A little something for the planet

July 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Change the World, charity knitting, country living, family, free knitting patterns, gifts, knitting, love | 61 Comments
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With 1 Bag You Can Make a Difference

I am so fortunate, and feel so deeply grateful, to live on this beautiful little piece of Earth known as a “farm”. Also, to live in an area where we are surrounded by water, lush wooded areas, banks of rivers overflowing with trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and filled with swimming glistening fish.

Recently I was thinking about Planet Earth, and thinking of the personification of the planet … Mother Earth. I am a guest on a lovely blue planet named Earth. Earth provides every charm, vista, element, creature, mineral, food, etc. I could possibly ever have a need for … and she does it for billions and billions of people. Day in, day out, year after year.

She circles old Sol at just the right distance and speed to make life here possible … and life in this universe, as it turns out, is not necessarily easy to come by. Certainly the living conditions on dear blue Earth are exceptional. If we were to compare the phenomenally hospitable nature of Earth’s atmosphere and resources to that of say, oh I don’t know Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter–just a small handful of some of her closest neighbors–it would be like comparing the facilities and amenities of the finest five-star hotel ever conceived to, perhaps a suffocating fire pit squashed down by a couple of tons of cement.

Then I look at the guests of Mother Earth … particularly mankind. Sadly, we do leave an awful lot to be desired if you think of us as guests on this very hospitable planet. I am aghast when I review with any amount of sincerity my own wastefulness, and I tend to try not to be wasteful. But, you know how it gets sometimes. Life is frantic, busy, pressing and you slip up here and there, toss things in the garbage that you should have taken a bit of a look at to see whether or not there is a recycle symbol on it — as one example of poor planetary manners.

What if you witnessed a visitor at your mother or grandmother’s place wastefully throwing bits and pieces of things your mother had made (valuable things that could be reused) in a seemingly neat little pile in one corner. And the longer they stayed, the larger the pile grew until it began to intrude into say, your mother’s water supply. Wouldn’t it seem incredibly rude, wouldn’t you hate to see someone you loved, the beautiful home and resources she tended so carefully, treated with such disrespect and disregard.

With all of this weighing on my mind, I thought about Mother Earth and knew that I could be a better guest, a more responsible visitor in a number of ways. One thought occurred to me in particular: I could knit myself a cotton grocery bag. That one reuseable cotton grocery bag would replace one wasteful plastic grocery bag many, many, many times over. With my one bag, I could make one little difference.

As I worked on my one bag, I started thinking about the possibility of creating a charity knitting project to benefit dear, sweet Mother Earth. A small gesture to be sure, but one that could add up if a good number of fellow knitters also made at least one bag to use for grocery shopping.

Consider the math:

1. We all go shopping for groceries, most of us at least once a week.

2. If I, as one knitter, make myself one knitted cotton grocery bag I could use that one bag to replace one plastic bag provided by the grocery store each week — at a minimum.

3. If I did that once a week for one year, I would not consume 52 plastic bags in that year — minimum.

4. If I continue using that one bag for let’s say five years (I think it could last that long), that one knitted bag would replace a minimum of 260 plastic bags in five years.

5. If I were to get 10 other knitters to do the same thing, we would between us replace and therefore not consume 2,600 plastic bags in five years. All with just one bag a piece.

6. If I were to get 100 other knitters to do it, that would be 26,000 over a five year period – just with one bag a piece.

7. Wow, if somehow this idea would get out to 1000 knitters and they all made just one bag and used it once a week instead of a plastic bag that would be 260,000 bags over a period of five years.

That’s if all any of us did was knit one bag (1Bag) each and use it once a week for five years.

There are way more knitters in the world than 1,000 … on Ravelry alone there are close to 150,000 registered users at the time of this writing.

Can you imagine if each and every Ravelry registered user knit or crocheted one grocery bag and used it once a week for five years to replace one plastic bag each week … that would be 39 million plastic bags not needed, not used, not thrown out. And that is if all we did was knit one cotton grocery bag each and use it once weekly for five of the years of our lives.

I realize it is unrealistic to think that every single Ravelry member would make one bag, but still — it is fun to think of the possibilities.

And no matter how many or how few people I can inspire to do this thing with me, I know that on my own I can make a difference with just 1Bag.

There are quite a few patterns out there for hand knit and crocheted cotton “market” bags. The idea of a cotton knitted shopping bag is not anything unique I have come up with.

I just want to promote the idea that we could, as knitters, give a gift to Mother Earth to whom we owe quite a debt of gratitude for the many abundances she offers which make it possible for us to knit at all.

I have created my own basic pattern, which you are free to use. I am calling my design “1Bag”, appropriately enough. I am also naming it 1Bag, because it is one basic pattern designed specifically to be versatile so that people can modify it to make it as beautiful or complicated or simple or homely as they each may choose. You can follow my pattern just as it is, or if you want to be more creative and/or adventurous follow the structure of my bag but come up with your own stitch pattern variations to make it your own.

