Monday, December 29, 2008

ECO ACTION: Disconnecting / Reconnecting

The photo I took earlier today of the cables under the desk in my studio, shows that there's a lot left to do to finish "disassembling all the recording and audio equipment."

With an eye toward conservation, I've decided to rearrange all the electrical connections in the studio, too.

The goal is to eliminate the unnecessary consumption of electricity used in standby mode when the computers, printers, and music gear are off.  (AKA all those little glowing power lights that make the studio look like Christmas even after I've turned everything off and flipped the light switch at the end of the day.)

The solution is to put segments of the studio on separate power strips with ON/OFF switches, to be turned on only when needed.
  • one power strip for the studio equipment I use for teaching and my own practicing/songwriting activities
  • one power strip for the computer and frequently used peripherals
  • one power strip for my recording equipment
  • one power strip--that stays on all the time--for my studio phone/answering machine and cellphone charger
That ought to do it.

I can't stop using electricity and still record my music, but I can reduce what I consume.  This is one step toward making my music studio/office more eco-friendly.

Time Between Years

Each year for the past several I've taken the week between Christmas and New Years to dive into the process of cleaning and reorganizing my studio, and other parts of the house, with an eye toward what I envision accomplishing in the coming year.

It's always a time of reflection, a shifting of energy from past ways of being and doing toward ways that are a better fit for where the new year finds me and where I hope it will take me.

This is one of the few times of year when I don't have music students coming and going on a daily basis, or weekly rehearsals in our home with the 20 or more kids in our ensemble.  I'm able to shift my focus from helping others define and achieve their goals toward looking at and working toward my own, without distractions.

It's always a relaxed, playful and intense time.

Here are some of the results from previous years:

Don't know what I did between Christmas and New Years last year at this time (12/07-1/08). Maybe I'll dig back and see if I can figure that out.

This past year has been a bit of a bumpy ride, with the bumpy bits that I hope will not repeat in the year ahead, or any other for that matter.  4 months of less than optimal health, plus another encounter with the darker side of the human condition, are things to be left in the past, if at all possible.

We don't always get to choose what happens to us, but we can choose to continue making plans and working to make them real.  I'm actively choosing to move forward into the coming year, making my plans based on the likely assumption that these difficult things won't repeat in 2009.

And even if they do, or some other challenges come along, well ... here I am anyway.  And here are the ones I love and the life we have together.

Here's to making life simpler.  

Here's to enjoying what is.

Started last night disassembling all the recording and audio equipment in my studio, to be simplified and rearranged.

I've removed the things I no longer use (maybe never used) and the things that have worn out or broken from frequent use (an old amplifier, a CD changer/player and a cassette tape deck), and have  begun to arrange the few things needed for my new set up in a way that will make for easier work flow.  And maybe some actual recordings.

Between each thing that gets moved or removed there's pausing, looking, thinking, wiping up dust and grime, imagining whether this is the best way.  

It's hard work to rearrange.

I'm trying to keep in mind that "good enough" and done is far better than the perpetual struggle for an ideal "best" that's forever incomplete.  (Same goes for the editing/re-editing of this blog post.)

Now, back to it.  

Powering down.  Disconnecting.

Reconnecting in a new way.  Powering back up again.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

RECIPE: Boston Baked Beans-LESS SODIUM

This is a new original recipe from Kay's Kreative Kitchen.*  (Also made the pottery bowl and the bread in the photo by hand, but not today.)

I cooked this for lunch today, putting the pot of beans in the oven (Step #4 below) first thing this morning (Steps #1-3 prepared last night).  

The house smelled wonderful while I boxed up belated Christmas presents to send to family living on the other side of the US.  I removed the cover from the pot in the oven (Step #5) before heading out to the post office.  The baked beans were ready to eat when I got back.

Served along with some homemade sourdough bread, baked yesterday, this made a hardy lunch.  Comfort food for a gray winter day.

1-2 lb Small Red Beans, Dry (or Navy Beans)
1/2 lb Low Sodium Bacon (1/4 inch dice with kitchen shears)
1/2 cup Dark Molasses
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
1 cup Hot Water
1 Tbs Cider Vinegar
1/8 cup Dried Chopped Onion
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Ground Cloves


1) Quick soak beans. (Cover with water equal to 3 times volume of beans. Boil 3 minutes, remove from heat and allow to soak 1 hour.) Drain and rinse. (Quick soaking, draining and rinsing reduces the amount of indigestible starch in the beans, thereby reducing those well known after effects that give beans such a bad reputation.) Replace water and cook until tender, 1-1 ½ hrs. Can be done a day ahead.

2) In a bowl, stir together: molasses, maple syrup, water, vinegar, onion, mustard, brown sugar, salt and spices. Can refrigerate overnight to blend flavors and hydrate dried onions.

