November 30, 2014

Trail Cam No. 4

It's too bad that my coveted game trail position proved fruitless. My zeal for mysterious animal captures was a bit too much, I guess, because I probably should have left it in the woods for longer than one week! Oh well, better luck next time.

So the trail cam sat around the house for a bit before finding a home in the yard, ripe to capture all the comings and goings of a closing of a season. Good timing too, because right now I'm looking out at a foot of fresh powder - screaming, no more yard work for months!

The fox has been back lately, but it is undecided if he is the culprit behind the tussle Tina got into a few weeks ago. She's okay though, and I have my money on an owl attack.

Do you like our goose head puppet? It's part of a much larger costume, a sort of mascot for our group of friends and our beloved band, The Goosepimp Orchestra. We are the keepers of the sacred costume these days.

And of course there is the ever present Miss Phyllis, whose supple coat keeps her frolicking deep into the colder weather. She's the softest cat ever, you know. Such a cutie.

Check out the whole Trail Cam Series here!

November 29, 2014

Still Thankful

For crazy adventures; my friends, family, and friends who are like my family; AGP and our budding business; gray kitties at my feet; snow that melts into spring; coyotes howling across the prairie; interstates and back roads; Goosepimp Orchestra's The Booty is a Temple; hot coffee; cottage cheese; The X-Files; and all of my favorite things x 2.

November 23, 2014

Manchester Hot Glass

For Christmas last year, I got my boyfriend, AGP, a gift certificate for a class at a local glass blowing studio, Manchester Hot Glass. We finally used it the other day (just in time for this Christmas! Hah!) and received excellent tutelage under the shops owner, Andrew Weill, during a two hour class where we were taught the very basics of glass blowing.

The glass studio is located right in the heart of Manchester, Vermont, and at it's core is a artful glass gallery and repair shop. But once you step into the fancifully decorated workshop at the back of the storefront, you are transported into another world of hellish temperatures and iron torture devices - for torturing the glass, of course. Heat bellows from his two furnaces, one full of molten, blinding white glass ready to torment, and the other used to set and melt pieces in progress.

Blowing glass is not a user friendly process. First, everything is hot. Hotter than hot. Molten globs of glass are pulled out of the first oven, stuck safely on a long pole, mixed with pretty colored glass flecks, and then melted again into a workable ball. The pole must be spun at all times, lest the glowing ball of glass drip like honey onto the floor, or worse, develop an undesirable, wonky form.

The first few items we made were paperweights - the perfect way for a beginner to get the hang of manipulating fiery glass and maneuvering the pole in the appropriate, sphere forming way. We formed the ball shape with a pad of wet newspaper; ash and smoke was flying everywhere, and hands were slapped before they moved dangerously close to the action.

And promptly, before the glass could melt in an unattractive way, the products were whisked away while the colors were still igneous to the 900 degree oven where they would cook some more and then slowly cool over the next twenty four hours. The purple and yellow paperweight I wanted to make looked more like neon red magma to me!

We moved on from paperweights to actual glassblowing, which is a lot like blowing bubbles into flaming hot molasses. Blow, shape, blow, shape, until the cute little bubble is switched around and teased open with the torturous tweezers. And violà! - whiskey tumbler.

We made a few more gorgeous items that day, including a whimsical vase (AGP) and a speckled carafe (me), but all of our projects were tucked away in the oven before we could really get a good idea of how they came out.

Everything about glass making is brisk and agile. There is no time for stopping or fumbling, which is why Andrew and his assistant, Molly, were there every step of the way, guiding our hands and poles so we could create attractive, professional quality pieces. We left ripe with anticipation to come back to see the fruits of our labor.

The end products were so beautiful! Definitely worth the wait to see how they came out. It's hard to believe we made these ourselves - thanks to Andrew and Molly!

And you can bet that whiskey tastes better out of blown glass tumblers that you made yourself. 

November 21, 2014

Foto Friday No. 2

I know I'm not the only one in the country dealing with snow right now, but damn - doesn't November seem a bit to early to be chipping ice off your car every morning?? Oh well, here's to a beautifully snowy weekend! Happy Friday!

