Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I am blocked and it is a frustrating experience. I go through this once or twice a year and I know I am not a fun person to be around when it happens. It is almost always the same and I guess I really should call it a bottle neck rather than a block. My problem is not that I have no ideas - it is the opposite. I have so many ideas and so many projects on the go that I am paralyzed by trying to do them all at once. A couple days ago I decided I needed to sit down and write out all the things I am working on right now. There are ten different projects. I then listed next steps for each one and I am now attempting to move them forward slowly. The problem is that I start on one and within five minutes I am thinking about how I would rather be working on the next and so on. I am also trying to get my work organized as I have several pieces that need to travel to various locations at different times over the next few months.
Today I am driving to Billings to hand deliver a dozen quilts to Brooke for the Big Sky Quilt Show that takes place starting next week. I will traveling to Florida to see Mom and Dad during the time the show is on so Brooke will look after getting my stuff displayed. Yesterday I spent several hours dyeing some raw silk and some rayon for an ensemble I want to make. I have had this idea in my head for a while and I think it will be great if it turns out like I envision.
I am waiting to hear back from "Stretching Threads" to see if my 3-D pieces have been accepted. They announced on Monday that they sent out the notifications so I should know in the next day or two.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A few weeks ago I sent off a CD with photos of two quilts to Sacred Threads. Yesterday I received the wonderful news that both have been accepted into the show! This is one of the shows I have been wanting to enter for a few years so I am especially excited about my acceptance. It is a somewhat unusual event as it deals very much with the emotions of the artwork. Rather than categories based on sizes or techniques, they are broken down into such themes as "Joy", "Healing", "Spirituality", and "Grief" among others. It is described in the literature as "A Quilt Exhibition Connecting Quilting and the Spiritual Life" and I have heard people who have attended in the past say it is a very emotional experience. The show takes place every two years in Reynoldsburg, Ohio - near Columbus - and will be held this year from June 16 - June 30. If Ken is going back to Cincinnati anytime during those two weeks I may have to tag along just to see for myself.
I sent one quilt in the "joy" category and one in the"grief" category. My "Celebration" quilt was made for a challenge with my Art Quilt Guild and incorporates some painting and some beading. The circle fabric was purchased on a trip to Casper and it still makes me smile every time I see it. I think it is the hypnotic feel of the pattern. "Island 2" is the second in a series of three quilts interpreting the word "island" in different ways. It is really a piece about loneliness and depression; man as an island. It presented some challenges in other ways as the one end is made up of two layers of organza with a figure in a fetal position sandwiched between the layers. The colorful people at the brighter end of the quilt are made from my own hand-dyed silk, satin and cotton as well as angelina fibers. I feel quite strongly about this quilt and I think that is why I am so happy to have it accepted to this show.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I am behind on my posts because of our trip to Jackson and Yellowstone. We left here last Friday in 50 degree weather and had great conditions until we reached Dubois. From that point on we were back in winter and it was an experience just getting up and over the very icy Togwotee Pass. This seems to be the year of the coyote. I have heard many people say they have seen a lot of the dogs and we counted eight separate sightings on our way into Jackson. We also saw two cow moose and I got some photos but they aren't great. We were staying at the Teton Science School campus in Wilson for two nights with Ken's sister and her husband. Joyce purchased the package in an auction to benefit their local nature center several months ago. Ken and I took out Wilderness First Responder course for two weeks from the school last year but it was held at the Kelly Campus. The school in Wilson is brand new and very comfortable. I think the package was to include a four hour wildlife watching expedition but we opted out. I am sure it is wonderful for people who come from elsewhere and don't know where to look or what they can see but for us to sit in a van for four hours while someone pointed out the moose and coyotes didn't make a lot of sense. On Saturday Ken and I went to the big hill to do some downhill skiing while Joyce and Will opted for a little cross country. Jackson Hole Ski Resort has a reputation for having some of the toughest skiing in the country and I think it is deserved. If I am going to ski a managed area it is certainly one of my favorites as it is huge with lots of variety and challenge. Ironically enough, I had my best wildlife sighting of the whole trip on the hill. We were coming down a catwalk when I heard two ravens going ballistic. Ken was in front of me and other people were zipping by but I slowed way down because I knew something was bugging the ravens. Just as I came to a stop I looked over and saw, not five feet in front of me, face-to-face, eyeball-to-giant eyeball, a great horned owl. The ravens were on either side of him trying their best to harass him into leaving. Of course I didn't have my camera but that is one of those images that will be a mental picture for a long time to come.