(Learn more about the basic construction of the 1Bag hand knit grocery bag by click on the 1Bag tab at the top of the page.)

I designed the 1Bag to replicate the size and construction of a standard plastic grocery bag because I want it to be a symbol of what it is replacing. I planned it to be easy and quick to make, featuring a basic construction that is easily adapted to a variety of pattern stitches.

My 1Bag pattern is free, but you could use any market bag pattern and still participate in the 1Bag “charity” project.

As a part of this, I keep a running tab of how many people have made a 1Bag (or other grocery bag). I can post the updated numbers weekly so people know how many bags are being replaced (potentially). To do this, I have set up a Mother Earth Guest Book. If you knit a market/grocery bag as a part of this effort — for yourself or someone else to use — go to this link and sign the Mother Earth Guestbook.

It could be fun, and we could make a difference … one bag at a time.

Are you in?
Logo for the 1Bag Charity Knitting Project

Using a bit of imagination

April 10, 2008 at 2:57 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, charity knitting, country life, dogs, faith, family, flowers, free knitting patterns, gifts, Holidays, knitting, knitting for babies, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, snow, socks, stockings, travel, yarn | 15 Comments

Firefly starts a baby sweater for a friendA couple of weekends ago my husband and I drove down south of our place, and down a ways south of Buffalo to a little town called Brocton, near the shore of Lake Erie. A couple of days before our drive there had been a nice snow fall in Western New York, and with below freezing temperatures for a few days afterwards the snow was still on the ground all across the lovely countryside. In fact, there had been no wind to speak of so the snow still clung to the branches of trees which created quite a winter wonderland effect.

Isn’t it so strange for me to be writing of a pretty snow fall that was only a couple of weeks back when here it is warm and sunny, spring time weather with birds chirping and singing, flowers blooming in the front yard and buds showing on all of the trees.

That day, the spring time winter wonderland day, the skies were a beautiful soft bright blue with big fluffy white clouds slowly meandering by. The shadows cast on ground, field, and wood by the large clouds combined with the elegant white snow covered brances and boughs of trees created an almost mystical lighting effect.

Silk Stocking by FireflyMy husband commented ruefully that the scene we were seeing should have come back at Christmas time, or between Christmas and New Year’s. The interesting thing to me was that the scene we were feeling conjured the exact same feelings as if it were the holidays. Afterall, we were on a nice long drive as if to see relatives and we were seeing a magical display of nature, Blu was with us and we all felt quite cozy in the car together.

I suggested to my husband that we should both pretend that particular drive and the snowy scenes we enjoyed had indeed happened this past Christmas; that we should both file the memories in that folder in our minds rather than the “Spring 2008” folder.

He agreed, and so that is what we did.

All it took was a bit of imagination and the two of us agreeing. Very cool, I think, that my husband was willing to disagree with the laws of the physical universe with me and reorganize time a bit to suit our mutual fancy.

Blu begins to notice the geeseSomething I never could understand is people who have a problem with children telling “stories”. Equating the imaginative rearrangement of reality to suit their own private fancy with the telling of a harmful lie is something I cannot for the life of me think with. There is a distinct differentiation, and it is completely healthy for children to use their imaginations and to share the things they are imagining openly other children and with adults rather than feeling they are being naughty and being taught to withhold and hide their thoughts.

Please. Have you ever heard of a guy named Mark Twain? What was he all about?

Where would the world be if it were not for the ability of grown up people to also wildly use their imaginations of think up outlandish new thoughts and ideas. Those imaginings develop sometimes into great inventions, innovations, and accomplishments as well as masterful pieces of art, literature, and entertainment.

I shudder to think where I would be if it were not for my imagination … probably baking in the dry heat of Southern California rather than living on the banks of a rushing river on a farm in Western New York.

So, for us that day was the day after Christmas 2007 and we were enjoying a perfectly wonderful winter holiday drive.

Our destination, by the way, was Woolgathering Yarn, a charming yarn shop in Brocton, NY. The owner, Barb Albert, had graciously agreed to take a look at some of my patterns to see about carrying them in her shop. I loved her shop, it was large and well stocked but also cozy and inviting. She had a couple of racks with some recently dyed yarns hanging and they looked quite scrumptious. Her customers were warm and friendly, and I definitely got a great feeling of community there.

I overheard Barb speaking with one customer about a friend in their knitting group who had received some bad medical news recently, and they were coming up with a plan to put together some kind of blanket for her. I have some extra squares for the Gracious Parcels blankets on hand, so I offered to contribute some to their effort to give them a head start. It was good to know that some of the Gracious Parcels squares would go to give healing comfort and support to a woman who these kind and warm hearted ladies obviously cared so much for.