3) Layer beans and bacon in 4-quart or larger, oven safe cooking pot, in 3 layers ending with bacon on top. Pour liquid mixture over layers. Add enough hot water to just reach top of beans.

4) Cover and bake 4 hours in 300F oven, or 6-8 hours at 250F, until beans are tender. Add water as needed to keep moist. Stir only once or twice.

5) Uncover last 30 minutes of cooking to brown. If excess liquid remains, cook uncovered until boiled away.

*Though the primary ingredients and methods in this recipe were combined from several sources, my own original twists include: small red beans substituted for navy beans, low sodium bacon in place of salt pork, half the amount of salt called for in other recipes, dried onions instead of fresh chopped, replacing half the volume of molasses in other recipes with maple syrup, and a hint of ground cloves.

COST:  Less than $0.50 USD per serving.  Haven't figured it out exactly.

Monday, December 01, 2008

QUOTES: "Miracles" from "Leaves of Grass"

WHAT shall I give? and which are my miracles?

Realism is mine—my miracles—Take freely,
Take without end—I offer them to you wherever your
feet can carry you, or your eyes reach.

Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the
edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the
bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at the table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a sum-
mer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars
shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new-moon
in spring;

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread
with the same,
Every cubic foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of
men and women, and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

~ Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, 1867 edition
[excerpted, read the poem in its entirety HERE]

Friday, November 28, 2008

VIDEO: Me Singing "Time at the Table"

"Time at the Table"
Words and Music by Kay Pere and Bill Pere
Performed at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, CT
Kay Pere with Bill Pere and the LUNCH Ensemble

Check back soon for lyrics.

:-), Kay

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ECO ACTION: Sustainable Happiness

The pursuit of happiness has been transformed into the pursuit of consumer goods and energy hungry lifestyles that damage our planet.

Visit HERE to browse a large selection of articles about pursuing lasting happiness while consuming fewer resources and reducing your environmental impact.

It's a lot more fun than it sounds!

I hear the politicians talk a lot about "getting our economy moving again."  Does a "healthy economy" automatically mean, by definition, that they expect us to resume our old habits of consumption?  If so, we need to rewrite the definitions.  We need a new vision.

We've grown used to a world bulked up on the steroids of excess consumption.  Like a weight lifter who's steroid built muscles are damaging his liver and heart, we can't expect to keep this up over the long term.

Someone needs to rewrite the economics textbooks and redefine the tools by which we measure the health of our economy to take into account the long view of things.

I wonder:  Can we find a way to shifting our world economy and our individual lives toward a more sustainable and equitable model?

What would that look like?

Monday, November 24, 2008

ECO ACTION: No Impact Man Blog

As a self proclaimed Eco Geek, I love to read the No Impact Man blog.

It gives a clear picture of just how much one person can do to live more sustainably, how one persons actions can inspire others.

I'll never be able to alter my lifestyle to the extent described there, but it's a wonderful source of information and ideas about what might be the next step beyond those I've already taken.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

VIDEO: Funny Hat

Oh, the fun you can have with someone else's hat!
No wonder I've been dizzy!
Hanover, VT, USA

CREATIVE OATMEAL: other things to think about #2

[free or nearly-free happy things]

Perhaps not the most exciting subject, but a favorite breakfast for cold weather.  And it provides many options.

Here's my recipe.  It makes about 6 servings.  I eat one immediately and refrigerate the remainder to reheat on subsequent days.

  • 2 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (slow cooking)
  • 4-5 cups Water
  • 1/4 tsp Salt (adds approx. 100 mg sodium per serving)
Bring to a boil.  Cook about 5 minutes over medium heat or until thickened.  Stir occasionally.

  • Dried Fruit, chopped (If you want them plumped, add at the beginning of cooking with oats.)
  • Frozen Fruit, thawed while cooking
  • Nuts, chopped (If you want them crunchy, add at the end of cooking.)
  • Flavorings:  cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves ... use your imagination
  • Sweeteners:  brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, molasses, jam, fruit juice
Once it's served up on a bowl, I also pour on a little soymilk to make complete proteins.  (legumes + whole grains)

  • 15 cup container uncooked Store Brand Rolled Oats = $1.75 US (on sale)
  • 3 Servings per cup (with additions)
  • $1.75 US for 45 servings per container
  • $0.04 US per serving + cost of optional additions and soymilk!
  • 10-15 minutes once a week to cook 6 days worth of servings.  
  • 2 minutes once a week to packaging in a resealable container for the frig
  • 2 minutes each day doing other things while the microwave reheats (stir in a little water to thin)
  • 1 minute once a week to scrub out the pan (if I don't remember to let it soak it takes longer)
  • less than 1 minute once a week to wash the resealable container
Favorite Creative Addition Combos:
  • chopped dried apples, brown sugar or maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, chopped walnuts
  • chopped dates, chopped pecans, cinnamon, vanilla
  • chopped dried apricots, honey, slivered almonds, almond extract (tiny amount)
  • frozen blueberries, maple syrup
  • frozen raspberries, honey
  • strawberry jam, almonds
  • blond raisins, pecans, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup
Yum!  Now you can tell someone they are as interesting as oatmeal and mean it as a compliment.

