Patio Pizza Pots

Grow bags are a something I learned about in quarantine. Their name describes them precisely. These are bags meant for growing! Since grow bags are made of fabric, aeration and drainage are optimal versus the common plastic or terra cotta flower pots. They can be sourced online or even made on a sewing machine. While just about any supply was out of stock in stores during lock-down, I was able to purchase this pack of bags from the big name we dare not mention. Although I took the easy route to obtaining these bags, they can be sewn with many types of fabric. A couple of patrons sewed dozens of grow bags in our makerspace, Creation Station to plant sapling apple trees in the making of a small orchard.

How to Sew a Grow Bag

If you have the will to make your own bags, follow these instructions from Northern Homestead. They recommend using weed control landscape fabric to make the bags instead of using it under your mulch in the garden beds. I concur that landscape fabric has little weed control ability and am certainly intrigued to make bags with the roll I purchased, but never used.

The bags I purchased are durable, more so than the landscape fabric will create, but I’m willing to test that theory for curious minds. Perhaps making grow bags will be a lesson we cover in an upcoming #SeWednesday. Whatd’ya think?

Grow Bags First Test with Ginger

Ginger was a crop I learned to grow this season. I also learned she’s a temperamental girl in this Northeast climate. Our spring literally sprung temperatures to both extremes. It was deceptive weather patterns and an anxious gardener that helped hinder the health of the green sprouts you see above, but the grow bags had their first test and won my approval! For a second try, I decided to put to test a program idea that was in development with Bluebird Trail Farm before our lives were flipped for the foreseeable future. Let me walk you through making a Pizza Patio Pot.

Tomato Plant First Aid with Grow Bags

The main ingredient of pizza, after dough, is tomato sauce. A neighbor gifted me a flat of tomato plants–that’s 32 plants! My empty garden beds filled quickly, leaving about 12 plants that still needed love. I took the strongest of the leftovers along with the grow bags and attempted a little tomato plant first aid. Extreme day sun and another frost bit these plants hard, but I wanted to see how much resuscitation I could actually provide, while possibly inspiring some of our readers.

Potted Plants are Happy Again

Using the recipe for Square Foot Gardening, I filled up three bags with the materials I had left. Each bag holds seven gallons of dirt, so I felt it worth the risk to place 2 tomato plants in each bag. I had three beets and three basil plants to add to these pots and decided they could be the most delicious Pizza Patio Pots for any gardener. *I would add beets to my pizza, yes I would. For those opposed to beets on pizza, I recommend adding herbs like oregano and parsley that you like in tomato sauce.

Protection from Wood Chips

After the bags were filled with the growing medium, I wanted to add a layer of wood chips as mulch. As I added the layer of chips to finish each bag, I cupped my hand to cover the tiny basil plant and protect the leaves from damage. I often get lost in the YouTube rabbit hole of curiosities and found these Back to Eden garden tours with Paul Gautschi who recognizes the power of wood chips for bountiful gardens. This was just another layer of experimentation to my experiment. Would the wood chip layer help maintain moisture to the plants, while feeding the plants with nutrients as the chips break down throughout the season? Watch a video with Paul if you have a few hours to be inspired by his admiration for nature’s free fertilizer.

Pizza Pots in Process

Once each grow bag had their layer of wood chips, it was time to water these puppies and let them process their magic over the growing season. We saw the driest June and July in over a decade of living in the Fingers Lakes, so the little green watering can was my best friend for several weeks. I kept the bags on the grass, so water can flow right through, but they can be place on a patio or porch, as long as they receive enough sunlight. Remember water will flow through, so if you might want to protect the surface upon which you place these pots. I found that baking sheets work very well for keeping the water from sitting on a wooden porch step. Any liquid that is collected gets absorbed over time.

The Three Amigas

After four weeks, the towering tomato plants above are those I resuscitated. Either the wood chips or an attentive gardener helped them regain health. Each plant is starting to provide cherry tomatoes. The beet leaves are growing large and luscious. I look forward to a fresh salad with them soon. I implemented branches as a support system so the stem stay upright. You could opt for tomato cages instead.

Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread

Join me as we continue the #SeWednesday series, Work with Whatch Got. The talented Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread and Hector Handmade will guide us on how to sew an Upcycled Waistband or Separate Belt using materials we already have in our closets. Follow this link to watch the premiere this Wednesday, July 22 a 6pm EST.

When you’re finished with the tutorial, set your scopes for the skies. July 22 is our last chance to easily catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE for another 6,800 years! Be sure to reach a high vista for the best view. I am waiting for my chance to show the snapshot skills I built in the Photo Fun with Dan Gallagher class we hosted over the weekend. My Nikon is charged and ready, I hope you are as well.

