Monday, December 31, 2012

Last day of 2012


Out with the old and in with the new!  
It has been an adventurous year for the New Pioneer.  Lots of projects completed, some new ones started and some I did over. 

Although my new year actually starts at the Winter Solstice (return of the sun for me) I can look to the next chronological year with hope and inspiration.  When you live alone you are your own cheering section, so you've got to keep it positive.  This last snow storm really challenged my moral.

I'm adding some work skills for next year to increase my income, as Virtual Assistant.  You can visit that blog here .  I'm offering services in all kinds of areas - both "virtually" through cyber space, and locally.  I've got years of experience helping artists with their careers and locally I have helped several people organize their small businesses.  So if you need help, send me an email!

I'm cutting back the online sales venues for my art this next year.  I'm really enjoying selling locally and working with real people.  I plan to create a new line of cards too.
I'm being called back to paints as I see abstract images swirling in my head... so stay tuned as that develops.

Thank you blog followers for sticking with me this year.  It's not always exciting here in the woods, so I hope I have conveyed some of the simple pleasures I get with my plants and wildlife.

Happy New Year!! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In the Dark


Western Washington has been hit with a series of rain and snow storms this year.  Last week my area on the Hood Canal was hit with a surprise snow storm that wasn't forecast.  
Two feet of snow at my place in less that 24 hours.  It was heavy snow and took down branches and trees and power lines.  The ground was already saturated from the earlier rains so some trees just fell over at the roots.  Chunks of earth broke off of bluffs and hillsides.

I live at a higher elevation on more level ground, so no worries of slides around me.  The tall pines here have also been more exposed to heavier snow and the ground has good drainage.

Trees and power lines came down across our only access road in and out of the development and we were basically trapped for two days.  However the highway was closed as well from Hoodsport to Mount Walker.
The world as we knew it had just stopped.  As I sat alone in my house I did what I always do in a power outage;  put water on the wood stove, set out the camp cook stove and find a good book.


By the evening of the first day I knew there must be major trouble along the main road.  So I prepared some more.  I put the fridge food in a crate on the front porch mud-room where the temperature was a perfect 34 with an outside temp of 32.
I put the freezer foods in an ice chest with the ice I keep made up for just such an occasion.  

I got my exercise by shoveling the steps, walkways and driveway.  Since there was no warning that this storm was coming I hadn't been able to get my car down the 50 foot driveway, so all I could do was keep it dug out of the snow so it might be a little easier later.  (It wasn't though).


Day two was about finding new things to eat that were nutritional.  Egg omelets somehow just taste better in a cast iron skillet on the camp stove.  The aroma of beans simmering on the wood stove is also delightful, and comforting in a storm.

Now I never claimed to be a survivalist on this blog, it's not in my tags.  I'm not homesteading in Alaska and I'm not off the grid.
I am more of a minimalist, with a modest lifestyle and income.  I don't mind living alone as long as I have the freedom to leave once in a while.  I do have neighbors so I'm not completely isolated, although there are fewer of them in winter since this is more of a summer recreational area.
Surprisingly, there are even some year round residents who do not have back up heating, but there are others who are fully equipped with big generators.
So a storm with this much snow and a prolonged power outage are not common place here. 


(By the way, the photos I've included here were mostly shot early on.  It just got depressing to shoot after a while.)

By day 3 I was a little surprised that no one had come to the house, although I did check on my next door neighbors while I was shoveling the driveway.  They had gotten out in their 4x4 truck and discovered the road block on our entrance.

About 1pm a friend did arrive but he lives ten miles south.  I got the full report of how much damage had been done along highway 101, which was now open after two days.  He said the power company trucks were working on the lines on our entrance road and it was being plowed.
I was so grateful to see a familiar face!  Thank goodness for caring people.
When the power and phones were working again, I had two other messages from friends in the next town.

I have been through some major storms here and some pretty deep snow, but two and a half days is the longest I've gone without power in a snow storm.
I'm grateful to our development to have installed generators on our two community wells in recent years, or we would have been without water as well.

So my food was saved, but in another day I'd have been cooking up the thawing items.
I count my blessings on one hand though, and have decided to make a list of improvements I would make when this happens again, which could be as soon as March with the prediction of solar storms knocking out entire grids.  Then where would I put the fridge food??
I could get a generator, but I would have to lift it in and out of my car, find a place to store it and keep gas on hand to run it.  Not to mention running the extension cords outside.


 I think I will start with a more practical and long term solution approach.  A pantry of dried and canned goods.  This may be a time to learn to can, or just add to my shopping list each week.  There are a lot of websites where you can buy things in bulk, or emergency essentials.

Communication is high on my list also.  I will be upgrading my cell phone in hopes of having service at my house - which I don't currently get.
I've contacted our community's office and volunteered to head up a phone tree with a back up plan for checking on people when the phones are out.

