garb(e) \ gärb\ noun  1. obsolete: fashion, manner  2. a: a style of apparel  b: outward form : appearance

Origin:  Middle French or Old Italian; Middle French garbe graceful contour, grace, from Old Italian garbo grace.

First use: 1599

garb transitive verb: to cover with or as if with clothing  First use: 1846


On Project Turkey and Farming Cooperatives

I am so proud of my friend Ariella as she pursues her vocation/passion as an organic farmer. As I am not a farmer I have great respect for those who are. I have a whole new appreciation for where my organic food comes from. Check her out!

The Nomad Farmer

Project Turkey has begun at Rootdown – a.k.a. the six day-old turkey poults arrived in the mail from the hatchery last Tuesday. They are still cute right now, before they turn into awkward and homely turkeys. A few weeks back Simone and Sarah approached Aurélie and I and asked us if we wanted to take on raising some turkeys, with the idea being we would raise one turkey for each of us. All would share in daily turkey chores, but Aurélie and I would be the ones keeping tabs on what the turkeys needed and when and why. We were definitely into it.

Apparently, however, turkeys are very sensitive to temperature and can die if they get too cold, and there are a few diseases that they are prone to catching that can be fatal. They also need to be shown repeatedly where their food and water is in the…

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Recycling: Why I can never throw anything away

Almost anything can be repurposed, renovated, re-invented, renewed.  With that realization I am going to have an even harder time clearing out my closet.

As an example: Sometime in the 90’s one of the shirts I made when I needed a nice wardrobe for work on the road  was an oversized military-style shirt made with purple silk charmeuse.  At the time I had discovered  ‘designer ease’ which fit right in with the extra large silhouettes of the time.  Ease is the amount of room built in to a garment.  Wearing ease is big enough to be comfortable, not too tight but designer ease can be anywhere from four to ten inches, huge in other words.

Why the big shirt?  Because it was the style, dude.  And I thought I was bigger than I am.  Who knew?

Why the big shirt? Because it was the style, dude. And I thought I was bigger than I am. Who knew?

I wore this shirt a lot in its initial form, long sleeves with cuffs and long enough to belt with skirts.  finally the cuffs were starting to wear and I was wearing shirts shorter so I cut off the extra length and made short sleeves and wore the shirt that way for maybe ten years.

I KNOW, who keeps shirts that long?  Well I do, for one.  If you take good care of your clothes they really last.  I always wash my silk garments by hand with a silk wash.  I like Forever New.  The clue is in the name, folks. The only real change over the years is that parts of the shirt more exposed to the sun have faded which just makes the garment more interesting.

So, in recent years I haven’t worn it much because it was still too big for my current look, wide through the torso, but the fabric is still good so I had a flash: why not turn it into a vest?  I’d been wanting a new purple vest to replace a finally worn out raw silk reversible vest that I finally gave up on.  I have a purple vest that reverses to olive green quilted silk but it’s more a fall/winter vest so My thought was; single layer for summer.

The shortened version before conversion.

The shortened version before conversion.

I opened the side seams and cut off the sleeves.  Then I removed the pockets and flaps because they were too high for the vest.  I also let out the inverted pleat in the back. then I used my pattern to cut the fronts keeping the front placket and buttons.  When I removed the pockets and flaps the holes from the original stitching were visible so I cut bias strips of purple silk chiffon and some tie material in a painted silk jacquard.  I added extra pieces for style then I repositioned the pockets and used the epaulettes instead of the flaps. A small scrap of another purple silk charmeuse became bias binding for the edges and the widest parts of the sleeves became the belts in the back.  Now I have a useable and fun layer for summer work.

Detail of the vest front.  Cobalt blue glass buttons

Detail of the vest front. Cobalt blue glass buttons

I like vests because they tie an outfit together, help to disguise my asymmetrical form, and take the place of a jacket when it is too warm to wear a jacket.  Of course this one will push the envelope for the business look but I go for the quirky, bohemian boss-lady image: firm but fun.

