Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Streets of Delft

I used to sew almost daily. I started sewing to make clothes for myself and my children. I made dresses, pants, blouses, coats and suits. Somewhere along the line I started sewing quilts, and then, after I stayed in the old city of Delft for two weeks, quilted wall hangings.

Delft is a city of patterns. The streets are brick and stone, laid by hand by artisans. The walls are brick and stone also. These patterns so fascinated me that I took hundreds of photos of streets and buildings, focusing on small areas.

Back home, I dug through my collection of fabrics salvaged from thrift shop clothing and started sewing. I was first inspired by this photo of a Delft street.

From a pair of women’s shorts I made this interpretation.

Next up was a quilt based on this brick and stone Delft street design.

A collection of broadcloth shirts turned into old bricks

Third, I chose the brickwork in the plaza by the University of Delft library.

After a long search I found just the right yarn to make the moss that grows between the bricks.

The photo of a small portion of a stone wall with mortar lines painted red inspired me next. Somehow I've lost the photo, but here's my interpretation. I added a tree branch on impulse.

I call this series “The Streets of Delft.” It isn’t finished yet. I started a fifth wall hanging about 18 months ago, but had to stop working when arthritis problems and surgeries made sewing too difficult or impossible.

Now I’m able to take up my work again. My fingers are itching to touch the cloth, to thread my machine, and start sewing. Oh, how I’ve missed it.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Friday, September 27, 2013

Summer's Officially Over

Summer’s over and there are several things I won’t miss about it.
            Fruit flies
            Hair frizzed by humidity
            Blacksnakes in the chicken house
            Lawnmower roar
And speaking of blacksnakes, we had another raider. Yesterday my friend and helper, Pam, went to the chicken house to wash the windows. (This is an important task because hens’ egg production is tied to amount of light they get. Clean windows admit more light than dirty ones.) Pam’s task was interrupted when she saw a big blacksnake in a nest box, its jaws sprung apart holding an egg. Pam, who is intrepid, picked up an oak garden stake and whacked the vandal. The snake was longer than Pam is tall. And here I thought summer was over.

Summer sure isn’t over in the garden. Last week’s 7-inch rain gave all the plants a new surge of life. The sweet potato patch is impenetrable. Behind it is the gigantic pokeweed ,a native perennial we allow to live by the garden fence. To the right are the prolific pepper plants.

Our early August planting of green beans and turnips is thriving. The white stuff on the green bean leaves is an organic deterrent to the beetles that infested the plants. To the left of the beans are four parsley plants and beyond them are the Roma tomatoes. The Romas have set on lots of fruit, so I’ll have more tomato preservation to do.

What are those yellow things in the background? Flags. When Dennis plants potatoes or sweet potatoes, he sticks a flag beside each one so he will know where to dig when harvest time comes. The flags in the background mark the spots where he will dig potatoes. Without the flags he would have no idea where to dig because the potato vines have completely disappeared.

While other plants are mature and will soon decline, self-seeded cilantro is just getting started. It’s popping up everywhere.

Well, it was a lovely day, all in all. Some excitement, some laughs, some work done. It ended with a lingering sunset over the pasture.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pie Screw-up

Maybe I was distracted by the beauty outdoors. Autumn is upon us and the soybean fields are quickly turning golden and soon will be brown.

Blame the season, blame old age, blame an absence of focus, blame whatever one might, I screwed up the last peach pie this afternoon. I was just ready to put the pie in the oven when I noticed the bowl of sugar mixed with cornstarch still sitting on the counter. I had put the peaches and chopped ginger in the crust, plopped on the top crust and sealed it without adding the sugar and thickener!

What to do? Without a little sugar and thickener the pie would be soupy and very tart. The situation called for radical measures, so I cut the top crust in quarters, right up to the edge of the crust, folded back each quarter, and added the sugar/cornstarch mixture.

The four quarters folded back onto the pie neatly.

The pie wouldn’t win any prizes at the county fair, but I’ll bet it’s going to taste good. The crust edges might be the best ever, who knows?