FREE, LIVE and IN PERSON Yoga Series

We have a terrific announcement for all aspiring yogis. The Yoga with Elizabeth Moses video series we have hosted online since lock-down is now in person at area parks for the next six Saturdays! Please mark your calendars to travel our coverage area and practice sun salutations in together in nature! July 25 and August 1 are our first park visit. Set your GPS for Caton Park, 1180 Riff Rd, Corning, NY 14830.

Stay creative and keep in touch until we meet again.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll check you on the flip side!

e’Scape Plan

My escape plan each evening tends to lead to my garden. Warm weather leaves me craving fresh air and birdsong. A mindful gardener is always at the ready to harvest and process their bounty in preparation of the pending seasons of cold.

It is by virtue of living in the Finger Lakes (#FLX) region that I discovered the delicacy we will discuss today. This type of tinkering is far from the electronic tech stuff we explore in our maker space, Creation Station, but I dare you not to geek out on the genetic code of garlic. It’s a super food and I told myself I’d marry it one day. (Ha!) I believe I’ve achieved that marital status, as the crop is the easiest to maintain and provides two harvests per planting. Garlic is the double duty power plant you need in your homestead (and when I say homestead, that’s anything you call your dwelling—my first “homestead” gardens were in pots and tin cans on a curbside in Philadelphia). Space is not a major concern for this allium. Give a clove a six inch dirt covering to rest inside in the fall and it will show its gratitude as the first green shoot to pop out of the ground in spring.

Garlic in May, before the Scapes Soar

While I’m busy prepping and planting my remaining garden beds in spring, Garlic is growing and showing off. By late June, the flower stem begins to develop and curl. That is the scape. Once the scape curls, I harvest it by cutting it off of the plant a few inches above the leaves, which allows for more nutrients to go directly to the bulb.

More than 2.5 Pounds of Garlic Scapes to Process

Once washed and dried, I weighed my bounty to assess just how much I could make of each recipe I found in this video. I really love the Garlic Scape Powder recommendation, but Pesto and Pickled Scapes are a favorite in our home, so garlic powder will wait until I harvest the rest of the plant in a few weeks. I decided to put up a batch of pickled scapes to eat throughout the year and process a couple cups of Garlic Scape Pesto to enjoy now.

Fresh Garlic Scape Pesto Process

I used the New York Times recipe for this batch of garlic pesto, but there are many options to choose. You can omit the cheese to keep this recipe vegan. The flavor is still wonderful. What I also love about this recipe is using inexpensive sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts. I have replaced pine nuts for walnuts in pesto recipes previously , but am aware that practice is not safe for nut-free homes.

Check out that fresh basil in the lower middle frame above. THAT basil is from a hydroponic plant I got at the grocery store in April. Remember when we made Chunky Knit Planters? Recall that plant in the final product?? Yep, that’s the one! Harvesting from my kitchen table is incredible.

Prepping the Pickles

In order to can the garlic scapes for pickling, I cut off the tips of the harvested end and the flower. Some people prefer to cut their scapes to straight lines for ease of packing, but I prefer to preserve the spiral. We think the curl is the most unique feature of this delicacy, so a little more time in preparation makes for a beautiful presentation.

Steamy Stockpot of Sterilized Jars

Before I start preparing the garlic scapes to be canned, I sterilized the jars in a stockpot with at least an inch of water covering them. I learned from a rustic homesteader that a rack is not required under the jars to protect the glass, so I go rogue. You might choose to follow more strict processing rules at the Ball Jar website. Once the water comes to a boil, I know the jars are sterilized and safe for use. I take them from the water bath to dry and fill each one like it is a work of art.

Filling the Jars

Using a chopstick that I sterilized in the hot water bath, I gently push down each garlicky curl. I work to keep the flower end of each curl up, so that it acts as a handle for the person who grabs it. I ensure no curls are tangled and continue to fill the jar, leaving a half inch of head space. Any straight portions of scape get stuffed in the center to completely pack the jar.

Scapes and Scraps

The bounty of scapes I harvested equaled 6 pints for pickling after making the pesto. The bowl of scraps will go to the compost bin for fertilizing the new crop this fall. Once the jars were filled, I made the brine. This Pickled Garlic Scapes recipe from Home in the Finger Lakes was very helpful and the first recipe I tried several years ago. If you don’t have pickling spice mix in your cupboard, use approximately 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of dill per pint. If you are a pickling guru, you may have a favorite brine recipe to share in the comments. I put the spices into each jar for equal proportions, then pour the brine over everything, allowing a 1/2 inch of headspace per jar.