November 20, 2014

5: Iceland Inspiration

It's hard for me to think about Iceland without getting my heart rate up. I was fortunate enough to spend a month there when I was in school and I still think about that trip as kind of the BEST adventure of all time.

You all know how studying geology is kind of like majoring in adventure, right? Well, us lucky bastards got to circumnavigate the whole freaking country by bus! Stopping to camp, hike glaciers, and check out those natural wonders I can't get enough of - for school credit!

So, here is some Iceland Inspiration for your Thursday: 5 Awesome Places in Iceland!

One - Mývatn

Mývatn, which means "Midge Lake", is located in northern Iceland and is the home to craters caused by steam explosions, migratory birds who LOVE to gobble up the never ending swarms of hatching flies, and Hverfell, the 2,500 year old tephra cone volcano. But don't let the swarming bugs sway you, Mývatn is an excellent jumping off point for the Dimmborgir, "dark catsles", area - a sweeping lava field of craggy formations.

Two - Landmannalaugar

If you are young and have been adventuring in Iceland, you have probably been to Landmannalaugar. There is an extremely popular hiking trail through there, in the Icelandic highlands, through rhyolite mountains and obviously complete with hot springs to bath in.

Three - Hólar

Okay, you probably will never get to Hólar, and I probably will never get there again, but it absolutely holds a torch in my heart. We stayed at the agricultural college there and as far as I could tell, there wasn't much else to do in this town with a population of 100. We did drink from the healing pool at the 300 year old church though. 

Four - Reykjavik

We actually saw Björk when we were in Reykjavik. We also hung out with sketchy strangers, stayed up all night and bought snacks from the 1011. Even as wild American tourists, the city was very welcoming and accessible for us, easy to walk around and had excellent lighting - you know, because of that solar night thing they have happening there! Oh, and don't forget to hike Esja.

Five - Vatnajökull

I could have said "Vatnajökull Glacier" so you would know what I am talking about, but that would be redundant. In Icelandic, "Vatna" means lake and "Jökull" means glacier. So here we have the Glacier of Lakes! Which is the biggest glacier in Iceland and host to all sorts of amazing sights. We hiked, Flaajökull, a glacial tongue, took a tour through the Jökulsárlón, or "glacier river lagoon", and camped at Skaftafell National Park, home to Skaftafoss, the famous columnar jointed waterfall. (Pro tip: "Foss" means waterfall!)

There is a reason we always sing:

"Iceland is a nice-land
Don't wanna go once
I wanna go twice-land!"

I also have some more fun pictures on my Flickr if you want to check it out: N-Iceland

And feel free to drop a line if you need come travel recommendations in Iceland!

November 18, 2014

Esty Faves No. 1

I am going to try something new today and share some of my favorite recent Etsy finds. I have been obsessed with browsing Etsy for Christmas presents, me presents, and for general inspiration lately. For whatever reason, I actually have a lot of Etsy followers. (That's a thing, right?) Now, if only I could get some followers on this blog, I would be a happy, happy lady!

Click the pics to get whisked back to the original Etsy listing. Tell them Zy sent you!

This bag is beautiful and affordable. I would rock this all summer long. (Hello Violeta)

Cat + Cactus = Yes, please! Where can I get one of these in real life? (Oh wait, Phyllis is rather prickly, so I guess that counts). I love all the linocuts by (minouette).

As a geologist, I super adore this tee shirt. People would be able to easily tell I am an awesome nerd with great taste. (Nonfictiontees)

Which would be better? A Canadian map with all the places I've been pinned, or with all the places I want to go? I know - both! (Cabin)
Vintage paintings remastered with mythical creatures would be the perfect addition to my collection of creature paintings. I would love to do this to a landscape we have downstairs, but (Artedits) does it way better than I could. This little monster's name is Norman, by the way. 

I could definitely picture myself drinking coffee out of this handmade copper mug. From Mesopotamia, with love. (AnatolianGift)

November 16, 2014

Go: WWOOF-ing!

WWOOF (/ˈwʊf/): World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is part of a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices. This is an account of my experience as a WWOOF-er at the Muddy Pumpkin Farm in South Dakota. It was certified awesome.