And Mom was right.  It does "stick to your ribs."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

STUDIO WINDOW: other things to think about #1

Because life is not all gloom and doom, not all health concerns and financial contraction. ..

I'm going to make an effort to post quick snippets about happy everyday things, as an antidote.


There is a dogwood tree right outside my studio window who keeps me company as the seasons change. In the past few weeks it has lost all its vermilion leaves. A fine filigree of branches remains, outlined against the sky.

All day squirrels use its branches as a highway from one tree to the next. Fat grey clowns in flannel suits, they carrying nuts too big for their mouths to hold, performing acrobatic feats as they hurrying past on their way to some secret cache.

Occasionally one will catch sight of me watching through the window and freeze in place, as if hoping to become instantly invisible. This is usually followed by loud, menacing chirping sounds and wild waving of a long fluffy tail. The cat may be intimidated by such antics--I just smile.

My studio window faces west, with my computer monitor on a desk in front of it. This morning, over the top if my screen, I watched the last quarter moon on her way toward the horizon. This evening, if I'm lucky, I'll catch sight of a brilliant sunset sky behind the silhouette of my companion dogwood tree's branches.

These are my simple joys today.

:-), Kay

Saturday, October 04, 2008

QUOTES: "To say that she had a book..."

"To say that she had a book is to say that her solitude did not press upon her; for her love of knowledge had a fertilising quality and her imagination was strong."
~ Henry James, "The Portrait of a Lady", Chapter III (1881)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RECIPE: Toasted Almond Butter-NO SALT

"Training is everything.  
The peach was once a bitter almond; 
cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." 
~Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)

I made nut butter from scratch for the first time today.  Very easy and yummy!

1 lb Whole Almonds
2 Tbs Almond Oil (or other oil) as needed

1)   Toast almonds in 350F oven for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to toast evenly.  Allow to cool.

2)  Add almonds to food processor, stopping and scraping sides frequently, until paste forms.  If the nut butter is too firm, add oil one tablespoon at a time while continuing to process.  Length of processing time depends on the processor power/speed and oil content of the nuts.

Other nuts or mixtures of nuts can be substituted using the same method.

  • I've stored mine in a repurposed 16 oz glass peanut butter jar.  
  • One pound of nuts filled the jar exactly.  
  • Processing was done in an 11-cup Cuisinart I got at a yard sale for $15.  
  • The nuts were purchased on sale from the grocery store, at a savings of several dollars over the cost of a store-bought jar of almond butter, and without the salt.  
All very simple and the house now smells like roasted almonds.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

GAIA LUNA: Harvesting What Isn't

Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;
It is the centre hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes that make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there
~ Lao Tsu, From Tao-Te Ching

Health brings life filled with activity.  Illness empties time to its barest essence.

Health allows forward motion.  Illness stops the wheel in mid-rotation.

It was the emptying, the resting, that brought clarity about the perpetual motion of my healthy life.  This was the useful outcome of two months of illness;  once I was able to get past the first heat of frustration and anger (at not being able to do everything I'd planned for myself), I began to see with vividness and gratitude the small things that could happen.

Back before I got sick, I'd planted corn from seed for the first time, started indoors before the soil had warmed, then planted out in early June.  When the corn went untended, with little rain for many weeks, I gave up hope of growing anything more than bare stalks.

Even so, in late August I harvested a dozen perfectly formed ears of corn.  The stalks where spindly and short, but they had overcome adverse conditions to fulfill their potential.

The lesson learned: Plant the seeds.

Don't worry.  Just do it.

Within each seed is a powerful will to become.

Even if you're unable to tend it something will still come of it.  If nothing else, you'll learn that you can plant a seed and watch it grow.  You'll get the joy of experience.  And you'll either learn what it takes to make it produce, or what can stunt it.  

Knowledge is the most valuable harvest.  It's yours to keep no matter what the outcome.

Ideas are an artist's seeds. An artists plants ideas by beginning the process of realization.

Even when the process of realization is interrupted,  the artist may return to find the idea has produced something useful.

It's up to me to begin.  It's up to me to do what I can.  And I've also seen clearly that things can become what they're meant to be even without my direct involvement.  

I can let go and my dreams won't fall apart.