After the ski we went for a hike along the trail that follows the Snake River. The waterfowl were fun to watch and I got some nice shots of three trumpeter swans that were enjoying the day. On the way back to the Science School I spotted this bald eagle in a tree by the road. I thought it was very kind of him to pose in the sun for me like he did!

On Sunday we drove to Flaggs Ranch and boarded the snowcoach for Old Faithful. This is the first time in several years I have been in this area of the Park in winter and I have to say the reduced number of snowmobiles was a real treat. The snowcoaches were built in the 60's and 70's and provide an interesting way to travel over the snow. They are noisy and bumpy and I wouldn't choose to travel in them any more than necessary but they do get you where you want to go. They carry ten people maximum and travel at about 30 miles per hour. The luggage all gets loaded on the top under the big yellow tarp. There are two hotels at Old Faithful; the historic one that is pictured in most of the literature and the Snow Lodge that is used in the winter season. The last time Ken and I stayed there was almost 15 years ago and the Snow Lodge was pretty old and tired. They have since torn that building down and are now in their third year with a beautiful new comfortable hotel. Of course we had to go see Old Faithful do his thing. What a change from the summer months when the people surrounding the famous geyser are stacked ten deep all around the perimeter. There might have been 20 other people besides us watching the show.
On Monday Ken and I strapped on our skis and headed for Lone Star Geyser via the Howard Eaton Trail. It was a beautiful day and the 9 mile ski seemed pretty effortless. Even with the new emphasis of the Park on non-motorized travel and the large number of people we saw on skis around the Lodge, we saw almost no one on our trip. This is the second time we have skied back to Lone Star and in both cases it decided to erupt within ten minutes of our arrival. The amazing thing about that is that it blows on average about every three hours and is quite unpredictable. The photo to the left is the geyser letting off steam. On Tuesday we took the snow coach back to Flaggs Ranch where we retrieved our vehicles and headed home. Once again we changed seasons as soon as we reached Dubois, going from winter wonderland to spring conditions.
Once home we discovered we missed the real excitement that took place right here while we were gone. We had a phone message from the Federal Wildlife guys saying they had captured and collared the wolf that has been hanging around our place. We knew they were going to do it, we just didn't know when. I was surprised to find out it was a female. All along I have been picturing a male, probably because of the size of the track. They also said that the collaring process is often so traumatic for the animals that they will change their location because of it. If that is the case we may have seen the last of the big dog, at least for now.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I have finished the small 24" x 24" wall quilt I am donating to be auctioned off at the local Fireman's Ball this weekend. I have mixed feelings about it. Knowing the community, the Fire Department will be lucky to get $50 for it. That means my time was worth pennies an hour at best. On the other hand, I didn't say no to a local charity (and one I may need some day), it was a good exercise in machine quilting and it was an older UFO (unfinished object) that I never would have completed otherwise. It is from a class with Mary Sue Suit some years ago. I love her patterns but they are, after all her patterns, not mine. We will miss the ball because we are headed to Jackson to meet up with Ken's sister and her husband for a few days. We will try to get some skiing in at the big hill and then we are catching the snow coach to Yellowstone Sunday morning and hope to do a little backcountry skiing there for a few days. This is really a great time of year to be in the Park as I have said before. Now that they have limited the snowmobile use it is much quieter and more peaceful than the summer months.
Not everyone gets excited about finding a pile of animal poop, but knowing scat really goes hand in hand with being able to identify tracks when you are observing wild animals. We found this pile about 100 feet from our door a few days ago. The scary thing about that is that it is way too big to be anything except black bear, mountain lion or wolf. It is made up primarily of hair so we know it is a meat eater for sure. We can pretty much rule out the bear because of the time of year. It has been a cold winter and we are unlikely to see the bruins sticking their noses out of their dens for at least another month. It is probably not mountain lion because it is not segmented and there was no sign of the scratching that is common with the big cats. That leaves our friendly neighborhood wolf. The ground was frozen and we had very little snow cover so there were no tracks to be examined in conjunction with the pile of scat. If it is the wolf, he is getting much bolder about coming close to the house and the animals.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I was asked to speak to a women's group in Cody last night on "Quilting as Art". I decided I needed something apropos to wear so it was obviously time to make the "Chukar" jacket that has been in the back of my mind for a while. In case you have never been lucky enough to see a chukar in person, they are a colorful member of the partridge family that was imported to the US in the early 1900's from Hungary. The idea was to give bird hunters another tasty target. We have a large population that lives on our place and we never tire of hearing their soft chuck-chuck-chuck or seeing their short red legs running to the bird feeder. They are apparently pretty frail and don't usually do well at surviving harsh winter weather but with a little help from a bird feeder and a source of water they have managed to not only survive but to thrive on our property.
The jacket started out as a simple Butterick pattern that got seriously altered to accommodate what I was trying to do. The darker fabric that makes up the top portion of the coat is very heavily quilted although it is hard to tell in the small photos at the side. The lighter fabric on the bottom was first painted then accented with free motion machine embroidery and quilting. I am happy with the outcome but wish I had made the whole thing just one size bigger. I now know that a Butterick 8 is not the same size as a Vogue 8.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

We are in day four of the fog-in. It is amazing how not being able to see past the barn for days on end has affected my mood. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed that expanse outside our door. This is such an
unusual look for our area that it has me wanting to take photos of everything. There is something incongruous about seeing desert plants encased in ice. To top it all off we had a half inch of snow fall Thursday night. The world has become almost devoid of color - a land of black and white. The magpies must feel like their day has finally come! The wonderful thing about snow around here is that it provides a clean etch-a-sketch for the wildlife to write their signatures. The wolf tracks I saw on my run yesterday morning were so fresh I thought I could feel his breath on the back of my neck! The eagles have moved up much closer to the house. They have spent the last two days parked on Vertebrae Rock just outside our door. It is lower than Tower and perhaps they know they are more likely to find bunnies at the bird feeder in this whiteout. The falcon has been circling continuously and I am amazed we haven't had a broken window. Because of the low visibility he is almost on top of the pigeons before they see him and then they panic and fly into the windows. They must have incredibly hard heads as they always seem to shake themselves off and fly away.
One day years ago when we were almost finished building the house we had everything closed in except the side lights of the front door. I was standing on the porch when I heard the familiar whistling air and suddenly a pigeon went by me at warp speed with the falcon in close pursuit. The pigeon did a maneuver worthy of a B2 Bomber and turned sideways, just squeaking through the opening for the sidelight. The falcon made an immediate 90 degree correction and flew straight up into the air and over the roof. Unfortunately the pigeon thought he could fly straight through and banged into the inside of the plate glass window in the living room. That was one case where he did knock himself out but after we picked him up and took him outside for a few minutes he came to and flew off. I bet he had a giant of a headache for a while!
We decided we needed a break from the monotone world in which we find ourselves so we gathered up Mary and Luis and drove to Red Lodge yesterday afternoon. We took a beautiful hike up Lake Creek and then went to our favorite restaurant, Bridge Creek, for a wonderful Asian style buffet to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It is the year of the Pig. Need I say more?
I posted my invitation for the all-female, artist's retreat camping trip on Quiltart yesterday. I have had some good response and I think we will probably end up as a group of close to ten. The idea is to take five llamas and spend six days hiking and camping in the Beartooth Mountains in August.
My thread arrived in the mail Thursday so I will be busy trying to finish up my painted jacket over the next few days. I will post photos once it is complete.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

This is one of those very rare days in this area when the humidity is above 50%. The last few days have been spring-like with temperatures in the high 50's. The predictions were for the temperature to drop overnight with snow showers possible. Well the air is certainly colder but the moisture materialized in the form of tiny water droplets that freeze as they land.
The fog is so thick we cannot see Tower Rock less than a quarter mile away. What is amazing is that yesterday the air was so clear we were pointing out features on the Big Horn Mountains, more than a hundred miles from here! I was about three miles into my run this morning when I realized it was getting hard to see. Icicles were forming on my eyelashes. If Ken wasn't home I may have decided to skip the run this morning all together. It was, after all, in conditions just like this that I turned around to find the mountain lion stalking me a few years ago and I still have the urge to look over my shoulder constantly in the fog.

I think the wildlife knew the weather was about to change. They were certainly acting strangely yesterday. I was in my studio in mid-afternoon when I looked out the window to see the golden eagle on the near ridge. I was a little concerned for the crowd at the feeder which consisted of a good number of rock doves, pinyon jays, chukars and the obligatory bunnies. I was not surprised therefore when I suddenly saw everything scatter. I looked out expecting to see the eagle flying overhead but he hadn't moved. What then caused the panic? At the same time Ken was out front watering the few shrubs we have. Frank the cat was helping out by searching the hay pile for wayward mice. Ken says he suddenly had cottontails running right by his feet. It was obvious they were terrified. What was really strange was that instead of chasing them, Frank just puffed himself up into big cat size. Ken knew then something was around so he grabbed hold of Frank (at great risk to his own well being as anyone who knows Frank can testify) and threw him in the house. Ken turned back around just in time to see the coyotes come waltzing by from the bird feeder and straight across the yard. The llamas started with their distress calls and the coyotes decided to skirt the corrals but they obviously were not too worried about their own safety.
As usual I have a half dozen projects on the go right now but I am really trying to finish up another hand-painted coat so I can wear it when I give my presentation in Cody next week. I had one spool of the perfect color thread I was using to quilt the fabric and I ran out. Nothing else seems to work. So now I have to wait until the mailman delivers another three spools from Big Horn Quilts in Greybull. Oh well, I really need to work on the quilt I am donating to be auctioned off by the local Fire Department so maybe it was for the best. Back to the studio I go.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Last night was a night for reruns - and I don't mean on TV. The coyotes, both of them, signaled their return with a dramatic performance. I noticed the llamas all standing at full attention and looking up the hill to the west. There on the ridge were two perfect silhouettes in front of the setting sun. I think the coyotes knew they were being watched as they spent a few minutes pacing back and forth and then sat down facing each other and raised their muzzles to the sky. Their howling could not have been better staged in Hollywood. After a few minutes they stood up and went over the hill and out of sight. I would not have been surprised if they had taken a bow first.

This morning when I went for my run I found their fresh tracks almost immediately. They had obviously been back early this morning and had covered quite a bit of ground around the house. I was lost in my usual daydreaming as I followed their tracks out the drive when, about a 1/4 mile from the house, I suddenly realized something had changed. In my befuddled state it took me a minute to recognize that the tracks I was now seeing were much bigger than those of the coyotes. It seems the wolf was back for a visit last night as well. For the next half mile or so I followed both sets of tracks down the lane, the coyotes sometimes walking right on top of the wolf tracks allowing for a perfect comparison. I run on the road because it is easier traveling. It only makes sense the animals use it for the same reason. I don't usually carry my camera when I run so the photos on the side are from a couple weeks ago after a few inches of new snow. The one on the top is a typical coyote track measuring about 2 1/2" in length. The photo on the bottom is the wolf track. It is about 6" long; the same size as my hand. That is one big dog.
I am so glad the coyotes are still around. By all rights the female should be pregnant right now and we may be seeing pups in another month or so.

Friday, February 2, 2007

It is cold, cold, cold! The car thermometer read -13F as I pulled in last night from Search and Rescue training. As if that isn't bad enough, what makes it really miserable is the wind. This is not the usual howler for which our area is so well known; just a steady 10 to 20 mph breeze that takes the temperature with windchill down to a bracing -45F. It is tough on the animals. Our sheds are all built for protection from the prevailing winds which come from the southwest. This wind is blowing straight out of the north. As is often the case in rural areas, weather issues mean electrical issues. I had a dentist appointment in Powell yesterday morning and when I got home I noticed all the clocks blinking at me. I had to turn around and go back out the door to training in Cody and didn't get back home until about 11pm last night. So it wasn't until I went out to feed this morning that I realized the electrical outage had taken out the heat lamps for the chickens and they had spent the last 24 hours - the coldest 24 hours in about 5 years - without a source of heat. The heat lamps are set to come on automatically at 25F and the system has a battery backup in case of power outage but obviously something failed. Amazingly, all the birds seem fine. What saved them was that I had closed the door to the outside coop yesterday morning knowing it was going to get really cold. They were at least completely protected from the wind and even though it got very cold in there they were saved from frostbite or worse. The first year we had chickens we didn't know we had to lock them in when it got really cold. We assumed they would figure out for themselves that it was to their advantage to stay inside. Wrong. All our roosters that first year lost their combs and their wattles to frostbite. They grew back but it must have been painful in the meantime.
Some things show up when you least expect them. When I went out this morning I saw a large bird sitting on a fence post across the yard. I was pretty sure I knew what it was but ran back in to get the binoculars and the bird book anyway. Sure enough it was the Northern Goshawk back for a visit. I thought about trying to get a photo but I didn't even know if the camera would work in this weather and it was obvious he wasn't going to sit for long with all the harassment he was getting from the magpies. So I just enjoyed watching him for a few minutes instead. The first time we saw the goshawk on our place was about four years ago. We decided to not tell anyone about it because we didn't think they would believe us. Even though Ken is amazing at identifying birds, the book does say they are "uncommon to rare" and "found in very small numbers in forests". The nearest forest to us is several miles away. Then last year we looked out one day to see him sitting on the fence post just outside the front door. He stayed around, on and off, for about three days and we got some great photos which provide indisputable proof that the largest accipiter does occasionally slum in the sagebrush. I don't know if this cold weather has pushed him into the open for some reason or if he just felt like a change but it was a little bit like seeing an old friend. Just what the doctor ordered to warm a heart on a cold winter day.