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Odd Machinery

sheep20shearing20machine-mAs an avid fan of all those nature shows, I always pictured sheep-shearing as something akin to calf roping. Apparently my grand-dad did sheep shearing along with a lot of other farming tasks. My dad planned to make a chicken feather plucker so as to avoid the defeathering of butchered chickens task. Butchering chickens was an all day project, started after morning chores and lasting through the afternoon. Plucking all those feathers was a messy task; burning the pinfeathers a smelly project, then cleaning and cutting them up for freezing. Dad loved fried chicken but hated all the preceding tasks. Thus the feather plucker.

I have never actually sheared a sheep, although I’ve had a go at reducing fur load on first a poodle mix and now an Aussie Shepherd mix. At one time I bought raw wool–unprocessed–a smelly oily product that I quickly passed on to someone else.

I don’t know exactly how this sheep shearing machine worked or how it was adjusted to accommodate different sized sheep or different thickness of coats. But someone disliked the task enough to make this machine.

On display at the Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio Texas along with some other oddities.



The Coolest Sewing Machine

wheeler20sewing20machine203-mAsk most anyone and they will probably recognize “Singer” as the person who invented sewing machines. In fact, he was the one that invented the installment plan for buying such a luxury item. The first sewing machine was by Elias Howe whose very plain Jane machine was elegant in appearance while Singer’s was embellished with lots of fancy filigree work.

Museums of local history feature sewing machines and the Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio Texas is no exception. Among the fleet of Singers including a long-arm Singer used for leather-work–saddles and other tack gear is a fascinating machine.

Sewing machines were powered by a treadle; a flat panel hooked to a system of pulleys via a belt. Other machines such as lathes were also powered by these treadles and in many parts of the world where electricity is either unavailable, expensive, or unreliable, treadles are still used.

But this machine!

First it has TWO foot pedals just like an elliptical exercise machine.wheeler20sewing20machine-m

The machine sits with its needle at the very front, the machinery and the pulley to the rear, not the side. There is a box for accessories such as thread and scissors to the left of the needle, the top of the box forming a flat working space.wheeler20sewing20machine202-m

The entire machine is encased in a large square box that folds down over top of the machine; but there is plenty of space behind the machine to store the current project.

My photos do not do it justice; it was dark in that part of the museum.

Can you tell I was thrilled to find such a fun and unique item?

Escape Plan Foiled

Not exactly.

They did escape.

One burrowed her way back into the yard and into the pond to cool off after they had both rushed home after hearing my diesel put-putting on its way home after a very long and not very fun day at work.

The other one sat panting heavily, also having run a good ways, by the side of the front gate waiting for me to open the gate. The shorter and more willing to crawl into places one greeted me innocently from the inside of the gate–but her underside was wet, her paws sopping wet and I knew exactly what she had done.

After letting them inside the house, I patrolled the exterior with a flashlight looking for that escape route.

It was right next to the prior escape-I thought I had made it secure—but when there’s a will so they say. And perhaps a friend on the other side of that fence?


And so this morning–instead of doing all the other things I had planned, I needed to mend fence. I’ve taken care not to do the mending in the neighbor’s view as the next door neighbor said his wife was upset because since I had put so much of the fence up in plain view of all that I set the bar too high for the other wives to reach. Apparently it looked like I knew what I was doing….Not that there is a lot of talent in nailing up fence boards once the uprights and the cross-pieces are in place.

Off to Home Depot to purchase supplies after think through my plan.

I bought weather-proof boards and some short T-Posts. I placed the T-Posts–short work since the ground is so soft after all our rain, slid the boards behind the T-Posts, fortified them with some bricks and these old motorcycle tires.  Not so elegant but maybe it will last a couple of months until they find another escape route.


And what do these two escapees look like?

and20another-mThat’s the tall one–and a true digging machine she is.

dora20and20the20ball-mHere is the shorter one. Doesn’t she look innocent?