At times, my role in the creative process must be simply to sit still and watch the seeds of planted ideas unfold and grow as they will.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

GAIA LUNA: Fall Harvest 08

Happy Autumnal Equinox, to those in the Northern Hemisphere.  It's a day to celebrate our creative harvest.

The picture above is the last big harvest from Gaia Luna: one spaghetti squash, half-a-dozen each sweet italian banana peppers and bell peppers (red and green), a few jalapeno peppers, several acorn squash, and an arm-load of under-sized delicata squash, all topped by a bunch of pink cosmos.

This is far more than I thought the garden would produce with so little water and weeding during the height of summer.  It falls far short of what I had envisioned last spring, but vastly exceeds my most desperate hopes during the many weeks I was confined to the house.

The only credit I can take for this harvest is in minimally preparing the soil, planting the seeds and erecting a fence to protect them from deer, all prior to the first weeks of June.  Everything else, quite literally, was done by the sun and the wind and the rain.  At the end of it all, I simply walked out with my clippers and gathered what the plants chose to supply.

Other things didn't go so well.

The zucchini, yellow crook-neck, and patty pan squash plants I'd grown from seed were stunted when I mistakenly pealed off their paper pots before planting, damaging their tiny new roots.  This and the lack of water yielded only a handful of summer squash.  This was a blessing in disguise.  They produced just the amount I could deal with.

I planted three kinds of cucumbers.  Because I couldn't get the rabbit fencing up, groundhogs and rabbits got into the garden and ate the growth tips off each.  Two varieties died from this and lack of water.  The third, the lemon cucumbers, produced prolifically enough for many salads plus a large jar of refrigerator dill pickles.

I planted tomatoes, too, but didn't get nets over them.  Bluejays and crows carried away each tomato before it had ripened.

A large net was thrown over the blueberry bushes, but it had unnoticed holes in it this year.I hadn't the strength to fix it.  Catbirds got in and ate all the blueberries.  There will be no frozen blueberries from the garden for my breakfast cereal this winter, no blueberry jam.  Very sad, but ...

There was another solution.  Once I was feeling better again I went to a pick-your-own orchard and brought home fruit to freeze and can.  I brought peaches, to eat fresh and preserve, home from vacation and from a local farm stand.  I made friends with someone who had more zucchini than she knew what to do with so I could make bread-and-butter pickles.

More soon about the meaning all this has communicated to me, in the world of gardening as metaphor.

Friday, September 19, 2008

HEALTHY: Cup Much More Than Half Full

Cup says:

The Way I See It #291:
"In a world where celebrity equals talent, and where make-believe is called reality, it is most important to have real love, truth and stability in your life." 
~ Bernie Brillstein
Film and television producer.

Tiny print at the bottom says (ironically):
"This is the author's opinion, not necessarily that of Starbucks.  To read more or respond, go to"

Though I'm not a big fan of Starbuck's as a corporate entity and would rather patronize a locally owned establishment, this is what's available.  After exercising several times this week (yeah!) I've stopped in for a cup of Tazo herbal tea (very cool website) and some writing time away from the distractions of home.  Somehow, writing in a public place has allowed me to dive deeper on the page, saying and hearing things that I might not have gotten to otherwise.

Cup quote, above, relates directly to one of the life's lessons brought into sharp focus this summer.  Real love, truth and stability really are the most important things in life.  Everything else is frosting.

As an artist/musician, when I'm working on a project I can become highly focused and goal oriented, to the exclusion of other things, like eating and getting enough rest.  Being sick this summer forced me to stop everything completely, to let it all go and realize that I wasn't really falling behind.  There is no behind or ahead, only now.

All we really have is the way we treat each other.  Money is a useful illusion, necessary, but temporary.  Accomplishment, the same.  Even health will sooner or later fail each of us.

What we ultimately leave behind us are the small ways our lives have touched each other's, for the better or not.  Even trying to do good for another may have unintended consequences.  We can only do the best we know how.  The rest is up to Someone greater than ourselves.

Think of it this way:  when you're not feeling well you may long to get back to doing the things you enjoy, the things that give a sense of accomplishment and offer a chance to make a useful contribution to others through your skills, but mostly you long for kindness and tender companionship, you long for someone who will share their strength with you until yours is restored.

It all gets whittled down to this--the way we treat each other.

Kindness is the most lasting and most needed form of art we can create.

PS-If you visit the Tazo website, try out "Consult the Tea Leaves".   Fun!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

HEALTHY: Best Foot Forward

I'm back.  Dipping my toes back into the pool.  Toes painted with hearts (I did this myself) in celebration of health restored.

What a summer it was!

Didn't go at all as planned.  I planned and planted, but fate had other designs.

I won't go into details here.  Enough to say I was very sick for over two months.  Couldn't garden.  Couldn't do much of anything but read, sleep, teach my lessons, stay out of the heat, and try to figure out how to get well.

