Monday, September 23, 2013

How a Thank You Note Made My Day

Since the new Texas Cottage Food Law took effect September first, I have been baking bread to sell at our local Farmer's Market. It has been fun, because my bread always sells out and people are very happy to have it! Last week I took some to a small pioneer day event, and sold out there too.

The law requires that we put a label on our foods, and include our address on it. Today in my mailbox was the kindest Thank You note from a customer:

"Dear Friend,
My daughter and I visited Pioneer Day...on Saturday. She bought me a loaf of wheat bread. Oh my, it is wonderful. Had some on Sunday morning with ham and an egg. [here she drew a smiley face]  Made me happy all day. Love it. Thank you for sharing your time and talent with others.
Sincerely, [her name] "

This sweet lady and I do not know each other, so I was doubly enchanted by her note. Little kindnesses such as this add joy to life if we focus on "just for today".

This has given me much "food for thought" about this latest hobby, and the potential for good in the simplest things like real home-made food.

 I am going to miss these kinds of interaction when the Farmer's Market closes for the season in mid-October.

And I will look especially forward to having veggies to bring to it in the Spring!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Author Reviews My Review

There are some good books out there in the self publishing world today. One way to find some of the better ones is to read the authors' own blogs. That is how I came across a particularly memorable story about a thief and a castle and a wizard.....   Author Christopher Taylor (Word Around The Net, linked from my sidebar), approves of my review of his fun chivalrous fantasy novel "Old Habits":

 "I expect to get indifferent, happy, and even insulting reviews, but something I never expected was a review that so completely understood what I was trying to accomplish with my story and seems to have crawled inside my head when I was writing it, which is deeply humbling and gratifying all at once. I wanted to share it with everyone so they can learn more about the book."       

See? Can this guy write or what? Click over to his blog to read the review - and buy the book!

Maybe if he sells enough of this one he will feel inspired to write a sequel! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Come and See! The Project I Have Been Working On Since January!

In January, my future with my employer went away. In February, I started working on designing silver jewelry, and now am ready to launch.  I've had an Etsy shop for a while to test a few things, but my main marketing  method will be in person at shows and events. The show I will be exhibiting at is a 3-day event that draws about 25,000 people. It should be a good starting point. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. :-)

Here's a somewhat edited version of the press release I sent out to media yesterday:

Local Artist's Handmade Silver Jewelry Celebrates Texas Wildlowers and Our Christian Heritage             

Announcing Pecan Corner, featuring fine Artisan and Christian jewelry by Tina Howard. Original designs in Fine Silver, handmade by the artist, one at a time, in Texas, USA.    

Artisan Tina Howard introduces a new line of Fine Silver jewelry celebrating the beauty of Texas and our Christian heritage, all handmade in Texas, USA.  Howard is exhibiting in Booth #56 at the Brownwood Reunion this weekend, Sept. 20-22.

Created from her original designs and cast in .999 Fine Silver, pieces in the collection range from a large statement "Matthew 6:28 Cross" with Bluebonnets and Sunflowers, and a figural Oilfield Pump Jack, to a series of small charms with individual roadside flowers: Bluebonnet, Wild Geranium, Primrose, Thistle, and Shepherd's Purse. New designs are being added as Howard creates them.

The artist makes each jewel herself, one at a time. She begins by sculpting a prototype by hand, from which a single basic mold is created as the starting point for each successive piece. The nuances of individually molding, firing, and finishing each piece with a significant amount of handwork assures that no piece will ever be identical to any other.

Howard points out that "My pieces look handmade because they are handmade", and notes that you might find her fingerprint permanently cast into a piece once in a while. Even earrings, because each half of the pair is made separately, will vary ever so slightly from its mate. Howard explains that these artistic details are marks of human craftsmanship which machines cannot produce, and anticipates that you, too, will find beauty in the variety.

Howard is proud to offer jewelry that is completely made by hand right here in Texas. In addition, she purchases all of her raw materials from domestic companies and looks for "Made in USA" on her supplies whenever available.

 Howard's designs can be purchased on in her shop named "pecancorner".

Tina Howard is a native of Oklahoma, who has lived in Texas her entire adult life, raising her family in the Big Spring/Midland area, and spending a few years in Port Lavaca before she and her husband Paul moved to their current town  in 2007, where they live in a tiny cottage shaded by pecan trees.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Plowing For a Winter Garden, and Getting Ready Now for Spring Planting

 We are going to raise a garden again. The deer and grasshoppers ate everything I planted this year, but we are going to fence out the deer and the Farmer's Almanac says it is going to be a cold, wet winter - so goodbye grasshoppers (please Lord?)!