Woolgathering Yarn is now carrying some of my patterns, and I look forward to getting to know Barb and her customers more.

Our next stop was back up toward Buffalo to East Aurora, home of The Woolly Lamb (sorry, they don’t have a website). Owner Sharon Kabel had also agreed to meet with me and take a look at my patterns.

Oh, it was nice to be in The Woolly Lamb, I must say. The store is huge and just filled from counter to ceiling with yarns, yarns, and more yarns. I have not been in such a large yarn store for a quite a long time. I wanted to linger there, squeezing and stroking the luscious fibers for hours … but that would have been awkward. It was a piece of heaven, and I know I will be going back not just to drop off more patterns (she ordered some and wants more) but also to shop for yarns not carried in my LYS.

Beautiful BluIt was a beautiful day, and encouraging for business purposes. My husband and I are doing this business together and turning it into another way for us to enjoy time together doing things we would enjoy doing even if it weren’t for business. We love taking long drives together and exploring new territory, so it will be a great adventure to weave the pattern publishing business into that aspect of our lives.

Speaking of publishing, I completed another Christmas Stocking for the book. I have the next one designed in my mind, and only need to pick up one more color of yarn to bring it off. Meanwhile, however, I have had to briefly pause while I make a baby sweater for the pastor of our church. She has a new baby girl and I want to make a sweater and matching hat for her. I am using bright white 100% cotton yarn, and am working the “Ears of Corn” stitch pattern which seems very appropriate for a baby born in this farming community where corn is one of the major crops.

Meanwhile, Blu is beginning to recognize the existence of geese. This is new for him in spite of the fact that he is a bird dog. He won’t ever be used for hunting birds, but it would be nice to see what should be his inherited instincts coming into play. This past Saturday we had him out in the yard and tried to get him to take notice of the large gathering of geese out in the wheat field and under the willow tree.

The first time he caught sight of them he stood very still, alert with ears pricked and a strong stance. A couple of minutes later he turned around and ran to the back door to come back inside. We chuckled mildly to each other at that sight.

Two Bosc Pears oil painting underwayLater in the morning he got another shot at it. That time he tried as hard as he could to act casual and pretend there were not a million geese in his yard. Finally, however, he did stand still again and look toward them in an alert stance. That second time he didn’t run away. He didn’t run toward them or make a peep, but he didn’t run away. We will take that as progress.

I have three oil paintings going now, in addition to everything else on the burners. These will be for the restaurant. What you see in the photograph is the beginnings of a painting of two lovely Bosc pears … still at a very crude stage of development (the painting, not the pears).

I don’t usually like to show incomplete paintings, it is almost like standing out in the street in underpants. However, I decided to let you into my studio for a little glimpse today so you could see another place where my imagination leads me.

With that, I wish you and yours a fine spring day.

~firefly

It’s cool being a bug

August 28, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Posted in art, blogging, charity knitting, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, summer, volunteerism | 13 Comments

28-aug-07_b.jpgI have been a bug now for a little over one year, and I have to say … it is cool being a bug. Bugs used to creep me out. Okay, bugs still creep me out to a large degree. However, when I became a bug I was fortunate enough to become one that has never creeped me out in the least and one which, in fact, only conjurs up magic in my heart and imagination. Therefore, I do not creep myself out and I have made some very good friends, friends who rather seem to enjoy addressing me by my bug name every bit as much as I enjoy being so called … firefly.

Little did I know when I started my blog last year in early August that it would become anything what it has become by now. I am grateful beyond expression for the warmth of the many comments and emails left by you folks out there. It has been and continues to be an inspirational journey and one that is very cool to take together. You have been with me as I have discovered and become some sort of a part of the landscape that is my new home in rural, Western New York. As I have explored and photographed this endearing place, I have fallen in love with it more and more and you have been a part of that process. I don’t want to over-acknowledge it, because I in no way intend to end this experience. Instead, I would like to do all I can to increase its value and meaning in my life as well as yours.

The evening light shows become more and more spectacular as the year grows older. Saturday evening we were snuggled up on the sofa watching something on television when a very late evening amber-rose light cut shone through the room with gently shifting dappled shadow lights across the television and on over to my oil painting studio across the room. It would be impossible to witness such light without a sense of lively magic permeating the environment. Just as the twinkling light of little fireflys in mid-summer bestow a sense of magic to brighten the soul, so does this rich late-summer, late-evening light brighten and soothe. It reminds us that magic does indeed exist … tangible. Reach out, touch it, taste it … for it is there.

28-aug-07_d.jpgA few minutes later we looked outside, catching sight of the magic light cutting through the trees here and there, high and low. The world was ablaze with magic light. I whispered, “Let’s go outside!” and away we went in a hurry before the magic could fade away. The sky was gray and pink in muted contrast to the bits and pieces of tree foilage, green by day, lit up in tones of deep amber rose. It was breathtaking and made me feel library-quiet because I so did not want to disturb it.