In both the literal and figurative sense, weeds overtook the garden while I was dealing with this extended illness. 

My greatest emotion now is gratitude.  Gratitude that I'm well again and able to do the ordinary things of life, like laundry and grocery shopping, without a struggle.

My heart goes out to those who live with chronic illness.  My struggles are just a shadow by comparison.

Coincidentally (or maybe not) an artist friend, Sarah, recently had something to say about both weeds and illness on her Art Calling blog, in two separate, lovely articles/reflections on these topics.  

After reading what she had written, I thought it might be of value to jump back in here and, over time, share some of the things I've discovered during this recent detour.

It's easy to post when things are going well.  Not so comfortable to write for public view when all my best intentions and efforts are lost in a tangle of weeds.  

The choices I make for many years to come are likely to be influenced by the lessons learned from this difficult time, now past.

Not going to say it all today.  Just glad to be back.


Friday, July 18, 2008

QUOTES: Done with Great Things

"I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man's pride."

~ William James

Saturday, June 14, 2008

BOOKS: Library Sale

I love books.  Especially good used books that can be had for next to nothing.

This was the week of the annual book sale at our local library.  For far less than one might spend on a single, new, hard-cover book, I brought home 17 barely-used, new-to-me books:


Also, last Saturday at our great big yard sale, I rescued a copy of "The Wind in the Willows,"by Kenneth Graham, from one of the boxes of kids books we had for sale.  I'd never read it as a child, so I started on it while sitting in the shade during lulls in business that day.  Just finished it yesterday afternoon.

I was surprised by the  poetry of the prose and the sophistication of the vocabulary used in a book intended for children.  It was first published in 1908.  It's heartening to think of the respect given to the intellect of children in a book such as this, discouraging when compare with the mindless entertainment provided for children by today's media.

Today I just returned borrowed library copies of "Northanger Abbey"* and "Persuasion"* by Jane Austin.  I'm in the process of reading through her works, for the first time, this spring and summer.  Read "Emma"* a few weeks ago.  Have checked out "Mansfield Park"* to begin this week.

[*Skip over plot summaries in these links if you don't want to spoil reading the novels for yourself.]

Though Jane Austin's books were written nearly 200 years ago, the characters described within their pages demonstrate that human nature has changed little over the last two centuries, if at all.

In this light, I'm able to view my own encounters with difficult characters less as a matter of personal bad luck and more as the inevitable result of living and interacting with others.

(c)2008 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Friday, June 06, 2008

GAIA LUNA: Demure Dogwood

When rain drops grow heavy, the kousa dogwood tree outside our front door bows low in greeting, just as its Japanese ancestors might.
Delicate geishas with powdered faces nod politely while I balance on our top step, screen door behind me held open with right elbow and hip.

I am the awkward tourist, camera in hand.

They giggle demurely behind leafy fans.

(c)2008 Kay Pere - Effusive Muse Publishing

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

GAIA LUNA: Strawberries-First Harvest

Today the strawberry harvest began.  I picked them as the sun was coming up, just enough fresh berries for this morning's breakfast cereal.  A precious taste of spring sunshine.

There have been home-grown berries for breakfast almost every day since last June.

First, at the beginning of June '07, there were the fresh strawberries from the 9-foot circular bed at the center of Gaia Luna, planted the year before.

Then the blueberry harvest followed--enough gathered fresh each day to last through September of last year, enough frozen to last until just this week, all from just three bushes.

Another season of little miracles begins today with this handful of beautiful strawberries.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

GAIA LUNA: May Planting

Welcome to the new improved Gaia Luna Garden. 

We put in a new purple picket fence around the garden in April, which you can see it in the distance, just beyond the white barn.  The pink flowers, near at hand, are azaleas

In the photo below, we stand at the entrance to Gaia Luna looking East toward the newly expanded growing area. The old enclosure held an area approximately, 32 x 32 ft.  The new fence surrounds an area more than double this, at 40 x 56 ft.

Above the purple pickets are two layers of 3 ft galvanized fencing to keep the deer out while allowing butterflies and other pollinators through.  The entrance is blocked by plastic mesh until we build the gate.
Gem, the cat, helps to patrol the garden.  She's nonchalantly busy keeping rabbits and birds away from the tomatoes, Italian parsley and zucchini squash I planted last week.
Yesterday, I added trellises to the garden.  They are of my own design, using readily available materials from a discount store and the local hardware store.  Each trellis costs about $20 US, but will last for many years, and provides a flexible set-up.

This trellis will support cucumber vines, started from seed indoors several weeks ago and set out yesterday.
It's constructed of 4 plant hangers (2 top and 2 bottom, the bottom two hung upside-down) with cross pieces of steel electrical conduit.  I decided not to use petroleum-based heavy PVC pipe for philosophical/environmental reasons.
Jute twine spans the distance between the top and bottom pipes.

