Wednesday, September 10, 2014

sales and sensibility

Proof that I am still alive and spinning. My daughter and I will be selling bath salts, lip salve and yarny stuff in Boulder in a few weeks. We are also going to be donating part of what we make to the Xerces Society, a group that raises awareness for invertebrate conservation. We found them after Anais put on a change jar fund raiser "For the Bees" at our then local library and needed to find a place to donate the proceeds to. I haven't decided yet about the amount, maybe 5% of sales?  I don't know if that's high or low or what but given what I usually make at these things it should end up being a respectable amount and that's what I am aiming for.

Changes are coming for my yarn, too. In the interest of streamlining and the development of reproducibility in my work (in some ways my evolution as an artisan has been all about me fighting this aspect of best business practice) I am toying with the idea of shifting to straight up colorways instead of limited run micro-batches with individual names. One unexpected side-effect of our moving from the apartment to a house in the woods has been that my precious routine has been shattered. Little things have become big stumbling blocks despite the fact that I now have a whole studio to myself. Making my process as automatic as I can is what builds the momentum that gets the job done.

Blah, blah, blah. What this really means is that I'm having a sale on the micro-batch Sukoshi. I'm reducing them from $20 to $15 per skein at this upcoming show. I'm also going to have a pattern to give away with each purchase. Probably for those stripey fingerless gloves that I can never keep on the table at these things.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Getting through

I've been reading Permaculture: a Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison along with some other folks at this winter. I'm actually a little behind. Okay, a lot behind. Despite my lack of devotion it's a very interesting book. Lots of sciencey bits you don't normally run into in other books about growing things. Like, now I kinda know how a thermosyphon goes and why the wind gets all crazy around here toward the evening. The Permies site is my new favorite place to find anecdotal answers to whatever neo-hippie question pops into my brain these days.

This is one of Anais's drawings. I'm not sure why it ended up on a paper towel. We blow through art supplies, but not that fast. It's now the background image on my iPhone. She seems especially fond of drawing funny little animals and eventually I'd like to print up a bunch of them up for her via Artifact Uprising or something. So I've been collecting them like this for a bit now. We've officially decided that the kids are going to the school the next town over next year. I have forms to fill out and everything.

Part of the reason being that we are set (knock on wood) to move out of this teeny space and into one space both inside and out. I've been planning what to do with all that space outside. It's hard because I have to be realistic about what will grow here instead of just growing all the things. I have yet to coax a significant amount of tomatoes to ripen before the end of the season. I've only had two tries, but still. One of my goals is to grow the kind of food we can store, the staples of our particular diet like rice and quinoa and potatoes and beans. I'm also going to test out several medicinal and dye plants. And there may, MAY be a chicken or two involved. Possibly also a fluffy rabbit. I'm am almost certainly getting too excited about it, what with it meaning a bedroom for each kid and not living on the second floor. But there's also the fact that its at the base of a mountain, which means a constant deluge of chilly air in a region that doesn't have its last frost until June. So excited, but trying to stay realistic...I think.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Plants and post-apocalyptica

This is that time of year when I'm so unbusy it starts to stress me out as much as when I am trying to get ten things done at once. Its also the time of year for snow, that fluffy blanket of oppression, both metaphorical and not. So much of it that I'd give in to my hermetical tendencies and stick to the indoors rather than buck up, bundle the kids up and get our butts outdoors. Last year this was a (literally) depressing combination that I mistakenly tried to remedy with tons of books on growing things. The result was that by the time spring rolled in I was on the verge.

When I was little I thought I'd grow up and live in a mountain town. I loved visiting my aunt and uncle in Breckenridge and it all seemed so cozy and fun and interesting. Living in one now...I miss my city anonymity and having more that three places to go besides the apartment. There are awesome bits like hiking in the woods, meeting people who've known Gerry since he was a kid or feeling comfortable letting Anais semi-free-range around town. But there just isn't enough awesome to outweigh or even balance out that resigned feeling of ick I get when I think about being here for another year. Where to go from here has become one the the chief occupations of my brain in the past few months. Because beggars can't be choosers. Not even this one. What I thought was a serendipitous solution turned out to be not so much. I'm back at square one with more ideas than ever, but no real plan or means for actualizing them.