Chopsticks help keep down the Scapes

As the brine fills the jar, the scapes tend to also rise, so I use the chopstick as a stopper. I hold down the scapes for a few seconds and watch them blanch into a vibrant bright green. At that moment, they seem to back down from the rise, which allows me to wipe the jar rim and place the lids on top for sealing.

Sealing it Up

We learned in our Homesteading Series at Bluebird Trail Farm in 2019 that the best way to seal your jars is to hold down the lid with one finger, while applying the screw ring with the other hand and twist to close. Then grab a towel to hold the hot jar and tighten the lid with the other hand.

Spicy Pickles

Two jars were reserved as spicy pickles. I added 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper to each jar, then realized I needed a way to mark these separate from the rest of the batch. Using chunks of fresh garlic, I used this as my marking system, which worked better than labeling the jars with marker that could contaminate the water bath.

Get in the Bath!

Each jar was then gently placed into the bubbling water bath and processed for 10 minutes. This gave me time to clean up the kitchen and prepare a pasta meal with pesto and fresh veggies. After the jars boil for 10 minutes, they can be removed from the pot of water and allowed to rest for 24 hours, undisturbed. The best part of the whole process is hearing that distinct “pop” of a lid sealing properly outside of the water bath. It’s like perfect science.

Fresh and Fermenting

I usually take the pot off of the hot burner and allow everything to cool overnight. Once I’m ready to put them up, each jar will be labeled with the ingredients, so we know what’s inside. These jars make perfect gifts during the holidays and are a great addition to any barbecue or pot luck meal. A recent study found that consumption of fermented foods are linked to low Covid-19 mortality. Pickles could be the perfect food, after all.

Zoom on Saturday

Pivoting from the e’Scape plan, let’s talk about future things. There are still a few hours to register for Photo Fun with Dan Gallagher. This class will guide you through using an interchangeable lens camera or SLR. The Southeast Steuben County Library hosted a similar class last summer and all attendees proved better portfolios and family photos with credit to Dan’s excellent teaching.

Work with Whatcha Got

Check out this video, in case you missed the first of a three part series for #SeWednesday. Jesse Bearsdlee guides viewers on how to upcycle or repurpose old clothes into a new ensemble. We learned how to make a bodice in part one. Follow this link to join us for part two on July 22 at 6pm EST. Learn how to Work with Whatcha Got, Upcycled Dress Waistband or Separate Belt.” This video series is made possible in part by the QuickARTS grant program administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes and funded by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc.

That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll catch you on the flip side!

Sacred Herb Spiral

As I prepared for the end of days with the Great Pause of 2020, the best way to maintain my sanity was to garden. I know a lot of Americans began to step away from their technology as the weather warmed up and stepped their shovels into freshly tilled earth. This was the way I survived Quarantine and want to share the trials and progress.

Scrap metal and Varmints

Pinterest is usually my platform for inspiration. I love to discover trending crafts and Do-It-Yourself projects to tackle, then share my experiences with our readers. The Sacred Herb Spiral is one of those projects that immediately spoke to me. Luckily I had a spot on my homestead to revitalize. Some junk metal that housed mice and other farm style varmints (Bleh!) for several years finally moved to the curbside. Time for improvement.

Unearthed Soil

My husband became a major resource of muscles and determination to help see this project through to completion. I admit I’m a bit lazy once the heat beats down and the weed roots travel deeper than my arm… Leaving this patch of land unused and unloved for years proved how much love we needed to return in order to see the balance in reciprocation.

Setting up the Layout

Druids used this type of gardening method. Herbalists and Square Foot Gardeners appreciate this technique for keeping beneficial perennials with medicinal properties close at hand for herbal concoctions. The design can be built vertically to accommodate small spaces. The space we chose is on a slope and allows for a meditative walk in, around, up, and out.

Preparing the Path

The herbs I added in this garden plot were all started from seed from a local vendor that I HIGHLY recommend, Fruition Seeds. They are a seed supplier, very local to the Finger Lakes (FLX) region, so the seeds and crops they produce are proven to grow in Upstate soils. The folks at Fruition are also the BEST supporters of all gardening questions. I barely wait a few hours before receiving a very thoughtful response to a question that I initially felt awkward to ask for fear of being too silly. Remember, that old adage about unasked questions…ask away! Feel free to do so here, that’s what this project is all about.

Meditative Spiral

My main purpose for this garden plot was to provide a meditative space for walking and clearing thoughts. There are optional plans to consider the four directions or coordinate plants to earth’s elements. Instead of getting too deep into plant placement, I went with my gut on where each plant belonged. If I change my mind, I can rearrange whenever I choose. Allowing your artistic license to have authority is the best part of any creative project.