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Working at Home

I’ve always had a picture in my mind of how it would be to work at home. I don’t mean doing housework, or even pursuing a hobby or a cottage industry. I mean working at a job in an organization, a corporation, maybe, or a magazine. 

I remember reading a column written by a woman who worked at home and stayed in her pajamas and robe for most of the day, sitting at her computer, sipping coffee. I immediately identified with this writer. That would be the way I would do it, lacking the discipline to shower and dress first thing in the morning just to walk into the spare bedroom, power up my Mac, and start working.

I was exactly right, as experience has now shown. Two months ago I took on the task of re-creating a messy Web site with the assistance of an information technology team. Right away we needed to have a meeting. I hadn’t attended a meeting since I retired seventeen years ago, and dreaded it, but the meeting went well and I didn’t suffer.

Then it was time to work at home, doing everything via the Internet – gathering information, organizing it, writing about it, and communicating with IT people and an editor. It was a great way to pass the time while my arm was paralyzed.

Day by day, I noticed, I was getting dressed later and later. Finally, as the deadline neared, I wasn’t getting dressed until late afternoon. I was disgusted by my poor grooming habits, but didn’t change my ways.

Thankfully, the Web site task was finished yesterday. I got dressed this morning. Whew! I don’t want to “work at home” any more.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Drought Relief

Laurie reports that we’ve had over seven inches of rain this past week. She has four rain gauges at her house across the road from us. We have one rain gauge that sits atilt on a cedar fence post. I trust Laurie’s reading far more than ours by the sheer number of her measuring instruments.

Cracks in the garden soil have closed. Grass that had hunkered down for lack of water is growing again. The eggs Dennis gathers are dirty from the hens’ muddy feet. There’s a puddle in the driveway that doesn’t disappear. It’s a drought-breaker.

Spider season is starting here. This one photographed on a piece of barn siding didn’t seem to mind the rain at all.

From now until the first freeze we will be waving our arms as we walk around outdoors, knocking down spider webs that span our pathways. Ones I call Stripey-Legs especially like to build their elaborate lairs across the outside doorways, in windows, across the deck and patio. Stripey-Legs is quick and agile. 

Here’s a different kind of Stripey-Legs seen from its underneath side, head down. If I let my eyes go a little out of focus the abdomen becomes a droll Humpty-Dumpty face. He seems to be leaping off that wall with his arms in the air.

The rain brought great relief and I feel like having a little fun.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Getting Ready

On Sunday, just a couple of days ago, we knew a big cold front was approaching. The weather forecasters said so and my arthritic body said so. Rain would fall. Temperatures would drop into the fifties at night. The end of summer was upon us.

Aches and pains notwithstanding, I had a strong urge to get ready for cold weather. Dennis did, too. He marched out to finish splitting and stacking firewood from the old locust.

The first thing to my mind was the kitchen trash can; it was dirty in places a trash bag does not protect. It has to be cleaned outdoors, so outside it went for a thorough washing. Soon it would be too cold for that task, I thought.

Indoors my thoughts turned to preserving food for winter. I roasted what might be the last ripe pimento peppers from our garden along with a Marconi pepper Laurie gave me. First I saved some of the seeds from the Marconi because I’d like to grow these next summer instead of the Corno di Toro peppers I tried this year. I'll let this core dry completely before storing it in a glass jar in the basement.

The pimentos will be chopped and frozen in little jars I’ve saved. The Marconi, the long one on the left will go into some home made hummus.

Then there were the Colorado peaches, ready to be made into ginger peach jam, another preparation for cold weather.

Where does it come from, this urge to clean the den, lay in a food supply, prepare firewood, and generally get ready for hard, cold times? The human desire to emulate the ant in Aesop’s fable must be instinctive. Like the ant, we know deep down that survival is paramount in winter. Unlike Aesop’s grasshopper, we expect to live to see spring return.

Even though quite a few warm days still lie ahead, I love getting ready.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Saturday, September 14, 2013


He’s a lumberjack and he came to stay,
He slept all night and he chopped all day.