The top brackets are movable from season to season. I used galvanized metal screws, spaced along the posts so the upper bar can be raised or lowered depending on the needs of plant to be supported, anywhere from 4 ft to 8 ft in height.
I'm using companion planting (inspired by this book) though out Gaia Luna.

Here young eggplant and jalapeno pepper plants are nestled with foxgloves behind, sedum ground cover in front, and ladies mantel in the foreground.  Marigolds and nasturtiums will be added as the season progresses.  

This isn't necessarily a recommended combination, but the diversity of inter-planting is guaranteed to produce healthier plants vs. monoculture.
Looking West, late in the day, the sun shines down on the central bed of strawberries, all in bloom, encircled by lambs ears.  Within the next two weeks there will be fresh strawberries for breakfast.

The lettuce and cabbage bed is bordered on yellow onions.  To the left of these grow four short rows of peas in an intensive planting. Red and white sedum edging occupies the foreground.
The sun sinks lower as we step back outside Gaia Luna's purple picket fence.

The last light of the day touches the tangle of blueberry bushes, raspberry vines and the broad leaves of rhubarb.

A few days ago, I froze some rhubarb for adding to preserves later in the season.  I'm still enjoying blueberries picked and frozen last August, and last summer's homemade blueberry jam from the pantry.
April and May are just the beginning, the beginning of planting, the beginning of growing and harvesting.

Much awaits us this summer inside the purple picket fence of Gaia Luna.

(c) 2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Thursday, April 10, 2008

BOOKS: Slow and Messy

Recent reading has included topics often pointed to as character flaws in our hurry-up and get organized culture--slowness and messiness. 
While I'm sometimes criticized for moving too slowly and being habitually untidy, I find these characteristics to be essential for my creativity and enjoyment of life.

I need time to think and an abundance of materials around me in order to do any original work. Without the freedom to savor life at an unhurried pace the joy goes out of it.  I'm willing to live frugally with both time and money, foregoing things like TV and many consumer goods, to maintain the balance that suits me.

Apparently there are many others who feel the same way.  "In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed" by Carl Honore explores the Slow Movement as expressed through the food we eat, the ways we choose work and live, and the ways we relate to one another.  

I highly recommend it.

I've just begun to read "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder," by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman.

Already I'm feeling better about the messy though functional piles that surround me here in my studio.

This book asserts that the hidden costs of organization can, in many circumstances, out weigh the benefits.  It challenges the culturally held assumption that messiness is always detrimental to productivity, offering examples and research in support of the opposite view.

Three chapters into this book, I'm excited to see where it is going. I've begun to breath easier after releasing a huge load of guilt over my perpetually untidy surroundings.

Even my reading habits don't flow in an orderly manner.  I'm not a one-book-at-a-time kind of reader.  I wouldn't want it any other way

At any given moment I'm in the midst of reading dozens of books, fiction and nonfiction, on a wide range of topics, spanning various historical periods.  Ideas bump up against each other in the slow turning of pages.  They linger together and form new relationships.

Given the choice, I'll let the value of original thought and enjoyment of simple pleasures trump swift and orderly completion, every time.

BTW - On the frugal front, I unsuccessfully attempted to find these books through the public library before resorting to used copies through  Ownership does allow the luxury of making marks and taking my time.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Cape May Singer Songwriters Conference

We landed in beautiful Cape May NJ this weekend, for the Cape May Singer Songwriter Conference where B and I taught workshops, performed, and met a lot of wonderful people dedicated to writing and performing their songs.

Though this photo looks like a UFO beamed us down on the NJ beach, we actually arrived by car.

The conference was held at Congress Hall, a beautiful old resort right on the shore, built in 1816.

More to come about this wonderful weekend and the people we met there.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Random Discoveries

RANDOM LUNCH EXPERIMENT, a grilled cheese sandwich tastes really good with dried basil and cayenne pepper sprinkle on the cheese before putting the lid (top piece of bread) on and grilling it.

RANDOM WEBSURFING brought me to "The World's Biggest Show & Tell," with photos and step-by-step instructions for all kinds of interesting, strange and creative projects. Looking is free. Also free to sign-up for extended features, like printing, and to post your own instructions.

RANDOM READING in the February issue of "Gourmet" magazine while sitting under the dryer at the hair salon today, I came across the following quote from conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll,* "The interesting thing about being an artist, though, is that you can only learn if you are willing to fail." Architect Charles Ranfro, who is working with Carroll on a project in Houston, said, "Mary Ellen's investigations are fueled by a kind of childish curiosity, but combined with a very sophisticated adult's resourcefulness. That makes her slightly dangerous."

*Tried to look at MEC's own website, but it was a blank white page. Is this the conceptual artists way of making a statement? Instead, I've given a link to a google search on her name.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Signs of Spring: Witch Hazel & Peas

Today in town I saw one of the first indications that spring is right around the corner.

The witch hazel tree in the veterans memorial park is blooming.

Every year this is the first sign that winter has loosened its grip and warmer weather is on its way. First after the snowdrops under our dogwood tree.

It even felt like spring today. Sunny morning, birds singing, warmer than it has been.

I stopped the car and got out to take pictures.

Have been intending to do this for years. Today I did.

The air in the small park was fragrant with the subtle smell of witch hazel flowers.

Inspired, I came home and pulled on my gardening clothes for the first time since late fall.

I cleared away leaves in Gaia Luna and planted peas and garlic. Again, this was a first. Every year I intend to plant peas, intend to plant garlic, but something else always seems more important.

Now there are sugar snap peas and two kinds of hard neck garlic waiting under the ground, preparing to grow.

Around here they say, "Plant your peas on Saint Patrick's Day." Or is it, "Plant your peas by Saint Patrick's Day."? I'm not sure. If it's too early for peas and they never come up, I'll just plant more. I'll probably plant more even if they do come up.

I love fresh peas. All kinds.

The garlic should have been planted last fall, but this is early enough that I think it will be OK to harvest by late August or early September, as is the custom in this area.

Clouds rolled in and rain began to fall as I worked. The cat huddled close in an attempt to stay dry while I continued in the downpour. My wool coat, smelling of wet sheep, kept me warm just the same.

Today, intention became inspiration became action.

Spring is on its way.

(c)2008 ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Root Cellaring - First Effort

This fall I began reading up on storing fruits and vegetables without refrigeration in a root cellar. Books from the library provided the information.

I had originally thought the basement stairs coming down from outside would be a good place to make a root cellar, but that turned out to be unworkable. As soon as outdoor temperatures dropped below freezing, so did the temps in the stairwell, making it unusable for fresh food storage without some major modifications.

The rest of our unheated basement turned out to be ideal. The old section, where the furnace is, stays about 45-55 F in the winter. The newer section is cooler; it never rises above the low 40s. I took temperature and humidity readings to verify all this. The books recommended slightly lower temperatures for some things, to prolong storage, but I've had no problems.

Since October, here are a few of the fruits and veggies I've stored successfully without refrigeration.

In th new section of basement 40F storage:

- 20 lbs of winesap apples: wrapped individually in waxed paper to prevent moisture loss. I layered these in a ventilated box that had once been used to ship citrus fruit, a sheet of cardboard between each layer with space around the edges to allow air circulation inside the box. A pan of water was kept nearby to boost humidity. We picked the apples in early October from a pick-your-own orchard. After 5 months of fresh eating and cooking, 8 apples remain, all in very good shape.

- 40 lbs of grapefruit and 20 lbs of naval oranges, kept in the ventilated cardboard boxes they came in. These were from a school fundraiser. We picked up our fruit from the school at the beginning of December, and just finished the last grapefruit about 2 weeks ago. That's about 2 1/2 months of storage with none lost to spoilage or drying out. There are about 10 oranges remaining, all in good condition except one that had begun to shrivel. The citrus was stored on the same table as the apples.

When all the citrus fruit and apples have been eaten, the boxes will be saved for storing next year's winter fruits and veggies.

In the old section of basement 45-55F storage
(temps depend on distance from the furnace):

- 4 large butternut squash: One of the books I read suggested that the winter squash stored in the basement near the furnace lasted longer because of slightly warmer and dryer conditions. I bought these butternut squash from a farmer's field in early October at a good per pound price. We have eaten two so far, prepared in a variety of dishes: steamed, roasted, cooked with black beans and onion, and made into soup. The flavor seems to be sweetening with storage. The remaining two are just as sound as when they were brought home, 5 months ago. This coming summer I plan to grow my own winter squash, knowing that I can keep them and use them until the following spring.

- 10 lbs russet potatoes: purchased on sale from the grocery store in November. These have been stored near the furnace, on the inside basement stairs descending from the kitchen. They've held up reasonably well. Some are starting to grow shoots and roots and others are not as firm as they were 3 months ago, but they're still usable. I've only lost one due to spoilage with only a handful remaining. The warm dry conditions near the top of the inner stairs by the furnace are not ideal for potatoes. The books recommended similar storage conditions to apples, but said not to store them near each other because flavors may muddle. I've moved those remaining to the table in the other part of the basement, with the apple and orange boxes but not too close, to see if I can keep them all happy until they're used up.

- 5 lbs brown onions: purchased on sale from the grocery store in November. Again, kept on the inner basement stairs near where the potatoes were stored. About a third of the original number remain, all in good condition, though one or two have sent up tentative, pale green shoots. Keeping as well if not better than in the refrigerator.