Structure Nearly Complete

After researching various ways to accomplish a Sacred Herb Spiral, I knew I wanted to keep the surface flat and allow a guest to enjoy this walk as much as I will enjoy harvesting it. We created a spiral with a rock path for walking. The areas of dirt on each side of the rocks allow for planting. All of the rocks you see were dug from cultivating this plot of ground. The amazingly rocky Upstate soil never ceases to provide the sediment!

Planting Time!

After the spiral structure and rock path was complete, the fun part of planting arrived. Now here is where the wonky part begins. My seedling tray was mislabeled.(!!!) Plants I assumed were one thing began to grow into a totally different specimen! I know this is all user error, or multiple errors combined (insert giggles and eyerolls)… so much for gut feeling on where plants should go. My goal was to place tulsi basil in the center, as the star of the plot. I am actually not quite certain what is growing in the center. I assume it’s marshmallow, but only time and the flowers will tell me. There are more question marks on this map than I want to admit, but confess I will. That’s part of this project. I’m sharing my successes and failures so you can learn from my mistakes.

A bit of Confusion

Despite a few seeding errors, I love this space and enjoyed the process. I learned that the stings I got on my skin were from a highly revered Stinging Nettle, which is more of a weed in my garden. I have much to learn about this bountiful healing herb.

Ironically, this spiral garden was constructed the day of George Floyd’s murder. The intent for this space to heal the soul promptly proved it’s purpose. With grace, we dedicate this space in memory of all beings whose lives are cut short.

Pollinator’s Promise

Now that I’ve shared this precious process with you, I hope you are inspired to take on a similar challenge. Gardening is the simplest way to stay active and connected with Mother Earth and oneself. After a rough day, the last thing I want to do is weed, but once my hands are in the dirt, I see the progress and feel the rewards. I always recognize the stress deplete and disappear while I am in this happy space. I wish the same for you.

The e’Scape Plan

I invite you to return soon for more creative endeavors. Do you know what those green spirals are? They are the flowering stems of garlic called scapes. Check back next week for a recap of my adventure on canning and storing this first-of-the-season farm harvest.

Image by Dan Gallagher

Before I close, I want to highlight an upcoming online class scheduled for Saturday, July 18 from 11-1pm EST. Register today by clicking this link for Photography Fun with Dan Gallagher. Do you want to take the best photographs with your camera, but need real-world some guidance?  Invest in your dream and start learning creative photography from an experienced photographer and teacher.  Dan Gallagher will show you how to use the settings of your camera to achieve shots you’ve only seen in magazines.  Interchangeable lens camera preferred, any camera can be used to learn new skills. This class has limited seats and will be hosted on Zoom. If you are eager for more library program options, check out the calendar packed with options for all ages.

Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread

I like to call the middle day of the week #SeWednesday. We’ll be sewing together on July 15 at 6pm with Jesse Beardslee of Themis and Thread. Learn how to “Work with Whatcha Got.” This will be the first of a three part sewing tutorial series. Jesse will guide you in creating an Upcycled Dress Bodice or Separate Top. Tune in on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel for the 6pm premiere on July 15.

There is sew much fun on the horizon. I look forward to learning with you. That’s a wrap for this stationary moment. I’ll catch you on the flip side!

It’s Summertime…

“…and the living is easy.” Despite the lyrics of sweet Ella’s voice, living is UNeasy at this point in history. In the hiatus of this blog, our nation has exploded with a civil rights movement during a pandemic and fear escalates amid the rising temperatures. In attempt to flip the panic, let’s focus on today. June 19 is Juneteenth, “a day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.” Our amazing neighbors at Elmira Equal Opportunity Program are hosting their 17th annual celebration with social distancing in mind.

Knitting “Nancy” and Me at Juneteenth, 2016

Traditionally, I attend this wonderful celebration and help teach attendees how to weave. The giant knitting “Nancy” that I commissioned to have built creates large tubing that can hold yoga balls. The process is a historic method of weaving, but the result is an interactive sculpture that guests help make. Once the tubing is long enough, the yoga balls offer a place to relax, bounce, and take in the scenery.

A Weaving Student in Process

I’ll have to miss the event this year, because I will be helping out with reference desk needs at The Annex (find out how the Southeast Steuben County Library is “Unbound, Online and in the Community” on the website for more details). But, YOU can go out and support the community effort. Follow this link to learn out how to honor this day in history with our local community. As we all learn how to talk about race and find a voice to discuss our nation’s legacy and how to improve upon it, I urge everyone to register for this Anti-Racism Training that is FREE and open to the general public through June 30. Although I claim to be able to step up and speak out against racial discrimination, I have found this training extremely beneficial to expand my awareness.

