Monday, June 27, 2011

desert dog loves the heat, part 2

Burning green brush with super heat


human dad has to lean away from the is too hot for humans
but not for desert dog...

because desert dog loves the heat

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I have been trying to find the easiest way to make slip-on, adjustable sandals. Using vegetable tanned leather and some mystery soles I was given by my amigo Pete at Rocketbuster Boots, the sole person, I believe I have made my favorite sandals yet! 

tooled with little rams...

wrapped the straps with cotton embroidery floss

and they fit perfect

While I love love love my non-electric hand crank 100 year old machine, I wanted to take advantage of the industrial sewing machine available in the studios at Origin Design Labs in Eureka.

But the time in half of what it usually takes me to make a pair of sandals, but I used electricity...for about 8 minuets.

Industrial sewing machine at Origin Design Labs

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

making with a message

Group of wool-enthusiast knitters, using their craft to make a statement about, what I think, is the most important issue in politics: budget cuts for education. I will not get on my soapbox...BUT seriously! Investment in education is the best thing for the future of any country!  
Anyhow, I love that you can see the weight of the yarn, obviously very high quality! Thanks Knitriot for this inspiration.

KNITRIOT: Introducing ArtisTREE...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Leather industry

A fashion advertisement reads: Leather...utterly hip from head to toe. Yes, I love leather, but I am also a vegetarian and tend to enjoy a clean environment.  Written to make you feel very very guilty, PETA information on the leather industry primarily targets harsh conditions in India and China. Yes, like most products we mass-consume, a lot of leather comes from these places where commercial livestock is not humanely regulated, and leather used for high dollar products is processed without environmental regulations, then shipped all around the world.

I live across from a free range cattle operation, and those cows have a magnificent life...up until their impending doom. I attempted to track these happy hides of Humboldt County, and the circuitous working of the leather industry were subsequently revealed to me.

I called Humboldt Grass Fed Beef, a larger operation than my neighboring cows, in an effort to track down where they send their hides. They gave me the number of the processors they send the cattle to. The processor gave me the number of a company, Barta Hide in Petaluma, to whom they sell the hides to. Very excited, I called that company hoping to visit the tannery. Much to my dismay, Barta Hide is not a tannery. They sell hides to tanneries and buy hides from tanneries, buy leather from random sources, and sell leather to customers. The hides they receive are cured in salt and are preserved in this way until shipment.

The owner conveyed to me, upon my pressing for a source for local organic grass-fed vegetable tanned leather (sounds like a tall order!), that there is no way to keep track of which hides go and what comes back. 

I made a visit to Barta Hide, housed in a trailer and a warehouse space--an old school operation to say the least, but very familiar to me at the same time, reminiscent of my days picking vintage clothes at rag shops and scavenging around in El Paso.  Not only is Barta Hide a haven for scrap leather, it is a great place for arty photographers of junk mixed in with livestock remnants.  You know who you are.


The owner of Barta Hide further reiterated the difficulties of tracking specific hides. He also told me that he can usually identify the grass-fed hides because they are thinner and less robust, which makes sense if you think about the hormones and intense corn-fed diet of commercial livestock.  

I came away from the conversation thinking that, if I could stick to scraps and hides tanned in the United States, supporting small businesses with my meager purchases, my personal ethics would not feel so compromised. 

inspecting some hides at the vegetable tanned "show table"

The only remaining company that does vegetable tanning is on the East Coast, which still seems like a far trek for my little cow neighbors. Some hides form California go to tanneries in Mexico and United Kingdom for vegetable tanning as well. 

Wickett and Craig of Pennsylvania is the only tannery left in the United States that still does vegetable tanning, from what I understand (please correct me if I am wrong). I have contacted custom tanneries in Washington, where there used to be an old tannery doing vegetable tanning, but to no avail.

This company in the UK does vegetable tanning, and the tannery is "on-farm!" This scenario is my dream for Humboldt County...any investors?
"Not only is there an urgent need for genuine Organic tanneries, but given the ever increasing cost to the environment; local ones! Well at least on the same Island or Continent." 

The only company in the USA taking advantage of marketing free-range leather--Organic Leather out of California--does not appear to take advantage of local livestock or tanneries within the United States. Shipping uses large amounts of fossil fuels and packaging.  They market vegetable tanned leather as "eco-leather," but my conversations with them in attempt to acquire tooling vegetable tanned leather left me confused, and inquiries about their tracking system were unanswered. They make organic leather products, manufactured in India. 

Ardabil Carpet Takes Center Stage | Los Angeles County Museum on Fire |

Great article about a beautiful carpet!

Ardabil Carpet Takes Center Stage | Los Angeles County Museum on Fire |

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Garden times

First item: composting in northern California. In response to this post from this fantastic blog (, I decided to write a little about our composting. We have a really complex set up of chicken wire with S hooks along one end for opening. It can be turned with a shovel and we never have to water it. The chicken wire lets in ALMOST enough air, though we had to throw in some hearty sticks the other day. The down side to this system is that creatures are able to get into our compost, and, after some random fruit pieces on the driveway were written off as someone being lazy, this curiously placed corn cob confirmed that, in fact, something is snacking on the compost.

yup, that's a corn cob on that fence post!

Second item: yea I remember growing bean plants on paper towels in elementary school and yea, I remember those avocado pits my mom stuck toothpicks in and left sitting in the kitchen. But did anything edible actually flourish at my childhood house? No...

The best perk of living in Orick is the gardening potential. I have been growing things like crazy! If only I could find a way to harvest all that "leather" growing in the adjacent field...but I am saving that topic for my next post. 

Anyhow, after reading the below article in the New York times, I was curious about growing from grocery store produce. The idea of getting both some food and some seeds without having to buy separate products was very appealing to my depression-era revival sensibilities.

(Photo from NY Times article linked below)

I know that the produce from the big box grocery stores is probably sterile, but what about those on-the-vine beautiful organic California tomatoes from our local food Co-op? ( I dried the seeds to remove the ooze, planted them indoors, and they sprouted like crazy. I had 10 amazing tomato plants grown to a foot high in about a month! As my husband said, "they look like tomatoes plants, smell like tomato plants..." but when his store bought plant started making little flowers, all my big beautiful plants just grew pods.  After promising to remove the plants from their valuable real estate in our tiny greenhouse if the pods didn't flower by today, I cracked open a pod, and it was devoid of yellow petals! Nothing!

I am confused about why they did not fruit...any suggestions?

And now a photo of the happy cows living across the street, in prep for my post on the leather industry:

Desert dog watches grass grow

native dog watches Desert Dog watch grass times in Orick

Monday, June 6, 2011

Until the 9th

One of the disadvantages of living in this lugar is limited internet usage.  Apparently I have been quite internet-y this month and have largely used up my allowance until the 9th. 

Presently, thinking about jewelery...Fair trade milagro ring from Peru, because everyone needs a miracle charm in their life, along with some other jewelery treats from this etsy treasury: