Monday, June 5, 2017

Only a Test

Watch this space in July and August when we will be visiting Mexico.  See you soon.  Only a test.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Log at a Time

Horse Logging

 "Elroy is a character, a gentleman of 60 or so. His appearance doesn't inspire confidence at first. He wears a battered cowboy hat over his grey hair, his belly hangs over his belt a little, and he hasn't shaved in a few days. He looks more like a stereotypical truck driver than what I imagined a horse-logger might look like. Alex, his nephew, is a different matter. He's tall, muscular and lean at the same time. He wears a black wool railroader's hat, wool pants, wool plaid shirt and insulated rubber boots. In short, Alex looks like what Hollywood central casting would send over for a North Woods logger. But I quickly learn both Alex and Elroy are the real deal."

From Chapter 8, Two Horse Horsepower

"We make steady progress and each day as we walk up the hill to our camp, we still look back and assess our progress. The rafters begin to define the roofline, and the roof framing begins to establish a very handsome shape to the cabin. Accustomed to looking at the walls only, the roof has been just something we've had to imagine. Viewing the log walls without the roof structure makes them appear squat and heavy, but as soon as we have enough rafters in place, the whole cabin begins to look lighter and, very curiously, more substantial at the same time."

From Chapter 14, Working Against the Clock

Here is a link to our website:

And here is the link to Amazon to purchase the book:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some Photos from the Fall

 Some photos from our time in France this Fall hereby offered without commentary.  Discuss.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guest Post by Peggy

Around Leran with a Sketchbook and Watercolors

This is Leran's everpresent Chateau which began as a 12th century feudal castle.  By the 19th century, it was the hunting manor of the Count of Foix (according to the Chateau's booking agency).  Today it has apartments and houses lucky guests while visiting Leran.  I spent the afternoon outside the gate looking across the grounds, past the tennis courts and pool.   

Le clocher de l'eglise Leran.  The bells chime every hour announcing the time day and night.

The most visible of the Chateau's spires, easy to spot from anywhere around the area.

Nancy brought some hominy in her suitcase from the States and her friend Angela had grown tomatillos in her garden.  So, what does any self respecting relation of Darrell Oldham's do with these ingredients?  Make posole from Uncle Darrell's recipe for family and friends. 

French village houses have the most wonderful shutters and here are just a few around Leran. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Times They Were A'Changin'

"We are all Undesirables"

Across the doorway of the old village house in Le Sautel a crudely hung clothesline was strung. Suspended from it by tiny plastic clothespins were several boldly-colored graphic posters on flimsy paper. They each displayed an image and slogan in French. The first in line stated "Mai '68".  It was crayola red.  In the center of the clothesline a handwritten sign advertised the posters were 50 centimes each. 
 "I participate, you participate, he participates, we participate, you participate, they profit"

"To work now is to work with a pistol in your back"

In mid-May 1968, I was only weeks away from graduating high school.  I was 17.  Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated just the month earlier outside his motel room in Memphis Tennessee.  It was the day after his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address.  In a few weeks, Robert F. "Bobby" Kennedy, Jr. would be assassinated.  Every day, American troops were being killed in Vietnam.  In late August in Chicago, I would witness National Guard soldiers bearing weapons with fixed bayonets in Grant Park during the Democratic National Convention.  The times they were a'changin'.

 "When the parents vote, the children suffer"

"PRESS--Do Not Swallow"

I stared at the "Mai '68" poster and knew there must be a story behind it.  I made my way behind the table of other items for sale at the vide grenier to have a closer look.  Laying on the stone wall, I discovered a cardboard folder containing additional posters with a rock sitting on top to keep the wind from blowing them away.  As I sifted through the folder, I began to realize that these posters were not for entertainment.  Their message was not subtle, nor polite.  But my rudimentary translations do not include street slang or colloquial expressions.  I knew I was missing the point because I did not know the context.

 "Free Information"

"Be Young and Shut Up"

A gentleman about my age was sitting under the posters in front of the doorway.  I asked him what was "Mai '68".  In a very accented reply, he was obviously shocked when he replied "You do not remember Mai '68?"  I scrambled for an answer, offering something about the Vietnam War.  He pointed to his partner, a woman about my age, who attempted to enlighten me about the May1968 Paris protest riots. 

 "Order Reigns"

"Fascist Vermin---Civic Action"

I do not in any way attempt to encapsulate the scope and breadth of the 1968 Paris riots in this blog.  There are numerous internet links you can source out if you are so interested.  But the 10 posters that I purchased at the vide grenier that day are reproductions from that time.  It is important to realize, however, that during the course of these protests, more than 10 million (10,000,000) French workers were on strike.  That was approximately 22% of the entire work force. They brought the French government to a standstill.  Charles de Gaulle feared for his safety and fled to Germany. The protest initially began at a Paris university.  A group of artists, the Atelier Populaire, then occupied the Ecole des Beaux Arts and took over the printing studios. The result of their movement between workers and artists were a series of street art posters which were credited anonymously and not individually.

"Return to Normal"

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Une Bonne Bonne Nuit

For my 9th birthday, my parents bought me a Singer sewing machine and sewing lessons at the neighborhood Singer store.  Even though it was a portable, it weighed about 12,000 pounds, or so it seemed to a 9 year old.  At least I didn't have to carry it back and forth to my sewing lessons.  I remember that my mother could barely attach a button, but always boasted about the "A" grade she received in her high school sewing class.  Puzzling, yes?  So the burden fell on me to pick up where she left off. 

I loved sewing probably because it was a creative way of expressing myself.  I could choose the fabric, the pattern, and I could tweak the combination endlessly.  Not to toot my own horn, but I got pretty good at it, even venturing into some tailored coats and jackets.  By the time I was in college I discovered the pure magic of second-hand stores and I have hardly sewed another garment for myself again.

Even though I rarely sew anymore, I can't help but appreciate exquisite handiwork of an expert seamstress, especially hand stitching.  So when I was rummaging through a box of linens at a recent vide grenier and came across this nightshirt for five Euros, I knew I had to rescue it. 

The first thing to know about this nightshirt is that it is not soft, so the original owner had to be one tough cookie, or was constantly doing penance, or just never slept well.  I'm sure it has been washed many times in the past, but the fabric is very coarse.  As far as I know, it could even be a locally woven fabric.  The bottom edge is the selvedge, so it has been cut across the grain.  I found this unusual and counter to common sewing practice, which usually dictates cutting length on the straight of the grain.  But this method does utilize the full width of the fabric with zero waste.  There is only one side seam since the pattern is laid out sideways.  Quite ingenious when you think about it.

The hand stitching is so uniform and exact, almost as if measured with a ruler.  But I doubt it. They were that good. The detail work on this garment is remarkable.  There are gussets under the arms allowing for freedom of movement without fear of ripping and tiny gussets on the side seams at the hem for the same reason.  The collar and front placket fit like a glove.  The photo above illustrates the precision with which the seamstress gathered the back panel into the collar.  It is literally a series of the tiniest most even pleats I have ever seen.   

The yoke over the shoulder is unique, with an additional pleated insert.  I have never seen the likes of this, but I am assuming it is also intended to provide some freedom of movement.  The cuffs are a repetition of the tiny even pleats on the back of the garment. 

This is perhaps one of the most beautifully crafted pieces of clothing I have ever seen.  And only to be worn to bed!