Daddy came this past weekend and plowed the garden spot for us. I was impressed with his tractor skill - he can line that tractor up on a dime. He met right up with the stakes I had put out to define the space.  He said "after it rains, whenever that is, I'll come back and plow it again and that will kill a lot of the grass and weeds". And look, we had lovely rain the same weekend - just like washing the car except a GOOD rain-bringer. So I said "Thank you for the rain" to both my heavenly and earthly fathers! You can see in the pictures the difference in the color of the dirt while he was plowing, and after the rain!

 We have decided to use plastic mesh as fencing. Our primary goal is to keep the deer out and this product has really good reviews for such an inexpensive solution. It provides a visible barrier to animals and directs them to find another way to go. Eventually, the deer should forget there is food here. We can use steel u-channel posts that will stay permanently in the ground, and simply replace the plastic every few years.

This space was kept in production for many years by the folks who owned it during the 70s, 80s and 90s. The soil, we hear, is fertile. It has a good loamy feel to it. The big rocks in it are nodules of flint, which the Comanche and other tribes used to make their arrowheads out of. I need to do some research, because there is a great lot of this that I think would surely have been removed over time, unless new nodules keep working themselves to the surface. You can see several of them in the photo below

In Texas, we can grow things all year round. I will plant turnips, beets, chard, onions, garlic, and collards for winter growing. The freezes won't hurt them and the extra moisture will be a boon. Swiss Chard, Collards, Onions and Garlic will keep growing year round - they behave as either perennials or biennials.  Turnips are wonderful - use them like potatoes in stews or serve mashed and creamed. Turnip seed is cheap, and these root crops are easy to grow. They are good practice for amateurs.

Then, come February, I can start planting for early spring: peas, greens & lettuce, onion plants.  We must use "short day" onions here because whether onions make bulbs depends on the number of daylight hours they are exposed to. That is why those record sized veggies come from Alaska, the 24 hour days keep plants growing without stopping to "sleep" at night. In the South, our days are shorter. The longer growing season gives us a longer harvest and perhaps more production but does not give us larger individual produce.

Miss Fuzzy Slippers, of the blog Fuzzy Logic (linked from my sidebar), has a great article about the importance of learning to garden before we need to feed ourselves. For most of us, this is indeed a learned skill, not an innate talent, and we need to begin practicing now to accumulate the wisdom necessary for good harvests in our particular space.  Be sure to read the comments too, there are lots of practical tips in them.

Are you gardening this year? If you don't have a space in your yard, see if your town has a Community Garden. The nearest large town to us has very reasonable fees ($35 for the year) that include water and compost. It is a great deal, especially when you consider that using a community garden plot, like the British "allotments", also gives you direct contact with experienced gardeners who can help and advise you as you learn.  Contact them now just in case they have a waiting list.

Gardening is good for the body and the soul. There is just nothing quite like knowing you are working with God and His creation to make your own food, just like human beings have done since the very beginning.

Happy harvesting and good eating await!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Letterpress Printing Projects: A Tiny Almanac

 AAPA Member Dave Tribby tackles a fine project each year: a bound volume that he titles "Ink Cahoots", made up of diverse submissions by any club member who wants to take part. All he asks is that it be properly weighted - he will even handle the trimming.

He's been doing this since 1973 - this is the 40th year for it!  I've been planning to send something for the 6 years that I have been a member, but never did until this year.

As my submission for Ink Cahoots, I set an Almanac for 2014, with a calendar, and a list of meteor showers and other celestial events. It is something I have wanted to try for a while. After all, Almanacs were a staple for printers all through history. When Gutenberg invented moveable type, he printed an almanac first, in 1457. The Holy Bible was Gutenberg's first lasting publication, but he had to make a living whilst working on setting and printing the Bible. Thus he set an example for printers everywhere from then on - one quick, non-political way to make a profit was to publish an almanac!

 It was surprising how challenging it was to set. I have tiny calendar blocks for the months, so that section was easy enough. But I used 12 point type for the remainder, and the typeface I chose didn't have enough numbers to handle all those dates of full moons and such. This meant I had to borrow from similar sized "neighbors" (ie other typefaces).  I should have just used my Kennerly 10 point (Kennerly is also a Goudy face), because there is lots of it. But I didn't think that far ahead.  Lesson learned.

So now I have a goofy batch of numerals in my otherwise lovely and pristine Goudy "Californian" from M&H Typefoundry. Someday I am sure I will get around to moving the Kennerly threes and Caslon ones back into their proper places. 

I am happy with the way the finished page turned out. I'm glad not to have to set an entire almanac by hand but this kind of dense work is good for my typesetting skills. Most of the time I just set cards or labels or mottos - minimal ephemera with larger type. Using these small point sizes is like learning touch typing - it forces me to remember the lay of the case instead of noticing each letter.

This is especially helpful when I go to "distribute" the type after the work is done. To "distribute" is to take the forme apart and put the type all away, each letter in its proper little cubby again. That is one of those jobs, like cleaning the kitchen, that is best done immediately.

Because type in a forme, just like dirty dishes, will outwait you every time.



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