Ernie Davis Park

When you are at the Juneteenth Celebration, take a peek at the playground. That equipment is in need of some upgrades! If you have construction skills or are simply willing to volunteer your time to help in a community build at Ernie Davis Park, the location of Juneteenth, I encourage you to participate. The City of Elmira is working with Play by Design to install customized playground equipment. Come volunteer the week of July 7-12. Three daily shifts available: 8:00AM-12:00PM; 12:30PM-4:30PM; 5:00PM-8:30PM. This is a wonderful way to take action and cultivate the grounds for impressionable youth. You know, it’s all about being the part of change you want to see.

Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice. Welcome the season’s change as we honor the memory of Retha Cazel. Retha passed on June 3, 2020. She was a cherished friend, mentor, and instructor to so many yoga practitioners in our community. To recognize the impact Retha made over the years, the Library wishes to honor her mission to share the joy of yoga with everyone. Start the Solstice with us in reverence of a compassionate yogini. Sunday is International Yoga Day.

This session will be led by Elizabeth Moses, owner of Crystal Heart Yoga. It will be a live streamed event on the library’s Facebook page. If you are unable to attend, the video will be archived here so you can watch it anytime.

Summer, summer, summertime

As time rolls by and change is ever-constant, remember the wise words of the Fresh Prince. We all need to take the “time to sit back and unwind.” Stick around this summer to see the exciting things I have planned. Let’s get creative this season as we practice yoga, garden, sew, learn and explore together.

Be well my Friends.

xo, Erica

Chunky Knit Planters

Chunky Knit Planters

New Home for Fresh Basil

I found this Chunky Knit Planters tutorial a few years ago and stewed on the idea until now. There are a few items you will need to produce this project. Polymer clay is the star of the show. For the sample you see above, Sculpey is the medium of success. Tin cans or oven-safe vessels are the base of this project. If you do not have Sculpey in your toolbox, follow this simple recipe to make a Natural Polymer Clay Substitute. Making this recipe was the first step in my journey to creating this tutorial.

Mix Ingredients into a Pot and Mix

Using 2 cups each of baking soda and cornstarch and adding 1.25 cups of cold water to a saucepan over low to medium heat, depending upon your stove, mix the ingredients until they combine. The numbered photos give you a visual of the changes in consistency.

Add Oil and Food Coloring

Once the homemade ingredients were cool enough to handle, I mixed in 1-2 tablespoons of oil. To keep this project an easy kitchen sourced creation, I used canola oil, but you can use vegetable glycerine to make this smooth. If you wish to make a colored clay, form a pancake with the clay, poke holes in sections and drop food color into the holes. Knead the clay until the color mixes to a solid shade. Less kneading reveals a tie-dye effect.

Lavender Blob

The process to make this chunky knit look is to make coils with the clay, then twist those coils and align them alongside each other on the outside surface of your vessel, attaching the clay at the top and bottom and pressing to adhere all elements together. A faux knitted stitch is revealed by laying each twisted coil side by side, giving your vessel a little blanket hug.

Make the Coils, Twist the Coils, Cover the Can

Take a peak at my video tutorial of this project over on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel. You will see the full process of each clay I used and the results. This project can take a full day if you let it, so be prepared to have fun. Save the clean up for another time!

Preview of the Samples

I loved working with both of these clays for several different reasons. Making my own clay from natural ingredients was rewarding and very inexpensive. The batch of dough made twice the amount of planters than did the polymer clay. The polymer clay was easier and quicker to work with and made the most durable final product. Sadly, the homemade version saw some sad ending.

Not All Endings are Happy

For some reason, or several, the natural polymer clay substitute did not hold up well after baking. The surface of the colored version was uneven, dried out in spots, but was still very soft after an extra 15 minutes of cooking time. Perhaps the coils were too thick for the cooking suggestion of a 250-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. This was my glass test vessel you will see in the video. The hope was to have the glass vessel pop out and leave only a clay planter in which to put fairy lights or a candle. Sadly, my experiment failed and the whole thing fell apart. The lip on the white version broke off in transport to my studio. I believe I could have scored both the base and coil to make a better seal, but I would have to do another test to know for sure.

Try it Out!

Perhaps this tutorial recap and complimenting video provide you some inspiration. Don’t be shy! If you make this project, share your examples in the comments. Now is the time to refresh your houseplants and give your decor a little sprucing. Be well and Keep Crafting. ❤

Earth Day 2020

be kind

In a world where you can be anything, be kind. That is the prevailing message that resides with me during this healing time for Earth’s homo sapiens. I admit I miss my regular pizza haunt for my daily slice. I love seeing the speed of service, the art of the sale. As I took a stroll down Market Street to check on the art mural at Volo, the creative message above struck me as golden.