And yet, I'm not nearly as close to circling the drain as I was this time last year. I think part of that has to do with me being more focused on self-care (st. john's wort and immunity boosting blends of spices in my coffee, etc.) and not caring if its a placebo or really working. My mom and rest of my family have been extra supportive lately, too. That and for as much as I've done less this year, in some ways I've accomplished more. I didn't get back to Austin for the Renegade Craft Fair, but I did have a art batt included for a display at the Denver Art Museum, which led to getting a consignment deal with the gift shop there over the summer. And I may have done fewer shows overall, but I seem to have made more at each than I would have otherwise. I'm slowly adding more stockists to the fold and the whole Eat Agar thing is more cohesive product and brand-wise. My ethos and my output have become conjoined twins. Little bits of the over-arching plan I came up with three years ago are coming together. I'm even back to researching what would've been my thesis. Because who needs the approval of a committee to put a book together, anyway? Pfftt!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A litany of this week's accomplishments

Finished spinning up the Spaulding Pink batch for my sweater.

Started and almost completed a child sized sweater for the shop.

Knit up one out of a family pack of four hats for the White Buffalo Farm fundraiser.

And mailed out two custom orders I picked up at craft markets last month.

Sold my last skein of Summer People: May to a wonderful traveling couple I met while working at the shop in Georgetown this weekend.

Updated Anais' unschooling Tumblr.

Roasted coffee in my popcorn popper. Got my oven back and made some pizza, too. Tomorrow begins a week of dyeing and some last foraging before winter and generally gearing up for restocking for the holidays.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Grassroots, caterpillars

Alright chickens, I'm going to make this a million times easier for those of you out there who want to help but don't have a thousand or so dollars to spare. I have up to $500 dollars in the bank that I can shift over AND I have a PayPal account (and Square, too, if it comes to that). So if you have $10, $20 or even some spare change under the cushions of your couch you can PayPal it to me and I can wire the total directly to the bank on Tuesday and my landlord will never know the difference. Tweet me (@eatagar), text me or message me for my PayPal email or if you need a walk-through on how to do it. We are so very close and I want to make it possible for anyone to help White Buffalo Farm out, regardless of the size of your savings account. Little things become big things when we work together. A big thank you to the folks who have already donated, THANK YOU!

The video below should give you a better feel for what Wayne and the farm are all about and the difficulties small farms like this sometimes find themselves up against.


WBF call for aid from WhiteBuffaloFarm on Vimeo.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Help wanted

A couple of weeks ago the family and I meandered our way over the mountains to Paonia for the Mountain Harvest Festival. We packed up our vintage Explorer RV, the S. S. Bill Murray, and camped out in the town park. My mom came up and drove us around to visit grandparents in the area. We picked tomatoes and hit up Taco Time and my Grandpa Harold loaded us up with boxloads of apples and pears.
In between I was there to sell yarny stuff at the bazaar part of the festival. I wasn't sure what to expect because I've never done a craft show on the Western Slope. The feedback was pretty awesome, though. And the sales weren't bad, either. I had my first real custom order and got to demo spin for a bit during the farmer's market.
And something practically magical happened. Myriem stopped by my table and mentioned that she was from White Buffalo Farm. I think I may have squeed out loud a little. Paonia is a small town and the odds are probably smaller than I'd like to admit, but it felt like kismet to have connected with her. I discovered the organic farm online, while looking up things like permaculture and intentional communities. Myriem and Wayne(the current owner) have a plan to create an ecovillage within the farm, a place where artisans can develop a bit of "community-sufficiency" while working on both their craft and the farm. I have been daydreaming about running away to live there, or someplace like there since the doldrum-y dead of last winter. Myriem and I got to talking and we ended up taking a tour of the farm the day after the festival was over. It's situated by the river like the orchard I grew up on, with Akane apples(my favorite) among several other types of fruit and veg. They have lots of exciting plans for the place, including cob house-building workshops and farm-to-table events. Wayne is retiring soon, but it's also really important to him to preserve the legacy of the place. I think it's terribly clever of them and I want my family to be a part of it.