And here they are together.glen20getting20ready20to20throw20the20frisbee-mPay no attention to the man between them holding the leash and the frisbee. I think he enjoys their exploits and their derring-do. And he would have been helping me with that fence job but he is out of state at present—and taking the dogs out four times a day to visit the facilities for several months is more than I wanted to think about.


Why Fly when you can Ride?


A routine followup visit to a specialist in Galveston means a ferry ride from Bolivar Peninsula to Galveston. I’m sure the many people who make this a daily trip for work don’t find it as intriguing as those of us who do it on rare occasions.

The ferry line was quite long and I was in the line for over an hour before boarding. Once aboard, nearly everyone gets out and stands at the sides to watch for dolphins–I spied four dorsal fins–it would be fun to capture them as they play but I  always manage to get a wonderful photo of just the water. It is too hot this time of year to wait in your vehicle and the engines==therefore air conditioning –must be turned off.

Gulls follow the ferries hoping for bread to be thrown to them; large swooping bands of them but a few prefer to ride along. Some are quite careful and choose the lifeboat boom.gulls20on20the20lifeboat-m


The lacemaker

One of the fun things about attending a conference is gathering ideas for new avenues of exploration. One of my fellow artists were entranced by the idea of interpreting a work of art and seeing just how different and exciting we could make it.

Although I have been spending a lot of quality/$ at the dentist, I did manage to get some art work completed. Tackling a challenge tends to distract the mind from physical ailments to some extent.

My fellow artist selected the photo “The Lacemaker” by Vermeer. We both had color copies of the painting to work from. I studied the photo for several weeks trying to come up with an idea that was not just a literal translation from painting to fiber–it would have been easy enough for me to do so but my name is not Vermeer and I wanted the work to read as mine.lacemaker20initial20painting-m

I traced around the major shapes in the painting–the crouched upper torso, the face, the hands and a portion of the desk or cabinet and then enlarged them by eye. I then selected fabrics in the general hue and tone of the painting but deliberately chose patterned fabrics rather than solids.lacemaker20tracing20of20shapes-m

The pieces were cut, hand-appliqued, then stitched by machine.lacemaker20initial20shapes20sewn-m Next came the cutting apart and mixing up of the pieces. I tried several arrangements until I found one that seemed balanced and that I liked.lacemaker20playing20with20rearrangement20of20strips-m

These pieces were sewn together; I quilted it in straight lines and backed it so that the edges were clean.lacemaker20sewn20together-m

Here are the two completed pieces side by side.lacemaker20two20versions-m

Our next venture will be to interpret a painting by Matisse ‘Woman in a Purple Dress’.

Tuesdays with Lydie

img_8368-mI have had the wonderful pleasure of meeting an embroidery artist from France who patiently teaches stitchery techniques in her home on Tuesdays.

Then someone convinced her to give a lecture and display her work at the local quilt guild meeting this month.

Her work is primarily all hand-done with a large variety of ribbons and threads and yarns. She finds a technique each week that may relate to a holiday custom in France or just simply something fun and beautiful.

Her work is very precise and elaborate—fabric story books—a few large quilts–and wonderfully creative sculptural pieces.

Here is a small sampling of her work and from her collection of other French artists:

Our workshop consisted of combining various fragments from her extensive toile collection and assorted embroidery techniques—more than just a stem or outline stitch and French knots—but a wide variety of stitches using fancy threads from France. None of us finished our pieces but we all stayed until the last minute each day working.

Pink Snow Season

peony20snow-mEvery year around this time I see pink snow.

Until this year I thought it was a Southeast Texas phenomenon. Our house is surrounded by hundred year old crepe myrtles in pink and purple. The trees grow rapidly in rainy weather, shedding their bark in huge strips that drape like strangely colored icicles from their branches.

The blossoms drip nectar constantly and fall to the ground creating the illusion of pink snow. Perhaps people raised in the south call it something different—but to me—it is pink snow.