From where we were standing, we could see the whole, wide Missouri. Hal, the patriarch of the prairie family, was born right over yonder, as he would say, pointing out into the river, to a spot that has since been flooded to create Lake Francis Case. We first met Hal down at the bunkhouse, a building that would forever be in stages of construction - you know, the kind of building that would get a superfluous roof deck before it ever got a floor. We had been investigating the property because no one was answering the door at the farmhouse at the end of the dirt driveway.

Knock harder, he suggested. The door is probably unlocked.

Note: This was the first time I ever saw Tina. A momentous occasion indeed.

Back at the farmhouse, we knocked with renewed vigor until the door finally opened. Enter Jo, the dubious intern, who became our guide to the farm upon our arrival and eventually, one of my most treasured friends. We also met Mark, Hal's son and the brain behind the puzzle of farming in an arid climate, who immediately ignored us and left us to Jo's devices until he deemed us worthy of his esteemed friendship. (Believe me, it was worth the wait). We were also introduced to a handful of cats who would continue to come out of the woodwork for days, including the farm's namesake, Miss Mud Pumpkin herself.

(The pretty lady above is Mud Pumpkin. Pictured below is Milk Wort and Tippy, Tina's mother and brother, respectively.)

Picture this: nestled within 25 acres of prairie scrub, cedar gulches, and cattle land, lay 5 cultivated acres of unique farmland. A literal oasis in a statewide desert otherwise interrupted by cattle, wheat, corn, and soybeans, bordered by the Badlands to the West and the monocultural flatlands to the east. Here, the Missouri River and the White River cordoned off the peninsula of the homestead.

Prominently, the two story farmhouse was featured as central meetinghouse and agricultural home base. Beyond that, the decrepit and mysterious "depot", a vestigial landmark from the days when the prairie was sliced through with rails, currently at work as a colossal junk drawer and pigeon coop, but still eerily charming. A ways down the winding dirt road is the permanently under construction bunkhouse, resting on a grassy cul-de-sac alongside a broken down travel van and an out of commission tow-behind-trailer that we were sent to occupy for the time being. And peppered throughout all of this: vehicles hastily painted camo, tractor pieces and parts, and a three story tipi constructed with cottonwood trunks. A true apocalyptic hamlet, and in other words, paradise.

WWOOF-ing turned out to be like a dream for me. We would wake early, as farmers are wont to do, and meet at the farmhouse to drink coffee and eat a light breakfast before hitting the fields. During the bulk of our stay, there were about six of us twenty-somethings splitting the summer duties; we either weeded, harvested, trellised, or planted before we took turns preparing lunch, followed by a bit more work before the summer heat became unbearable for us. Then we might take a siesta or head down to the shale-y banks of the Missouri to cool off.

Either way, we were rife with anticipation of our nightly leisure. At least I was, for I quickly became hopelessly enamored of our hosts and ragtag team of transient workers. They were brilliant, funny, engaging, and boy, could they cook. We spent many evenings concocting smorgasbords, dipping into the day's bounties whenever inspired, challenging each other to create the tastiest meals we could imagine. My true chef was born within those short weeks and I had never before appreciated food like I did when I raised and harvested it myself.

And they could party, too. Even though we were exhausted from the daily, semi-back breaking labor, we still tried to make each day magical - going on adventures, sharing feasts, and turning everything into a celebration whenever possible, trying to incorporate beer and felt Settlers of Catan in to every possible nook and cranny.

When one of the adolescent chickens died, Clubby - the chick with the deformed foot, we threw a pizza party complete with elaborate funeral in which the deceased was laid to rest beneath a towering cottonwood tree. We wore costumes, made margaritas, and knocked golf balls deeps into the prairie. It was just that kind of whimsical.

AGP and I had so much fun we even stayed for an extra week so we could celebrate the Fourth of July with our new friends on the banks of the Missouri. So American.

But eventually, and much to my chagrin, we had to move on from the camaraderie of agriculture and continue with our trip. As we drove away, I worried that I might be saying goodbye to the Muddy Pumpkin forever, never to return. Never to see my new friends again. This vexed me.

(Spoiler alert, I do come back and I do see my new friends again! Hooray!)

AGP and I move on to Wyoming and delve back into our transient, adventurous lifestyle.

Catch up on the whole adventure!: The 'Go' Series