Vest back.  The vertical strips cover the previous stitching holes

Vest back. The vertical strips cover the previous stitching holes

No one told me it would be like this

contemplating the universe; most amusing and is something I perfected while hanging  with my giant dog friends

contemplating the universe; most amusing and is something I perfected while hanging with my giant dog friends

Getting old is not for the faint of heart, not for weaklings, not for sissies.  Yeah, we’ve all heard that and it makes sense in an abstract way but I’m here to say that it’s a lot different than what I envisioned and I’m a bit annoyed that no one let on how it would be.

I’ve never avoided birthdays nor have I felt anxious about the usual milestones, 30, 40, 50, all, no big deal.  My experience has always been that every year is better than the those before and it’s increasingly more fun to be me.  Until the big six-oh.

Now, don’t misunderstand.  I”m feeling good, mostly.  I walk several miles a day every day.  I get even more exercise in the winter shovelling snow and snow-shoeing on my walks.  I’m stronger than I was in my twenties and I weigh within five pounds of my high school weight.

BUT, even though I don’t feel old and if I move fast enough I don’t look old, there is something about saying you are sixty-something that just SOUNDS old.  And there are things that start to go wrong that I wasn’t prepared for.

When I was in my twenties i looked forward to having laugh lines and and character marks.  Still there are a few more than I had figured on.  My solution is to bob and weave and move so fast that the wrinkles are a blur.  So far so good.  Eventually I’ll be 90 and sprinting everywhere.

It’s the aging eyeballs that really are the most troublesome.  This is important to know.  No one told me this.  I thought that the big thing with aging eyes was the need to have reading glasses and eventually catarracts that would need to be addressed surgically.  It’s not that simple.

Last winter first one eye then the other got a floater which is a loose bit of protein that moves around independently  and sometimes can be very distracting.  I ignored the first one then when the second appeared I went to my optometrist who said it’s a normal thing with aging eyes and eventually the floaters submit to gravity and drop down to the bottom of the eye.  I wondered if I could  do some heavy G thing like deep diving to speed up the process but apparently not. Occasionally I’ll be reading and a floater will whiz across my eye and I think an animal is in the house.  A mouse or something.

Then my eyesight got wonky last fall.  I thought I just needed a stronger script again but it turns out that my eyes don’t work together anymore (weakening muscles, I’m told), so I am seeing double, the main reason that I haven’t blogged in a while.  I can close either eye to see 20/20 but with both eyes open everything is a blur.  There is an eyeglass fix for this.  Prisms are put into the lenses to make it easier for the eyes to see together.  I have new computer glasses with prisms that help but don’t make it perfect, so if I want to see if I’ve spelled something correctly and make sure everything makes sense, I still close one eye.  Just call me Squinty.  The idea is that closer is harder to pull the eyes in tandem, but even my distance vision is difficult.  I tried an eye patch, going for the pirate look, but it’s not comfortable with something smashed against my eye.  I’d like to find a clip on black lens so I could just eliminate one eye or the other.

Then I have another thing eye-related: epiretinal membrane.  Both of my eyes have developed an extra layer on my retina.  Normally the cross-section of the macula should look like a broad, gentle valley, instead, my left eye looks like a mountain and the right like a tiny steep gorge.  So far this is not affecting my ability to correct to 20/20.  I keep track of it in case.

I mention this because I know many people who have never had to see an eye doctor because their vision is perfect and then only get magnified glasses to read with once they get to be over age 42.  I am here to say that there are things that can happen to your eyes that you probably never heard of and regular visits with an optometrist after a certain age is advisable.

I use my eyes a lot and it’s very annoying when I’m trying to figure out why my serger isn’t sewing correctly and I can’t see it properly.  No one said what this aging thing was going to be like.  I feel young enough.  I did one of those stupid Facebook quizzes the other day to guess my age and it came up 23.  Ha!  I know I don’t look as young as I feel and I certainly don’t see as well as I did but I refuse to start complaining about my aches and pains and carry on about all my medications.  That’s not what this is about.  I’m just warning you.  When you get to a certain age, take care of your eyes.

