then we just went around the tables, kind of in order.  We were reminded that it was okay to say "no thank you" if you just didn't want something and encouraged to not get our feelings hurt in such cases.  Last rule: once you've bartered an item, remove it from the table. Then we were set loose to barter!  For us, the first three pints of gin went quickly, then there was a bit of a lull.  Next the dog treats started going and then I traded the cards for the cranberries.  Just when I was thinking we'd go home with gin, I was approached about the last jar.  Then the last of the dog treats found homes in quick order and we were done.  Prior to beginning, Eric and I discussed items we were interested in and then both bartered around.  Eric started us a little pile on the edge of the building, as did everyone else.  Our little pile got kind of big!

Anyone who makes anything knows how much fun it is to share and how great it feels when someone appreciates what you've made, perhaps especially if they make things, too, and know the time, thought, skill, talent, etc. that can go into making. That was the most fun,but it still was really fun to come home with all these great things made and grown by others.

The oldest person we traded with was Mabel, aged 90, 91, or 93 depending on who's telling.  She wanted some gin and we wanted her to have it, so we have maybe more heirloom tomatoes than we need, but we'll find a way to use them.  The youngest person was a fellow who mumbled his name into his companion's knees and who I would guess was about 4 years old.  He wanted dog treats and had made chili kits containing herbs, spices, a couple-few finds of beans, and a recipe card hand decorated with colored markers.

If the hosts do this again next year, I hope we're invited. I'm already socking away ideas of things to take.  I bet I know quite a few people who like this idea and I hope some friends back in Oregon and beyond will organize something like it.

Who wants dog hair?  We have more than enough.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?

Since the fence went up there are a lot fewer opportunities for spotting scat.  For one thing, fewer critters are just wandering onto the upper property during the night.  For another thing, we are not having to walk around the woods with a dog on leash 2-8 times/day.  Also, I was gone so much this summer that leisurely walks in the woods just didn't happen for me.  I thought maybe the "Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?" feature may have been unintentionally shelved, at least for awhile.  THEN, I went just on the other side of the fence to take a photo of the orange square (you're welcome) and spotted this!

It's got the little swirly bit on the, uh, trailing ends that seem to indicate coyote.  It was found in a spot of flattened down grass, which seems like a deer thing, but I don't know why deer would be so near the fence.

So, there you go.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Winter is Coming. In the Meantime There is Autumn.

Autumn is here.  In general, we have lovely days, cool nights, but with the occasional rainy spot here and there.

Autumn road. New fence on the right, old fence on the left.

And with autumn comes hunting season with which comes with blaze orange.  As I've mentioned before, it seems odd that the facts that there are houses every 5 acres that often have fences and that there's a BIG sign at the bottom of the road stating, "private road, no trespassing, etc." aren't enough to indicate that ya' can't hunt here.  Most of the neighbors have "No Trespassing/No Hunting" signs, orange tape tied to fence posts, etc. so we believe we should do similar.  You've seen the signs on the gates, but because the old owners had some small squares of plywood painted orange and posted on the old fence we thought we'd just repaint those and put them on the new fence.

New orange square on old fence.

Because there's lots more fence than the two existing squares can cover and (mostly) because some of the neighbors seem to mark the heck out of their borders, I made a few more orange squares.  I didn't have plywood, but I did have the material I make sample boards with already cut into 8" squares, masked and primed.

They originally were screwed into the old fence posts, but I wanted to refrain from unnecessary holes in the new fence posts (just more opportunity for water and bugs to hasten their demise) so I just used the hole that was already in the ply wood to attach them with wire. The washer gives the wire something to run through.

Also the fence staining is DONE, thank you very much.

It's already getting that lived-in look, by which I mean pooped-on look.  There's no telling whose poop this is, anyway.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ready Your Weapons!

FINALLY!  I can feel comfortable making Halloween-related posts.  Not that I haven't been plotting, planning, scheming and collecting all year, because I have. Oh, I have. My first finished project for adding to our haunt stash is repainting some cheapo Dollar Tree weapons. If it weren't already apparent, I get excited about Halloween. I get excited about DIY and craft projects.  Thus, I barge ahead when I'm finally ready and sometimes forget to take before photos.  That is the case here, but I think that you can see enough of the original finish in some of the in-progress shots to get the idea.

If I had a before shot, this is where it would be.

I picked up two weapons at the Dollar Tree; an ax and a flail (labeled "Ball and Chain").  C'mon, "flail" sounds way more nefarious and deadly.  The flail needed a lot more work than the ax.

First, I ran some #000 steel wool over the surface, then I primed with UG30, my go-to sticks-to-anything primer. I'm sure most or all high-adhesion primers would work.  UG30 dries almost clear which is why you can't see it in the photo. What you can see though, is that the whole flail was a light bronze/dark brass colored plastic  (right side of the ball and handle in background).

The white stuff is some decorative painting material by Proceed; Rough Irregular Texture.  I covered the ball and the top sections of the handle with that.  My hope that after it was painted it would give the impression* of rough cast iron .

After the texture dried, I painted all the "metal" parts with black craft paint I had on hand. I wish I'd had something much less glossy on hand.

I painted the handle with a light tan color as the first layer of a three-layer process to make it look a bit like a leather-wrapped* handle. After this dried, I decided that the very end should be black, but I did not go back and add the texture before painting it. Remember what I said about getting excited?

After the tan paint, a layer of burnt umber glaze was added, then pounced off with a paper towel.

The very last step was a quick coat of  Modern Masters Dead Flat Varnish to cut the shine.

Once it was dry and hung out on the house one of all those ridiculous nails we're stuck with, I thought it needed a little something more. A little something to make it seem more authentic, scarier.  That little something would be some blood!  Oh, and hair!  YEY!  EWWWWW!  But really more YEY!

The hair detail just tickles me, because I love little surprise details and because something is broken inside me. 

The gore is made from another Proceed product called Clear Transparent Glazing Gel tinted with red oxide, burnt sienna, quinacridone magenta, and carbon black acrylic paints.  The hair is from a package of "whiskers" I picked up ages ago on clearance and some craft store.  I used the same whiskers to make the hair on my $1 Mummified Woodland Fairy Prisoner prop last year.

Even though I originally set out to repaint the whole ax, too, I realized that the handle was pretty good* already.  I just dry brushed a little Modern Masters Metallic Paint in Brass to the double-headed eagle on the top of the handle to make is show up a bit more.  But the blade was chrome-bright and looked more like a hood ornament than a deadly weapon.  The blade got the same steel wool and UG30 treatment as the flail.  When the primer was dry, I coated it with black glazing medium that I pounced off with the paper towel.

And finally an already-cool-looking ax that my mom got me last year at the Urquahart Castle on the bank of Loch Ness in Scotland!  How cool is that?

I am going to find a better way to hang this, but without putting a hole in it for a thong.

*One of Halloween's best traits is that it's a nighttime celebration; fun had in dim light. This means props and costumes can be a little less than perfect and still be impressive. It also means that sometimes they have to lack subtlety in daylight in order to be seen well in twilight.