I thought I'd take a moment to look back on the projects that Robb and I undertook this past year. It seems I'm far better at documenting work than I am at making any record of socializing. I take terrible photos of humans, most of the time.
I was very busy at work, but my theater no longer likes me to share images of what I do on this blog, so if you want to see what I'm up to, you'll have to buy tickets to a show.
One very nice thing that I got to do through work was participate in a workshop with Chris Palmer, who is some kind of origami savant. He gave a class on manipulating fabric, which was incredibly fascinating and inspirational. I'm hoping to have him give a similar class at the Spindles and Flyers handspinning guild, of which I am now the program director.
In the late winter, Robb and I began work in earnest on a chicken coop. Robb had been designing it for quite some time, but we needed to finish residing our house, to see how much lumber we'd have available for the coop project. Robb is a wonderful builder. I'm a passable assistant.
I went to a sheep shearing, and bought a fleece. I'm still working the pre-spinning prep of this fiber.
This wasn't a great year for spinning or knitting. I somehow lost my mojo. And then we got moths. A lot of my beautiful handmade knitting was destroyed. This was really demoralizing and I'm still in denial about the whole thing. I packed up all of my yarn and fleece, but have done anything with my garments. I've either got to get serious about mending, or else I have to throw away hundreds of hours of work. And then there's my vintage frock collection....
I (finally) visited Safari West with Allie and one of her hometown friends. I've been wanting to see this place for ages. Their breeding and conservation program is very impressive.
In March, Robb and I got a box of loudly cheeping day-old chicks in the mail. Our postal carrier was certainly amused. We set them up in a brooder box in our garage. And then we invited everyone we knew over to cuddle the chickens.
I fooled around with natural dyes. This was a sample I made from eucalyptus-dyed wool as well as wool that I dyed with the dried skins of pomegranates. (The black yarn was commercially dyed. I can't take any credit for that.) There's a sweater percolating in the deeper corners of my mind.
Work continued on our chicken coop. Robb designed it to reference the local architecture, and we dubbed it The Chicken Bungaloo.
I hosted my somewhat-annual Easter Eggstravaganza, which was a huge success, even though I was sick with a head cold. Even friends who insisted that they "weren't creative" made beautifully decorated eggs. And of course, the trained artists kicked ass.
The chickens grew like crazy. It was sort of insane to see how quickly they matured.
Robb and I built a collapsible "chicken tractor" and let the young pullets run around on the grass in our back yard. The cats all found this fascinating. (Don't worry, Smog is just yawning in this photograph.)
I took a class with Rebecca Burgess, on dyeing with locally foraged native plants. Rebecca is the author of a beautiful book on natural dyeing, and is trying to kick-start a movement to make the production of clothing a more local and sustainable endeavor. I was very inspired by the work she's doing with her Fibershed organization.
My bees were so fecund this year, that we ran out of room in our back yard. I shared bees with some of our neighbors, which was mostly wonderful. This project also resulted in the single worst experience of my life as a beekeeper. I'm still not quite ready to write about the night I made every stupid mistake imaginable, and was attacked in the face by my own bees.
Other interactions with insects were more pleasant. The chrysalises that Robb and I had been keeping all winter hatched out a beautiful clutch of butterflies, one right after another.
Robb and I went on the Alameda backyard chicken coop bicycling tour again. We'd done this a few times prior to getting our own birds, but it was especially interesting to observe other people's set-ups now that we knew a bit about keeping chickens.
Our birds just kept growing. We have older "heritage" breeds, rather than newer hybrids. Compared to modern layers, our chickens are decidedly not egg-factories. It seemed to take forever for them to reach Chicken Puberty, and start laying.
We enjoyed the solar eclipse in our back yard. I'm not sure I'd ever seen this so clearly.
Work progressed on our henhouse. This photo shows it minus the enclosed run. We still have work to do to improve the roof over the run.
We had a pretty good hop harvest. The aphids weren't nearly as bad as in previous years.
And we had a wonderful plum crop, which we shared with loads of friends. I grafted a lot of different varieties onto the "volunteer" plum tree, and since I had a bit more of an idea of what I was doing, I had better success than I did my first year. We were able to eat a few plums from the first year grafts which was downright magical.
The chickens started laying by late summer. Our Marans, Harriet, had some kind of chicken health problems and went on antibiotics. We had to throw away her eggs which almost painful to do.
Robb designed and built some fencing to keep our idiot hens in the back yard. This is a mock-up of the pickets he created.
We started messing around with kitchen fermentation, making quite a few batches of fermented cabbage. Since I can no longer eat hot peppers (due to allergies) I was thrilled to discover how spicy plain kimchi can be. We also experimented with keffir, which isn't particularly photogenic.
Robb finished re-siding our house and then we painted and painted. We hired two of my former interns to paint. We got about half of the house done. We're still debating how to proceed. I don't have a lot of desire to scrape all of my rafter tails, but I'm also not sure that I think anyone else will do as nice a job as I could do myself. I have to admit that after running a paint studio all day, the last thing I want to do in my free time is paint my own house.
We had a wonderful lemon harvest, which lasted for months and months, and which we shared freely.
We made some more plum wine, and honey mead. It will be several years before this is fit to drink. Talk about "slow food."
Our poor kitty Smog had continued health problems. The cats and the chickens arrived at some kind of truce. Our crazy chicken Lydia charges anything that moves, even though she's the lowest on the pecking order. She gets particularly territorial about songbirds, which is pretty darn funny.
The garden continued to attract a variety of native bees. Also snails. Which the chickens refused to eat. We apparently bought the world's only vegan hens. Oh well.
We had a small harvest from our largest fig tree. I finally managed to get all the fig trees out of pots and into the ground. Hopefully, they will thrive.
Once again, Robb and I rode in the BORP fundraising Revolution. And as always, it was a great experience. Seeing so many people -- people who are severely disabled, as well as their friends and families -- out riding bikes and having a blast is always incredibly moving. This event never fails to remind me of how strong we humans can be.
Allie and I flew to Tennessee for Sheri and Kyle's beautiful wedding. I was the officiant, which was a wonderful experience.
I managed to get some time in the woods, and gawked at all sort of fungus. For some reason this always recharges my batteries.
All the hens except Anne Elliott spent the winter molting and quit laying eggs. We don't have particularly cuddly birds, but they became noticeably less friendly when they stopped laying. They come charging down the path when they see us, but that's only because they're hoping for snacks. When there's no food involved, Robb and I revert to our usual status as Meanies.
Our persimmon tree seemed to have some kind of insect parasite, which dropped sticky black crud on the fruit and leaves. We also had a lot of unripe fruit fall off the tree in the middle of the summer. I'm not sure if this is related or not. I garden without pesticides, but need to get better at understanding pest management.
Nevertheless, we had a bountiful harvest. Overall this year was a good one, although not without its challenges. We learned a lot, and are hopeful about the future.
I would like to wish all of our blog readers a very happy and productive 2013, and to thank you for all of your kindness in 2012.
See you all in the New Year.