Refreshed Mural

The progress of this community art mural is impressive. It was refreshed on Sunday, April 19. Scroll through the images here to see artists in process. Notice the N-95 mask on our central hero. See Covid-19 get Blown Away in the Glory Hole (ironically the name of the last establishment at this address). Can you spy Little Joe? Credit goes out to the artists who started this mural in motion- @kevinarts, @krazinski_b_art, and my friend @aswannamedemily. If you get the itch, go down to fill in the spaces! Gratitude to the Dude behind the idea–and to the Gaffer District for letting him do this for our community.

Mask Maker

Since the CDC recommended wearing face masks in public, and New York State’s face covering mandate, my studio is a Mask Making Factory. I make batches as time allows, but more creative endeavors and outdoor adventures have been calling. Thank goodness we got a reprieve from snow!

Celebrating Planet eARTh

With the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this week, my family took advantage of warm and dry weather to get lost in the woods of the Finger Lakes Forest. We celebrated Mother Earth with a geocaching adventure and found some negative ions along the way. The loot we found in the treasure box was quite an appropriate reminder of how extra important our medical services are at this moment in history.

Get Lost and Geocache

A walk in the woods was the right medicine to refresh my spirit to learn a new skill. I decided take the virtual-library-program-video challenge. Some of our programmers are offering ways to entertain us online with story times and science experiments, but I admit the camera gives me the jitters! Cheers to all the divas and dudes rocking our video instruction and entertainment worlds right now. The challenge is REAL. Facing a still camera, while pretending to speak to a room full of patrons has been a beast I’ve delayed slaying…until NOW.

Earth Day Seed Bombs Premiere on YouTube

Join me on Earth Day, April 22 at 4pm EST on our YouTube channel to learn how to make Seed Bombs and Infused Paper. If you have never made or received seed infused paper, this is a fun tutorial. Most of us have the supplies at home and there is little to no cost to participate. I recycled shredded junk mail and some tissue paper to create lovely paper and handmade gifts. I’m getting excited by the possibilities of these videos. Check in again on Monday, April 27 at 4pm for my Chunky Knit Planter tutorial. If you have any requests, place your video suggestions in the comments for future installments.

Seed Bombs and Infused Paper Samples

While the world is recognizing the requirement to Shelter in Place, all live art events and music festivals are cancelled. Still, artists are finding ways to express themselves on internet platforms. Earth Day Art Model is a telematic art festival where art and technology meet online. This project will begin at 8pm on April 21 (TONIGHT) and run for 24 hours. I am certainly intrigued!

Homemade Suet Bird Feeder

Whether you celebrate Earth Day 2020 by planting trees and seeds or even by feeding seeds to the birds, honor the moment on the only home planet we know. I think this world is quite beautiful. I find it more so when my feathered neighbors flock the feeders to nibble on my homemade suet blocks, filling the yard with color and excitement. Tell me how you choose to cultivate your Mother Earth. Be well, my friends, and Be Kind. ❤

World Art Day

Mindy the Mask Maker ” design by Toby Maurer, https://thebrandinghouse.com/

I’m back from the Face-Mask-Sewing Trenches (needed to give my back a break)! Are you as grateful for the FREE YOGA SESSIONS each Friday morning at 10am with Elizabeth Moses as I am? To seamsters around the world pressing pedals to the floor to protect their community members, we are ever-grateful for your spirit. My studio hummed all week with over 50 masks made by this Factory-of-One in the style of Tangled Hangers.

While we are all busy figuring out time in this parallel universe, ART still surges! In 2020, April 15 is no longer Tax Day. According to UNESCO, April 15 is WORLD ART DAY. World Art Day, a celebration to promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art, was proclaimed at the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 2019. Considering this revelation, now is a great time to share this amazing contest to all the mask makers out there.

Contest details at https://woobox.com/ink6fa

Deadline to enter your submission is April 26. Please let me know if you enter. (May the Force Be With You!) < > All my upcycled and wearable art friends out there will appreciate this offering from Nancy Judd at Recycle Runway. Click that link to find interactive art classes from the artist directly. These classes are perfect for any parents who are now learning to homeschool. They are also fantastic for any adult who needs a little guidance to find their own creative wave.

Watch the tutorial with Filomena Jack Studio!

In case you haven’t checked the Southeast Steuben County Library calendar of events, my bunny painting is a sample of what you can make from a Virtual Bunny Painting class with Filomena Jack. Click that link so you can follow along with the video and make your own art for World Art Day- or any day!

Crafting with Kimberly: Bunny Gnomes

Kimberly Canale helped us get festive for Easter with a Bunny Gnome tutorial. If you love crafting, but have few store-bought elements, Fear NOT! Kimberly shows you how to upcycle ordinary household items into unique creations. Follow her video for full instruction on making the gnome seen above.