The things you see when you don’t have a camera

Note to self: endeavour to bring the camera on the walks.  The morning walk began as usual, dropped my basket of dishes and French press in the house entryway, attached Murphy’s leash and headed down the hill.  There is sun today to melt wherever it shines but ice in the wind coming out of the west.

At the bottom of the drive I stopped at my neighbour’s because, not 8 meters from me and under one of her numerous bird feeders was a beautiful red fox.  The fox stood still for long enough that if I had had my camera I could have taken several shots.  Murphy had no view because of the ploughed up snow by the driveway so I didn’t have to struggle to hold him and we stood in the road for a couple of minutes until it moved off to the nearby row of apple trees and crouched down.  I still had a good view so we stayed in place. My neighbour feeds the birds throughout the year in an over-the-top way so as well as having way too many birds than is natural in her bit of woods, her place attracts squirrels and mice in abundance and other critters and the predators to hunt them.

As I watched, a grey squirrel ventured too close to the fox and she leaped and grabbed and disappeared below the hill.  Half a minute later I could see her streaking for the woods at the bottom of the field, hopefully successful at reducing the squirrel population by one.  Good to see the fox looking so good after this long and cold winter.  Good hunting.

Malingering WInter

The morning walk of 13 March, before the plow truck

The morning walk of 13 March, before the plow truck


Malingering, according to my Shorter Oxford means    to pretend illness in order to escape duty, said especially of soldiers and sailors.  I have a new definition:  lingering in the vicinity with malicious intent, for example, this winter that is still here, lingering maliciously via a wintery mix, two days after the spring equinox.

Now, I’m a big fan of winter in general.  What’s not to like?  There’s the magic of snow falling, blanketing the world, forcing a slowdown, and bringing a quiet that is rare even here in the woods.  I think most people who don’t care for the vagaries of winter are those who have a hard time slowing down and those who allow the weather to limit their activity.  My days don’t change much through the seasons.  I walk twice a day, at least, every day because I feel better for doing so and the dog requires that routine.  Even though he could go for his own walks, he likes to know that I am on patrol as well.  Walking in the winter is actually easier because I can add clothes layers as needed to suit the conditions and I have excellent traction devices as needed too.

Garb for the super cold days, -25C and NW wind requires layers of wool, hat, hood and fur collar and headband as well as double mitts.

Garb for the super cold days, -25C and NW wind requires layers of wool, hat, hood and fur collar and headband as well as double mitts.

Dogs stay cleaner in a cold winter.  No mud.  This winter could have been better with more actual snow and less wintery mix, (freezing rain and sleet ruin good snow for snowshoeing) but it was nice and cold for a  prolonged time.  I have a trail we walk in the afternoon up the hill.  I go fast uphill and Murphy and I both love running downhill in the snow.  I run no matter the footgear, snowshoes, cleats or bare boots.  I run because it’s easier to get momentum and keep it and I figure if it’s slippery (which it usually is, especially where I have already compressed the snow) then the less time my feet are on the ground the less chance to slide suddenly.


Ice on a staghorn sumac.  Everything had an inch of ice on it for two weeks at the end of December.

Ice on a staghorn sumac. Everything had an inch of ice on it for two weeks at the end of December.

The crusty conditions this winter made running downhill more of a challenge.  The frozen trail was mostly a ribbon of mini moguls and stepping to the side could mean going through crust to softer deeper snow.  Concentration is key, but I get laughing as I run because Murphy is often right on my heels so I can’t stop.  I think he thinks it’s funny to run downhill in the snow, nearly on top of me.

This winter we had not enough snow that got crusted with freezing rain, frequently, so I walked shod with cleats mostly and finally found some kickass cleats that  allow me to tap dance on icy hills like our driveway this past December.  My new cleats, Katoohla Microspikes, are like tire chains for my feet.  They have come in really handy when I needed to climb the icy hill no matter the conditions to retrieve Murphy from his bark about patrols.