So of course there's a hitch. When is there not a hitch? This one comes in the form of a payment due to the bank by next Monday. They've raised the majority of it, but still need to come up with about $12,000. Here's the plan, in the form of an email Myriem sent to me this morning:

Dear Friends of Desirea! : )

Come on out for this lovely week of blue skies and aspen colors!
On the farm, we harvest tomatoes last week and are now harvesting Asian Pears.

I would be delighted to take you on a tour now that we are making such headway!

As you know, I am fostering the conditions conducive for a farm-based ecovillage in our region! As I write, we are setting the groundwork for an on-farm transition team and putting together an informal advisory board. In order to complete this process, I have an urgent appeal!

We need to raise 12k by Monday.
We are seeking loans of 2k to 5k with 25% interest.
Folks are to send payment directly to our bank in Paonia for deposit.
Funds need to be mailed by Wednesday afternoon or wired TH or FR or even on MON.
If we don't reach our goal, we'll return the funds immediately.
The farm has equity of $1million from which we would pay off this loan.
The early freeze hit us hard last week on our tomato crop.
Please spread the word.
This funding allows us to continue with building a transition team and move in the direction of a farm-based ecovillage.

Please call for bank account number.

Paonia State Bank
128 Grand Ave
Paonia, CO 81428

Once past this immediate hurdle, I would like to create a farm-to-table dinner and present our plans to Slow Food and others in the Roaring Fork. I'm looking forward to creating an exquisite event rooted in my French heritage. Je suis francaise heureuse de vivre dans une region gastronomique du Colorado! Folks from all over are welcome!

With gratitude,

-- Myriem
Communications and Development
16877 Grange Road
Paonia, CO 81428

{What's in it for me?}
I mentioned a while back how I'd sometimes like to go home and this is one way of approximating that without condemning my kids to lonely-induced social awkwardness. I'd get to work on my fiber art and explore the other post-apocalyptic skill-set stuff I've been dipping my toes into all these years. Add community development to that and it's like I'd be doing my dream thesis in real life. "How do cultures on the verge of collapse perpetuate/preserve collected knowledge?" Let's find out! Then there's the potential for creating space for my mister to work on his guitar building thing and the Waldorf school down the road for the kids...

{What's in it for you?}
You mean, aside from the good, old-fashioned altruistic glow you'd get from doing an extra-good deed? When was the last time you were offered 25% interest on an investment? Or an invite to a picturesque, farm-fresh supper? Plus, if you happen to be of the notion that small farms are good and good food is hard to come by these days, this is an excellent opportunity to put some action where your heart is.

As I sit here on the floor of my kitchen, among the boxes and boxes of apples, pears and peppers we hauled home(I put up the last of the tomatoes yesterday), wishing I had a magic wand or maybe just better financial savvy, I'm also confronted with the possibility of making one dream into a reality, of flipping a lot of negative elements in our lives back into positive ones. Room to run, to develop my craft, to do work besides that I feel is meaningful. It's got some scary parts, too. There's a bit of risk involved in taking such a big leap. I'm willing to take it if it means getting to be a part of something so potentially amazing. But none of that can happen if there suddenly is no more White Buffalo Farm.

{More info on White Buffalo Farm}

Friday, September 6, 2013

The battification of a batch

The paucity of words continues, but here's a batch of Sukoshi being processed in the drum carder. It's a remake. The third generation of 'Girl Sailor'. The first batch was demo spun during the Georgetown Christmas Market, the second went into the Denver Art Museum order. This third one is coming along to the fall Firefly market and then to Paonia if I have any left.

The first, second, third and final rounds through the drum carder. Resulting in a tame, fluffy batt of (mostly) cooperative fibers.

The finished product can sometimes surprise me. Fibers and colors conspire to let one shine through while others take a backseat. It doesn't always turn out how I expect it to. The funny thing is, these guys usually let me know what their name is during the carding stage. They change their mind from time to time, but always during the mixing and smoothing out of the batting and (almost) never during the spinning. Its like this is the part when they really gel, becoming an artifact onto themselves and the rest-the spinning, the setting of the twist, the knitting or weaving or crafting- is pure being on the yarn's part. As much as yarn can purely be, I suppose.