Later that night, as we were beginning to go to sleep, my husband said, “Is that a firefly?” I looked toward our north-facing window (the one that overlooks our barn) and saw one lone firefly blinking on and off right at our window. It was strange, a bit ethereal, to see that single firefly hanging around our bedroom window–this late in the summer. We usually only see them out amongst the trees and shrubs, by the barn and the willow, earlier in the summer. I stayed awake as long as I could watching the one firefly but I fell asleep before its light went out or away. What future magic did the firefly portend? What was the meaning of the little creatures’ visit at our bedroom window? I wonder …

Sunday seemed a perfect day to me. We enjoyed fellowship with our friends at church in the morning, and went teasel testing on the way home. (Teasels, if you recall, are the main ingredient of my Thistleonian Critters. We have been tracking their development this year to try to determine the ideal time to harvest them.) Back at home I had some experimentation to conduct on watercolor paper I wanted to adhere to wood panels for the barn paintings I am longing to get started on. We also watched the Turkish Grand Prix Formula One race which my husband had TIVO’d that morning. After the race, the watercolor paper tests, and a few other home-bound tasks, we set out to harvest a bucketful of teasels and shoot some photographs of apple orchards being prepped for picking, followed by a trip to a local farm market for a couple of scoops of our favorite ice cream.

28-aug-07_horsec.jpgWhile we were out on the photography run, my husband spotted a group of dappled horses enjoying their lazy Sunday afternoon. Three were laying down having a rest, one of those was rolling around like a happy dog …

Side Bar: I have to remember to tell you sometime about my observations regarding the behavior of New York cows versus California cows.

Be sure to check out my One Painting a Day blog to see the latest paintings I have posted there from my “Beginning with Barnum” art show at The Winery at Marjim Manor. Plus, I have found an artist-friendly auction site where I will be posting any of my auctions from now on. Of note, I will be donating 10% of my auction proceeds from the Beginning with Barnum paintings to our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. You can check out a gallery of current auctions here.

Back to the Blog … It was a wonderful summer scene, that group of happy horses lounging, rolling, napping, slowly chomping on hay. We pulled over so I could shoot some photos from the car, and as I shot my photos I was viciously attacked by–I don’t know what. At first all I felt was a bit of a stinging sensation on my forearm, but being the dedicated photographer that I am I bravely continued going for the shot I wanted … one, two, three, and four shots I clicked before pausing to see what was causing the increasingly strong feeling of pain on my arm. At first all I saw was a dark crimson circle of blood standing out in stark contrast to the snowy white of my ultra-soft long sleeved tissue tee. Blood! A stain the size of a nickle, a nickle I tell you! Eee-gaads! What was going on? Quickly my eyes caught sight of some dark, evil creature perched in the middle of the bloody spot. With no time to think, I swept at the monstrous beast with my hand while calling out to my husband that we must flee before it returned. For the first time in my life, I had been bloodied in the line of photographic duty.

28-aug-07_horseb.jpgI barely escaped with my life and I’m not entirely sure that even the mighty power of my economy size Stain-Stik is going to remove that blood stain from my pretty little tee. But, I do this dangerous photography work for you, dear reader. For you. No, no … now don’t try to dissuade me from continuing onward. If bloodied I must be in order to chronicle and bring to you the beauty of this world, then bloodied I shall be and without so much as a wince or a tear, no not I.

Don’t the horses look sweet though. I love the way one of the younger horses lifted its head, roused from a little nap to see what was going on over by the road.

28-aug-07_e.jpgSunday evening, as a mostly perfect day came to a close, I went out to our willow tree and captured some of the magic light of evening dancing through the cascading canopy above. Lovely, just lovely.

This morning, mid-blog, the doorbell rang and when Blu and I answered it, we found a group of four young men who had taken a dunk in the river when their canoe capsized. Their cell phone was drenched in water and so wasn’t working, and they needed to borrow our phone. I handed them a cordless phone while Blu barked to make sure they knew just whose home they were at. I invited them to stay on the porch to wait for their ride, so for about thirty minutes or so we had strangers out on the porch and in the yard enjoying a bit of rest just as the Wheelmen did in years gone by. I enjoyed hearing their voices as they stretched out on the hill at the corner of our yard and imagined what it must have been like when the Wheelmen would stop by on their way to Lake Ontario, stretching out in the shade of the trees and gulping down cold water from the well out back. We have a good life here at our place, and I am happy for any opportunity to share it just as it has been shared so generously with me.

Yes, I am a bug and life continues to unfold and open up, displaying more and more grace and beauty, filling my heart with a sense of gratitude overflowing and dancing along like the water in the river across the road.

It’s cool, being a bug.

Wishing you a lovely day,
~firefly

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