This was a challenging time for me.  I don't usually blog about my limited income or resources, but it became pretty apparent to me that I need to make some changes in my lifestyle if I want to continue living remotely.
I usually try to keep it more upbeat here, but I just felt the need to reach out to others who may be in similar situations or even temporary challenges.  
Us fringe-dwellers like our solitude and independence, but it often comes with a price.

As we near the end of 2012 and look to a new year, I vow to improve my circumstances as well as reaching out to my community so no one feels alone or stranded in rough weather.
I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bad Weather Travel Tip

One of the things I have found to be necessary where I live is an over-night bag in the car.  This idea came to me, of course, after I was unable to return home due to a massive snow-turn-to-rain event back in 2007.  I wasn't able to return home for four days due to many mud slides and flooding.  Of course I knew kind friends who let me stay at their place, but imagine not even having your toothbrush with you.

So the over-night bag has become a staple emergency item that gets checked and repacked every Fall, and stays in the car till June.

Today I found a new use for it.  I was cleaning an outdoor hot tub for a client in the wettest downpour I have seen in a long time out here.  Needless to say I was mostly soaked.  I remembered that I had that bag in my car and was able to change into dry clothes in order to finish my work there.

Things to put in this bag would be pertinent to you and your travel habits.  A change of clothes, toiletries, pj's, etc.  I also put a twenty dollar bill in there.
It's really about peace of mind for me.  I imagine that four day stay away from home and think about what I might like to have with me.  

In a worse case scenario, a bottle of water, even some non perishable food might be a good idea.  A blanket and a flash light.  I have a space blanket that fits in the glove box.  What if you had to sleep in your car?  

Imagine no cell service, no people, bad weather, maybe it's dark.  That's no time to panic, just be prepared.

Have any great travel tips to share?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dining Room Makeover


In early Fall I took on a small project in the dining room.  For years I had been looking looking at half a cabinet, and an unfinished counter - left from the previous owner.  I would sit and contemplate how I would remedy this while eating my meals.  Since it is just me and a limited budget, the built in buffet would have to stay a dream.  But with a little elbow grease and some paint I could at least make it look better.


This is the "before" shot.  Not bad actually, but I did a good job of hiding the imperfections.


I actually did little damage to the wall getting the cabinet out!  These old mobiles are put together with some kind of space-age like glue and staples, so sometimes removal isn't even possible. 


I next removed the counter.  It is about eight feet long and weighs a ton, so you can imagine my small self pulling this baby out - and not dropping it on my toes!





I patched the holes and did two coats of primer.  I also painted the little cabinet there to the right.  It's two shelving units from WalMart - dreadful fake wood look.  Later I paint it  and put on vintage handles.


This is the finished paint, sorry, kind of a dark photo.  I went with a butter cream to lighten things up.



And, back to the finished wall.  Notice the stunning red cabinet with vintage handles.  Perfect added storage.

You're probably wondering why the split color on that back wall (to the right).  Well, the darker color is actually on drywall that was installed before I moved here.  Nice texture and I had already painted it, so I left it.  That color stretches around the room to the right.

I just happened to have that long shelf from another room and it fits perfect on the wall above the log shelf. 

All I need to do now is add the ceiling trim - and paint that hideous orange floor!


  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Uncharted Territory



A cold front has moved down from Alaska bringing us some early frost.  I set out to take some photos one morning, although it was only 30 degrees.  A down coat and wool gloves were in order.

As is usually the case with camera in hand, I forget all time and temperature, and an hour had passed before I realized I could no longer feel my fingers!


I couldn't decide which I liked better, color, or black and white, of the frosty rhododendrons.



I spent a long while crawling around the base of old stumps shooting these little guys.  I believe they are called Cladonia carneola, a lichen, only reaching about an inch in height! 




The frost made for some delightful light play, whether I used color or black and white.

Rain returns tomorrow, so it was fun while it lasted.  Perhaps some snow pictures will be in order next month!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rediscovering My Environment




For the past several weeks I have been on a mission to freshen up the appearance around the outside of my home.
I decided to take down the fence (which wasn't really quality to begin with) to open up the area.


Wow!  What a difference that made!
Then I moved on to trimming up the brush along the borders of my property.


That lead to a grand adventure on the small hillside behind my house.  This area is very over grown and wild.  Some big trees were removed in the late 90's when the mobile was brought in, and the area had only been trimmed up once, in about 2005.
Needless to say, many weedy pines grew out of those old tree stumps, not to mention the ever expanding huckleberry bushes.  It was a jungle and all the trails were over grown.

In two weeks, during my days off, I methodically removed the pines and forged new trails.  I discovered lovely old stumps with moss, uncovered crowded wild rhododendrons, long needle pines and trimmed up those six foot tall huckleberries.






What an improvement!  I feel like I just got a whole new yard to play with.
My future goals are to clean up the trails a little more and place some benches along the way.