And then I discovered pink snow in Wisconsin.

My mother loved peonies–she pronounced it ‘piney’s’ as rhyming with pine. There are several planted around the farm-house and at my friend’s house–in pink and white. After a hard rain, the petals fall.

Peonies require the assistance of ants to open their blossoms–a requirement that I always found rather odd.pink20peony-mimg_8238-mcreoe20myrtle-mcm20close20up-m


Grandfather of Waters

img_8324-mI grew up just a few miles–as the crow–or now as the eagle flies–from the mighty Mississippi River. Early mornings were marked by the view of the mists rising from surrounding rivers–the Mississippi to the west, the Wisconsin to the South, and the Kickapoo to the east. The Kickapoo was also north of us but too many ridges between us to see mists.

The sun might shine brightly on the ridge but the valleys were frequently foggy.

I cross the Mississippi three times on my route from Texas to Wisconsin–St. Louis, the Quad Cities, and then in either Dubuque or Marquette. There are always fabulous vistas to view and enjoy.

There are two channels–the East and West–both quite wide and in the spring time those channels swell and expand with melting snow from further upstream. The locks for the barges close sometime in the fall and re-open in the spring with ice blocking traffic. Eagles nest near the dams/locks. Sometimes the bridge access is under water and those people living in Iowa but working in Wisconsin use boats to cross.

At one time the crossing was a toll bridge. The Locals were not appreciative of this inconvenience since they had paid for the bridge–and so one night, the toll-taker’s little shed was taken apart. Imagine my surprise one year when the bridge was moved about half a mile south–no longer entering Wisconsin on Blackhawk Avenue.

Blackhawk and his tribe named this river many years ago. At its origins in Minnesota, this river can be easily stepped across—here you need a canoe or water craft of some sort. I always thought it curious that they called it Grandfather rather than Grandmother or Mother.

In the past there was a brisk business in fishing for clams for the pearl button factory. I have some of those buttons–my grandmother bought them–as they would have been inexpensive at the time. I have a few postcards of the fishing rafts used to collect the clams somewhere in my post-card collection.

French fur traders used this area as a jumping off spot for the west and north–collecting supplies; French and Indian wars meant several forts and a battle or two–including George Washington.  Geronimo supposedly hid out in a local cave. And then there was William S. Beaumont who studied the stomach and its workings in one of his patients he had patched up.

Each trip to Wisconsin means a mandatory stop to see the Mississippi from a high point, a drive along the Kickapoo and Plum Creek, a view of the mist rising from the Wisconsin, and the farm.img_8328-m


Poppy Girl

poppy20girl-mThis isn’t the official name–but I always run by this painting to say hello.

And then there is Matchstick Man which used to greet everyone in the Sculpture Garden across the street from the MFA in Houston but has since been moved indoors–and now is somewhere hidden in its archives.

I think I like the bold color, the simple clean and unfussiness of this painting.


Sweet kiss of the South

magnolia20blossom-mLive oaks line our neighborhood streets; magnolia trees are in many yards. They are tall elegant trees with leathery leaves perfect for arrangements and huge blossoms. Until I lived in this part of Texas and worked for the former Magnolia Oil Company—that became Mobil and now is Exxon-Mobil—and yes there are several large magnolia trees in front of their office building at the refinery,….I never knew that the smell of those blossoms was so pervasive and sweet.

The flowers are short-lived but the tree blooms for several weeks.magnolia20blossom20petal-m

I have a tree in my backyard that was a favorite tree-climber by my three sons—and a tree in front of my shop where my quilting machine and my apiary live. The tree in the backyard has bloomed every year; dropping pine-cone like seed pods. The tree at the shop just started blooming—the blossoms as large as dinner plates but only lasting a day.

And then there’s the wisteria and the honeysuckle—so much nicer than the smell of pulpwood processing.