PPE Volunteers at CCLD

Our library friends at CCLD Makerspace are busy making PPE for hostpital staff in the Southern Tier. I always say they have the coolest tools! This pandemic is proving the power of compassion and community dedication behind the tools. If you have time to get involved, please fill out their volunteer application.

Celbrate 50 Years of eARTh Day on April 22!

Next week is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. There are so many ways to honor the only home we know. Find ways to Take Action on the Earth Day website. Upcycling is my favorite means of creating and a great way to take action to save our planet. Watch my tutorial on making Seed Bombs and Seed infused paper from junk mail on eARTh day, April 22 at 4pm. Subscribe to the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel. Find the link to my Earth Day Seed Bombs video premiere (link available on April 20) so we can have a Watch Party!

or take a walk down Market Street

I understand all this isolation has us itching to get out and enjoy the fresh air. That’s the wonder of this internet thing and video channels. They have your back when you’ve nothing better to do. When the weather is on your side, I prescribe a Tech Vacay and stroll down Market Street. Enjoy this expanding mural outside of Volo. Find other #art out there. Share with me later–post with #CreationStation to spread the L.O.V.E. Get outside, Keep creating, Stay Golden. ❤

Face Masks Forward

It’s SeWednesday–or is it?! *** Covid-19 is taking over our lives, but I thought another kind of takeover would be more fun. I invited Tangled Hangers Designs to takeover our blog for the day. She’s been busy in her studio sewing face masks for our community, but made time to offer a Face Mask Tutorial. She included a little video and provided the pattern. Her design includes five size options, as well as a pocket to insert a filtration fabric. Reports change daily on the value of a face mask, but a unified stance has risen in the maker community. Supplies will be provided to the front line if they must be stitched in every home in the United States. We are all in this together. Without further ado, let’s get by with a little help from our #FLX friends.

Ha! It’s not Wednesday (or maybe it is??), but watch for more #SeWednesday installments for sewing instruction and exploration. Tell us if you are making face masks or helping #ProtectTheFrontline in other ways. Show us your results if you sew-along with this tutorial. Tune in today at 4pm for a Watch Party on the Southeast Steuben County Library YouTube channel to see the creator at work. The video will be available for future reference. ❤ Read Creation Stationary, but don’t be a stationary creator. Get making!

Fascinating Fermentation

Way back on March 18…

It’s funny to think how far in the past just two weeks feels since self-isolating started in New York to #flattenthecurve. The homestead projects I had started out of curiosity now seem to be a lifeline to normalcy. As we each proverbially sit and stew in our collective homes, I have the need to ferment. Behold the magic of sourdough.

Starter, Seed Culture, Barm- the magic begins

Ironically, I had this need to work with fermentation as a 2020 New Year’s resolution. I sourced a starter from a friend and fed the batch with little progress toward baking. I was learning the process and ingesting lots of hours of YouTube tutorials, but never finding the time to make progress. Then I stumbled into this warped reality we all have found, where Covid-19 has us all hunkered down at home. The time I want to experiment with myriad techniques in the kitchen and art studio is now. I find we are all embracing the primal need to make food. This is the time to befriend The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. Enjoy a little culinary literacy.

Flour + Water + Time = Natural Yeast Magic

The starter or mother culture passed on to me was fed with equal parts of flour and water to double the original quantity. That fermented for four hours and doubled in size as you see in ball jars above. The next step to begin a Basic Sourdough Bread is to build a Firm Starter. Mixing roughly 1 cup of the starter, otherwise known as barm, one cup of flour, and enough water to form the dough into a ball. Lightly oil a bowl and the ball of dough, cover and allow to ferment at room temperature for 4 hours. Since time has no meaning for me now, I’m game, but recognize that over 8 hours have been spent coddling this culture. Several makers name their starter to give it more character- just like a pet. By this point, we agree that this barm is Sweet Melissa and she will lead us through this epidemic.

Build the Final Dough

After the four-hour ferment is complete, cut the dough into ten segments, place on a lightly greased pan and allow to rest for 1 hour. Time to shine the light on my Unicorn, the Kitchen Aid mixer workhorse extraordinaire. I am lazy when it comes to mixing dough, so my Unicorn takes all of the hard chores off my list. I measured 20 ounces of flour into the bowl, added 2 teaspoons of salt and started to mix each segment of the firm starter into the bowl to achieve a the final dough mixture. This run on a low setting with a dough hook for 4 minutes.

Final Dough, ’bout to be be bread in my belly.