Several times a week Murphy doesn’t come home from the walk and instead does his patrol of the ridge: ruff, ruff, ruff, pause, ruff, ruff.  Repeat.  He’s a Great Pyrenees by temperament and he could do this all night long.  Slow to learn me, I only just realized that we have been playing a game of his devising.  I call it stalking.  I head up the hill and try to circle around behind and get close enough to him so that he has to acknowledge me and come.  He won’t come when I call because he is on a mission, eliminating all denizens from the area.  I usually fail at round one.  He moves farther away or goes silent.  I concede by walking back toward our dooryard.  In December I would do this so as night fell I could more easily see to get back in the near dark.  I have a headlamp but it is still hard to bushwhack in the dark with a small light.  Easier with deep snow to follow my tracks.

Anyway, once I start walking away, I make some noise and then stop.  Within a minute Murphy comes racing up to where I am, winner of the second round.  Sometimes he really surprises me by leaping out from thick trees nearly in front of me.  I yelp and he looks most gratified.  He gets cookies  and praise and leashed and we head for home.  Sometimes if it’s not too close to nightfall we stop and contemplate the universe.  When there is snow on the ground it’s more easy to see where Murphy sits to keep an eye on things below.  I’m sure he is getting most of his information with his nose but I mostly look and listen.  Crouched on the top of a frozen hill in the spooky woods in January I hear the wind waves in  patterns like the ocean waves.  Ah, to be a bird and be able to surf those waves.

Alas, wingless, bound by gravity, still there is fun to be had.  Now that Spring is here we occasionally get a slightly warming day with some melt between  the sub-zero and wintery mix days.  There are patches of smooth ice on the edges of the road still frozen on the morning walks.  I go cleat-less  and run and slide as far as the leash will let me while Murphy checks the pee-mail.  He gets to make his mark five feet up the trees courtesy of the snow banks beside the road.  Later, those that can perceive it will think a giant dog lives here.

There are lacy ice-edged, frozen puddles to crunch along and later in the day, if it warms enough, slushy snow to squash beneath my feet.  Running downhill then has a lot more slide to it.

While waiting for Murphy to catch me up on the trail loop I discovered a big old pine tree drum.  I was breaking dead branches off the bottom and the remaining bits have several nice tones depending on my striker so I stop as I walk by and drum on the hill sometimes.

It’s all fun and mostly I’ve had a good winter, even trapped by the ice storm over the winter holidays.  I got chains for my truck so I could climb the ice hill so no worries there. Still, I have about two days of wood left in the garage and I will need to move some of my last cord of wood that is stacked (and covered, luckily) outside.  I had hoped that more snow would be gone but now it looks like I’ll have to hack out the pickup and clear out the back so I can load wood and move it.

So for many, maybe most, winter is lingering with malicious intent, but I’m still playing here.  Yippee!

Impossible for me to capture the sparkle of the ice everywhere in December when the sun finally broke through the freezing rain.

Impossible for me to capture the sparkle of the ice everywhere in December when the sun finally broke through the freezing rain.



Renovating a down coat

Finished!  Even though it's not really cold I'm determined to wear my renovated down coat.

Finished! Even though it’s not really cold I’m determined to wear my renovated down coat.

Twelve years ago I bought an ankle-length, black, Calvin Klein down coat at my favourite store, Winners.  It was a good price, $100, but it was a bit of a splurge since I didn’t really need it most of the time where I lived on Vancouver Island.  I got it mostly because I was doing a winter rail trip from Toronto to Vancouver and I thought it would be a perfect, light-weight coat for those times when you want to get off the train in the middle of the night on some lonesome, frozen prairie siding,  just to experience the cold.   A few years later I moved to Maine and it became my coat of choice for the morning walks with the dog in winter.

Drool stains the lower part of the original waterproof/breathable fashion fabric.

Drool stains the lower part of the original waterproof/breathable fashion fabric.

Fast forward to this year.  The coat still keeps me warm and is like walking around in a big sleeping bag but the outer fashion fabric was worn at the cuffs and

 no amount of washing seemed to be able to remove the dog drool on the sleeves where I get playfully grabbed or from the waist down where leaning occurs.  