This slope, on my very small piece of property, is the only place you can really see the sky - to the Northeast.  It would be great for star gazing I think.


I'm not sure what caused my latest surge of energy, but it always seems to happen at this time of year.  I'm thinking all that late summer sunshine contributed its dose of serotonin!!

Meanwhile, the local deer have returned and are thoroughly enjoying the huckleberry harvest.


A handsome coyote stopped by last week, checking out the bird feeding area (for a meal I imagine).
I got this video of him (or her) gobbling up the bread crumbs I had just put out for the gray jays.



The rains have finally arrived here in the Olympics, ending our 77 day drought, and after about a week we're back to looking like a rain forest again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

After Party

The Featured Artist Show went great!  I had a lot of fun and got to see some old friends and meet new ones.
I set my table up like this.


I had a lot of product for a small space, but wanted to represent a sampling of all the things I do.
So the card rack worked well for new images, and the table display of cards was great for older images.
The big prints were on the floor as pictured and in the bin.
The New Pioneer upcycled infinity scarves were in the basket and displayed on the wicker head.  The jewelry I brought with me fit in the middle.  




Janene, the store owner, took a few more shots of me with the products.

There was a lot of people through the store that day!  I arrived at 10am and stayed till closing at 5pm.  There must have been 100 people come through.  Lots of gals on weekend getaways looking for fun finds.

I sold most of the jewelry inventory that I brought and some more of the current inventory already in the store.  Note to self - make more jewelry!

A few close friends stopped in to show their support and even one of my favorite former clients came in.
It's really the people that make these gigs enjoyable I think.

So the economy is improving, or at least people are a little more inspired to spend money again.

I'm really grateful for this local outlet for my art, it has brought me back to life again I think.  I was afraid people had gotten too practical and weren't buying art anymore.

So there you have it, the after party was me going to bed early and sleeping like a log.....  :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Art Show!


Featured Artist for September at the Pier 101 Gift Boutique in Hoodsport, WA.

I am pictured here with my display corner in the store.  Tomorrow is the big day for the featured artist show where I will have a separate table set up with additional inventory.

The announcements have been sent out as well as my monthly newsletter from my website at www.jenigray.com .

The new Earthy Girl jewelry line is taking off quite well!  People are enjoying the selection of natural materials and stones - especially the very affordable bracelets made with memory wire that form right to your wrist.  I can hardly keep up with the demand.

If you're in my area, please stop in and say hello.  I will be there all day Saturday, Sept. 22nd, talking about my art and demonstrating how to wear some of the jewelry pieces.

My goal as always, is to raise awareness for sustainable products, buying local and keeping things environmentally friendly.  This should include clothing and accessories!  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Creative Income



 In an effort to return to reality so to speak - where I interact with live people out in the world - and take my cottage industry creations to brick and mortar locations, I am delighted to report the efforts are paying off.

In early summer I had a conversation with a local shop owner who was interested in offering local artists work.  It was kismet of course because I had been looking for a location.

We excitedly exchanged ideas and within a week I was bringing her inventory for a new line of of jewelry and a selection of my images on cards and prints.

July was a terrific month for creativity and sales for me.  I was definitely in the right place at the right time.

As far as the creative process went, I had to create a completely new and different look than I had ever done before.  My client asked for natural looking jewelry that was very different from what she already carried.
From my adequate supply of gemstones and natural cording, I created the first pieces.  Pictured below are two of the necklaces.



I decided to keep it super simple, two necklace designs and one bracelet design, using gemstones, accent beads, and natural cord.
The bracelets are made with memory wire.




 I also decided on a cute name for the line; Earthy Girl, and made my own labels.

The shopkeeper and I worked together on the pricing as I had been out of the loop for quite a while on this subject.

When the July sales reflected the interest in these pieces I took the hour and a half drive to the huge bead warehouse, Shipwreck Beads.  I focused only on what I was currently creating, to keep the expense realistic.



Since our connection, the shopkeeper has recruited a few more local artists and has created a lovely new area of the store for us.  (More photos of that coming soon!).

On Saturday, September 22nd I will be the Featured Artist there.  I will be in the shop all day talking about my art and showcasing my newest work.

This is only one of many terrific avenues for the new pioneer.  Supplemental income has become essential to many who are wanting to live more freely from the hectic 9 to 5 lifestyles.
Anything you know how to do can be turned into income;  house cleaning, organizing, cooking, to selling extra produce from your garden.  You name it, you can turn it into income.

I'll post again to announce the show and share some images of the store displays.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Muse - ings

Mother Nature perfectly times Summer after Spring.  It's a time to slow down a little, take a breather after the burst of growth and life in Spring. 
Yet the movement is constant, always moving forward, onward.