That’s Adrian, our friend from Munich. He came to fish and to inquire about graduate school at KU. When he wasn’t doing those things, he tackled the remains of our old locust tree and a younger hackberry that were cut last June. The logs have been stacked beside our driveway for several months now.

He wielded a mighty axe, a skill he learned working on his parents’ farm in Bavaria.

He split and stacked one big pile…

He started another stack…

But didn’t quite get the job finished.

He’s a lumberjack and he came to stay.
But left some work when he flew away.

Thank you, Adrian.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Essence of Summer

My favorite summer icons are homegrown tomatoes, cicadas and tree frogs singing in the woods, and Colorado peaches. Colorado peach season begins late in the summer, usually in early August, and it’s over by the first week of September.

When Colorado peaches first appear in the market I always mark the event by making peach pie. This year, however, my arm was still paralyzed and I could only dream of pie making. The season came to an end and I thought I had missed my chance.

Then, yesterday, Dennis called to say he had stopped at the grocery store on his way home. He wondered if I needed anything. On a whim I said, “See if there are any Colorado peaches.”

He inquired of a produce department worker, who exclaimed, “I finally got two boxes of Colorado peaches in today!” Dennis bought peaches and I made a pie, fulfilling at last an essential summer ritual.

Here it is, ready for its top crust. The little pale yellow bits are chopped preserved ginger.

It was the best pie I ever made.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Dream Come True

For several years I had house dreams. In those dreams I wandered through houses, discovering the rooms, the views from the windows. Some were welcoming. Some were hostile. Some were passing strange.

Two of my house dreams remain clearly in my mind, and the same character appeared in both of them.

In the first dream I walked into a closet built into the eaves of my 1920’s bungalow on Rhode Island Street, discovered a door I had never noticed before, opened it and walked into a different world. I walked down a rather long hall and came to a door on the right. I opened that door and beheld a spider web-festooned courtroom. Beside a bank of south-facing windows stood an old woman with wild white hair. She turned her gaze on me. Her presence and her gaze so shocked and intimidated me that I turned back into the hallway, closing the courtroom door behind me.

Shaken, I continued down the hallway and came into another south-facing room, flooded with sunlight. I looked out the window into a rural scene, a meadow with willow trees scattered along the banks of a narrow stream. The only object in the room was an old Singer treadle sewing machine. One of the drawers of its cabinet was open and spools of thread were spilling over its edges. I felt utterly at peace.

Some time later the old woman appeared in another house dream. I was walking though an elegant country home from the kitchen, through the dining room and then into a large, marble-floored foyer. In the center sat a round mahogany table with a vase of flowers sitting in its center.

One chair sat beside the table, occupied by the old woman with wild white hair. I recognized her instantly and was again shocked and intimidated by her presence.

She looked directly into my eyes and said, “You don’t have to be afraid of me.”

Only several years later did I realize that the old woman was myself and that I did not need to fear becoming her.

Only today, when I looked in a mirror to comb my hair did I realize that I have, at last, become her. It’s a dream come true.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Gift of Solitude

Yesterday, the 78th anniversary of my birth, was also the three-month anniversary of my shoulder surgery. Whoo-ee! What a time it has been! Despair, anxiety, hope, and at last, recovery. A lot of good people – family and friends – helped me get through the ordeal. I love every one of them, but now I’m peopled out and ready for some solitude.

Are all Virgos introverts? No, I know one who is an extrovert, but the two I know best, myself and my friend Kathy, certainly are. We both love people, but like most introverts, we give our all to social interaction. It drains us and we have to refuel in private.

That’s why, when Dennis invited me to a restaurant birthday celebration, I declined. Instead I wanted a day by myself, a day to reflect, regroup, and rejuvenate. I needed some solitude and Dennis was obliging. It was a wonderful gift.

By late afternoon I was ready for a small celebration. Right on cue, Oz and Marianne came bearing homemade cream puffs, a wildflower bouquet in a hand-made vase, a whimsical card, and hugs and smiles. Dennis came home to join the party. The three of them presented me with a new e-reader.

The celebration was sweet and simple, the perfect ending for a day of solitude, the best gift of all.

Copyright 2013 by Shirley Domer