I had two choices: replace the coat with a new one or make a new fashion fabric outer shell.  llbean makes a good substitution, a calf-length coat for $200.  I would recommend to a client that option since renovation is labour-intensive.  A new coat would have a removable hood, not a feature I really require, but would not have the extra tall collar that makes my coat perfect for wind-chill times.  I can pull it right up over my nose.  With a hat I’m toasty-warm.  And my coat is longer with zippers at the bottom of the side seams for walking ease.  I bought some dark brown polyester rain coating and started.

matching the new front placket with the old

matching the new front placket with the old

I opened both side seams from sleeve cuff to the zippers.  I have made vests from down jackets and re-covered vests as well so the optimum would have been to be able to remove the original fashion fabric, make a pattern from it and replace with the new fabric.  Alas, the fabric was sewn to the down casing making the channels so removal was not an option.  I made paper pattern pieces for fronts, centre back, side backs, side fronts and sleeves and assembled the pieces attached at the shoulders and draped on my form to see how the fit was.  I had to adjust a bit at the armhole, then I pinned the new outer shell to the coat at the collar and at all the channel stitching.

Pinning the new dark chocolate brown fabric on the partially deconstructed garment

Pinning the new dark chocolate brown fabric on the partially deconstructed garment

I decided to quilt the coat by hand for more control and so that I wouldn’t lose any loft with additional seaming.  I used some variegated silk thread warp ends that I got from the Sanderson Weaving Studio  on Granville Island.

The colours vary from taupe and dull purple to tan and pale green.  I started with  a sleeve, then quilted the adjacent front, then the other sleeve, it’s front and lastly the back.  I embroidered a decorative stitch around the pocket openings to strengthen that stress point.

While it was apart I replaced the walking ease zippers.  The originals never opened easily.  The main two-way separating zipper I replaced several years ago with a bigger sleeping bag-like zipper.  I also added reinforcement at the hems in the form of iridescent drapery fabric.  Hopefully that will contribute to longevity at the stress points.

Even using two thimbles my fingers are sore from all the hand sewing.  Except for the front zipper (which was basted then sewn by machine) and , the side seams, the new fabric was attached by hand for control and to maintain down loft.

Even using two thimbles my fingers are sore from all the hand sewing. Except for the front zipper (which was basted then sewn by machine) and the side seams, the new fabric was attached by hand for control and to maintain down loft.

It’s hard to tell from some of the pictures but the new improved coat is a dark chocolate brown.  The hand quilting  allows plenty of loft for the down.  I embroidered geometric lines and arrows down the front placket to obscure the places that covered the snaps.  I was going to heavily embroider around the lower zippers but decided they look fine without the extra embellishment. Besides, I was ready to be done and my fingers were sore from all the hand-sewing, even using my thimbles.

Hand pocket detaIl.  I wanted to reinforce around the pockets because there is so much wear there.

Hand pocket detaIl. I wanted to reinforce around the pockets because there is so much wear there.

Writing about this makes it all sound so easy, but making a pattern from a garment so loosely shaped is not easy.  Cutting out is always the worst part and I had a moment of wondering if I had enough fabric.  Usually I buy too much but this time I had just the right amount.  The bit of stretch in the new fabric worked well to help the new outer shell conform to the garment.  Overall I am really happy with the result.  Now if only the temperature would plummet again so I can wear my new brown down coat.  Looking good, because in my world, brown is the new black.

Styling in my renovated Calvin Klein coat.

Styling in my renovated Calvin Klein coat.

December, also ambivalent

It's just the tool shed but it looks good with the first dusting of snow.

It’s just the tool shed but it looks good with the first dusting of snow.

We made it through hunting season in November and I don’t have to walk around looking like a pumpkin with legs anymore, and now we’re well into December and it all comes back to me, the things to love and the things to, well, not so much.