There is a great message in this for us humans.  A reminder to keep moving through life, physically, mentally, spiritually.  On a path, off the path, or back to the path, as long as we keep moving.  The human spirit craves growth, enlightenment.

This summer I have had the great honor and blessing to be called upon by inspiration.  I'm back to producing art and jewelry for a local boutique.  I am also studying a new healing modality.  I've expanded my possibilities for even more life to flow to me.

I believe these gifts have come to me because I did the work.  I meditated, got still, opened my mind and stayed grateful - even when I was at my lowest.


So if a muse is a source of inspiration, and musing is to ponder, then I have created the perfect vacuum for growth.

I was recently visited by a dear friend I consider to be a muse.  Every time we visit she reminds me what a free spirit I am - or could be.  That possibilities are endless.

If you are on a transformational path I highly recommend the movie Eat, Pray, Love.  She reminds us to believe in love again.  That God dwells within you, as you.  That balance is not too much God, not too much selfish.  And, that balance is not letting anyone love you less than you love yourself.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary


My backyard wildlife sanctuary is registered with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for Washington State.
To give you a little background, my location is considered the Pacific Northwest, but more specifically, I'm in the foothills of the Olympic Mountain range on the Olympic Peninsula - that western most chunk of land you see when you're looking at a map of us.  I'm located on the eastern slope.

My property borders the Department of Natural Resources land, which is all forested.  This is perfect for creating and enhancing the natural landscape for wildlife.  The truth is, it was already perfect before the humans arrived, so I feel grateful and humbled that the wildlife are willing to share their land with me.

You can create your backyard wildlife sanctuary almost anywhere however.  Animals and birds are quite adaptable.  Even if you only have room for a bird feeder and bird bath, you will have many grateful visitors!

My little piece of paradise only takes up a few hundred square feet.  It's located on a clear, leveled area near heavy brush and tall trees.  Lucky for me it also includes a trail that is frequented by deer, coyote, raccoon and the occasional bear, bobcat, or cougar.

Originally I had my bird feeding system on the inside of the fence - but then I had my first bear visit who pushed the fence over to get to the feeders.  After that I created the new area outside the fence.

The big picture

The bigger picture

I consulted with my pal Christie at WildBirds Unlimited in Gardiner, WA. about a feeding system that would survive the elements and wildlife here.  She suggested this pole system which is free standing, with a squirrel and raccoon baffle, and attachments can be added on.


Next I added an old spool table to the area for the "platform feeders" like pigeons, with cracked corn and black oil sunflower seed.



Turns out the squirrels and chipmunks are most fond of it!


I placed a rock under one end of it to allow a back door for the chipmunks who often pop in to the hole from the top for a quick escape.  (There is a Merlin Falcon in the area.)

I also recently had to implement some fencing pieces which are not easily seen in the photos.  This is protection from a recent cat who has been skulking around.  The fencing allows the birds and small animals a chance to escape and slows down the cat. 
Most people around here don't allow their cats to roam free as there are too many larger predators.  So my guess is he is an unfortunate stray.

The feeders hold black oil sunflower seed and thistle, and accommodate goldfinches, nuthatches, purple finches, grosbeaks, bluejays and more.


I also scatter cracked corn and black oil sunflower seed on the ground for towhees, doves, sparrows and the occasional raven.

In the winter I put out a suet feeder for the woodpeckers and gray jays.




Even the pigeons like it!

Another very important aspect of your backyard wildlife sanctuary is water.  I have three ground water locations and one bird bath in the yard.  You'd be surprised at the favoritism of these.
The midsize birds like the ground birdbath (sorry no photo, renovating that area), while the smaller birds prefer the tiny concrete water hole or the saucer.



The larger birds prefer the ceramic bird bath in the yard - like a Jacuzzi?


I have added a fun piece of driftwood I picked up at the local beach just to see what they would do with it.  Turns out the squirrels hide seeds in the holes, the chipmunks love playing on it, and many birds perch there waiting for a drink at the water hole.


You can retire your old birdhouses to your sanctuary as well.  This is a great cache for seeds or a hiding place.


If you're lucky enough to live near the woods, don't disturb the nearby brush as you'll be welcoming wrens and warblers.  I have yet to get an un-blurred photo of a wren as they are very small and quite fast, but the warblers often hop right past my window!

MacGulivray's warbler

Orange Crowned warbler

Once you have food and water available, you can register your location.  Here in Washington you can register with the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife here .  For a small fee you can also order a sign and a certificate like these:

indoor certificate

outdoor sign

You can also register as a Certified Wildlife Habitat here , with the National Wildlife Federation.  (I just applied for mine as of this writing!)  This is national., so anyone can apply.

I have only just scratched the surface of what your Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary can mean to you and your family.  You can also attract bugs and butterflies, frogs and snakes, who all work together to create a perfect ecosystem.
I'd love to hear your stories of how you have invited wildlife into your life.