The Final Dough is finally achieved. It has the appearance of a French Bread Dough, smooth, yet sticky surface and an internal temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a bowl and the dough with oil, cover and let this ferment for an additional 4 hours. That’s right, it’s a good thing I’m not leaving my house. Sweet Melissa needs me–or I knead her!

The Final Ferment Countdown

Once the final dough has fermented an additional 4 hours, it is time to split the dough in half and form into the final shape that will result in the baked loaf. For a beginner, Chef Reinhart advises to gently shape the dough into boules. This basically means, form them into two balls and, guess what. Let those babies proof for 3 more hours! Since I was so invested in this project, baking bread after midnight was simply part of the game.

Score!

The fun part of baking bread is scoring the dough before it hits the heat of the oven. These score marks allow gases to expand and stretch the dough versus bubble and deform the shape. I prepared the oven with a baking stone on a low rack and an iron skillet on the upper rack. These items were heated up to 550 degrees. I heated a cup of water to boiling, then placed the pan of bread directly on the baking stone. The cup of water was poured into the iron skillet to help produce a steam bath for the development of crust in the oven. After 30 seconds, I sprayed the oven walls with a water bottle. I repeated this process twice in the hopes of finding a crust similar to that of my favorite bakery breads.

Behold the Beauty

Although the entire process takes an entire day of care, the results are amazing! After just 15 minutes of baking in the oven, all of that flour, water and time produced two fabulous loaves of bread, truly made with LOVE.

Have a Slice

Once the baking time was complete, I allowed the bread to rest on a rack for 45 minutes. A few slices were gobbled in moments once they were cooled. So much for a labor of love. Let the late night smorgas-bread commence! If you find this helpful, let me know your experience. We are all in this together. Get creative and cook happy ❤

Covid-19 Craftivism

This week in Covid-19 Craftivism, we focus on ventilators, face shields, and protective masks. Homemade manufacturing is on the rise. I’ve curated samples of how the stewards of art studios and craft rooms are stepping up to help the front line.

Joshua McMenamin makes ventilator splitters.

Ventilators are the breathing aides that are in critical demand. These machines provide the mechanization of breathing air into the lungs of a patient. Glassblowers, like Josh McMenamin of Orbital Glass in Colorado, are offering their skills to the medical field by creating glass ventilator splitters. These devices can split the air delivery of a single machine to provide ventilation for up to four patients. While providing one ventilator for each patient is ideal to offer adequate oxygen intake per individual, having alternatives to support life is of utmost value in this crisis. This technique of splitting air supply has not been tested on humans, but offers an option to sustain more lives. This fourteen year old study provides more information on this option. If one machine can help up to four patients, this can aide in the most dire situations.

Zaragoza Maker Space Face Shield

Friends from around the world connect with me daily to share the newest maker information. We find 3-D printing communities participating in medical supply aid for Covid-19. Zaragoza Maker Space in Zaragoza, Spain has provided printing files to produce protective visors with 3-D printers. Bot Camp has another version of a healthcare face shield. Using 3-ring binder plastic sheets, a barrier of protection is made available to emergency and medical professionals. Makers who are preparing these items are urged to share their progress on social media with the hashtag #coronavirusmakers.

Face Mask Perspective from New York Times

If you followed any social media over the past few days, face mask shortage is the constant conversation. Last night, Arnot Health put out a call to local news outlets asking for makers to sew protective face masks. Sewists everywhere are revving up their sewing machines with another facet of making for the medical field in our country. Solidarity to protect our medical and emergency personnel has risen the frenzy to make face masks regardless of the implications that they offer no value of protection. After countless communications with friends and family in the emergency medical fields, the idea that our country has been depleted of a simple personal protective elements is absurd. Making these items out of fabric seems even more ridiculous, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Jennifer Maker offers Cricut Face Mask Tutorials.

If you own a Cricut precision die cut machine, or have the inclination to make these masks with a paper pattern, Jennifer Maker provides a perfect tutorial. This variation includes a pocket to insert a HEPA filtration fabric, which is the only way to protect from vapor inhalation. These masks are not medically approved, but offer a stop-gap at the very minimum. They also provide peace-of-mind, but that is a false sense of peace. This is what local manufacturing looks like and may continue to grow. As mass production has been sent overseas in cost-saving efforts, capitalism is proving to be a failing financial model for sustainability. Art and making continue to prove valuable to every community.

Bed-In for Peace

All of this stewardship is impressive, but I have this need for peace. I find a need for more personal time and am taking life at a slower pace. My favorite radio station, WFMU reminded me of a seemingly simpler time with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I would love to have a moment of peace from all the fear. Let’s trust in abundance and focus that everything is going to be alright. Let’s put fears aside and see how a simple Bed-In can help us all to Keep Calm. It’s always hopeful to think we can Give Peace a Chance.