I like the snow and as I write this we’re expecting a decent dump starting late tonight.  I’m a night person so I often do a preliminary shovelling of my sidewalk (is it the only one here in Monroe?  Might be.) so that I don’t have to move huge amounts at any one time.  Snow falling is magic and December is usually about the first snows that everyone enjoys.  The snow in April is enjoyed by far fewer folks.

That co-dependant holiday is just around the corner and the millions who do the obligatory gifting are crowding the venues.  A bit closer to the day and you might wonder if no one ever eats  except two times a year if you dare the grocery store.  It took me a couple of times but if you live in Canada and go to someone’s house for Christmas dinner you still need to shop before the holiday anyway, because ALL the grocery stores are closed on Boxing Day.  Weird.

But my real love/not-so-much with December stems from my life with Mr. Ever-Vigilant/ Scourge of the Forest, Murphy.

Who me?  I'm a love puppy.

Who me? I’m a love puppy.

The temperature is cold enough that he has lots of energy to patrol and bark which it is in his nature to do.  The leaves are gone from the trees and the air is crisp and a good barking rhythm can carry across the valley quite nicely, reminding all residents of the woods that they might better avoid this particular stretch.

Until there is a good amount of snow on the ground to make the excessive (in my mind) patrolling difficult, nearly every day it is possible that Murphy will not return from our afternoon foray up the hill and instead will move back and forth barking.  I would take him in the truck to Northern Pond and do our walk there so he would have to finish with me but in December the ice is not necessarily frozen enough and I do not want to repeat the Reverse Lassie. (See my post, The Thanksgiving Song:  for that story.)

Usually he waits for me to at least start the walk with him but today when I came out he was already in full voice.  I started up the hill directly because he was already too close to the neighbour who doesn’t like him patrolling and never forgets an infraction.  I try to get ahead of where he is going so that we can meet in the woods but Murphy was already across the right of way and in the woods on the other side.  There is a loop trail on the neighbour’s property where we used to walk with permission until permission was revoked.  One too many times Murph opted to return in his own time and swing through their dooryard for a friendly chase of a cat if possible, alas.

So today I ran down the snow-covered upper part of the loop to get ahead of him.  I was just looking for the place where we used to cross a little stream when Murphy can running full tilt toward me.  He was all, hey! cool to meet you here! and I was all, what a surprise to find you here too!  I gave him a couple of cookies from my pocket and hooked him up.  He thoughtfully chose to backtrack my trail since it’s good not to go right by the neighbour’s house and give her more fuel for the stories.  ( She never forgets an episode and still uses as an example something he did when he was a juvenile.)

Across the right-of-way we followed my trail up the hill above our garage.  With the little bit of snow it’s hard to see the lay of the ground but traction is not too bad because the moisture from the ground has frozen so some steps are into eight or so inches of ice crystals which gives some traction.  Still there are rocks and piles of branches and some ice so it’s good for the balance to walk such uneven terrain.

So far, I’ve managed to bring him home every time he’s gone on barkabout, but it interrupts my work and I worry that he might get shot by one of those Maine hunters who feel entitled to the deer and erroneously think Murphy threatens that or that he might end up in a trap somewhere where I can’t find him.

Note, the day after:  The perfect winter storm started late last night.  We woke up to 8 inches and I shovelled my way out to the driveway, then barefooted (no snowshoes) down the unploughed driveway with dog and shovel to clear a walkway for my neighbour who has a dodgy heart.  ( Her heart’s in the right place, it’s just not up to heavy physical exertion .)  We walked down the road that the snowplough had done already and the reason I didn’t wear snowshoes.

To get the full information Murphy buries his nose in the snow,

To get the full information Murphy buries his nose in the snow,

So it’s all good now.  Murphy  and I love to run downhill in the snow, me with snowshoes.  He steals my mitten and flips it into the air, a playful moment for a usually serious guard dog.  Snowshoes were needed for the walk up the hill but not so much that Murphy couldn’t offer to break trail for me, but just enough that he came home from the walk and now is out on his long lead, letting the nearby world know that this hill is guarded, go elsewhere if you are a ne’er-do-well.  Today December is good.