- 6 bunches of garlic: same as onions. Doing fine.

I count this experiment as a success--storing our winter fruits and veggies without refrigeration and without spoilage.

I'm emboldened to grow more this summer and store more for next year.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RECORDING: Secretive Computer Cajoled


MIDI setup is working with my iMac through MOTU Digital Performer

MOTU 828 digital audio interface drivers are installed and signal is visible in Garage Band, though not audible even though all the settings are correct. Not sure why.

Next step will be a focused effort on getting digital audio I/O between 828 and Digital Performer.

MOTU has great phone tech support!

They have completely avoided using the phone purgatory systems most companies employ. No dealing with automated menus saying, "For blah-blah-blah press 1, for yada-yada press 2, for bippity-boppity press 8." You just dial a phone number given in the front of the users' manual and an actual, knowledgeable person, who speaks English even, picks up the line to answer your questions.

That's the way customer service should always be.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

RECORDING: Secretive Computers

Today I did battle with technology. It won.

Today my computers refused to play nice and make things easy.

Today they kept secrets and snickered behind their shiny screens.

Today I tried a lot of things that didn't work.

Today ended with more questions than answers.

Today I learned a few of the right questions to ask.

That was my one success.

Tomorrow I will ask again and learn a little more.

In plain English: Today I attempted for the first time, unsuccessfully, to get my Mac Mini to send and receive digital audio with the MOTU 828 interface. I spent about 5 hours in failed attempts, while digging through my studio for a missing software disc.

Tomorrow I start again.

Monday, February 18, 2008

SONGWRITING: Binder & Web Work

Today was a day spent working on the administrative side of my creative projects. As a result, I was able to check a couple of longstanding items off my TO-DO list.

I finished printing out lyric/chord sheets for all my songs and put them into a binder organized with tabs by CD project (several underway currently). It felt good to see them all in one place for the first time. I think this will help to focus effort for the next stage--recording.

The tabs are made out of manilla file folders cut along one of the ridges that allows the folder to expand, then three-hole-punched. I do this for flexibility and to save money on office supplies.

The chord sheet shown is for my song "Livin' in the Present", a birthday celebration song for people who've already put more than a few decades worth of birthdays behind them. The chorus starts: "You're livin' in the present and it's a gift, a gift to be opened." Doing my best to practice what I preach. :-)

I also did some editing on my website, finally fixing one tiny little embarassing spelling error that had been there since the site was designed. Much more to do there, but it's not all going to happen in one day.

Our internet connection has gone through a major improvement today with the arrival and installation of a new, more powerful modem. [Thank you, B!] With any luck, web work won't be as much of a hit-or-miss activity as it has been. Nothing like having the wireless internet connection drop right in the middle of a complicated editing or uploading session. I'm hopeful that this is a thing of the past.

Now, I'm off to get my hands dirty working on pottery. Need to shift my focus away from technology for the rest of the evening. And there's nothing more low-tech than a fist full of mud!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Music for Cleaning the Studio

I've spent all day cleaning my studio.

Well, not actually cleaning. That would involve a broom and dustpan, a bucket of warm water and damp rag. Haven't quite gotten to that point yet.

Mostly I've just been putting music books and sheet music back where they go on shelves, making piles into files. At the same time, the copier has been working hard cranking out the "Daily Practice Record" sheets that go in my students binders. The printer has been cranking out another run of my color business cards. Needed to restock on both of these essential items.

In the background, I've been listening to a couple of favorite folk CDs:
Tim Harrison's "Wheatfield With Crows"
Full Frontal Folk's "Storming the Castle"

The Full Frontal Folk CD has a track, "Another Train", done with such beautiful 4-part harmony that I found myself hitting the repeat button on my CD player another 6-7 times, singing along at the top of my voice.

I did a search on the title and writer's name, and located the original "Another Train" by Peter Morton, complete with lyrics and MP3.

This is one of those majorly uplifting songs. Definitely going to go on my own song wishlist of songs I want to learn--words, chords, all of it.

Between picking up in the studio and listening to music, I've done some other web surfing.

In the most recent eNewsletter from some talented musical friends, Mad Agnes, Margo gave a link to the blog of a friend of hers, Lisa Nash, who's been traveling in India and reflecting on living a deeper, more spiritual and intentional life.

Listening to these tunes and reading these thoughtful words has brought a sense of sacredness and centered calm to a very ordinary day.

Just thought I'd share these here and maybe pass on a little of that peacefulness.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

GAIA LUNA: Seed Saving

Last fall I saved seeds from my marigolds, cosmos, nasturtiums, string beans, and a couple of herb plants.

In the photo they are drying in the sunroom after being separated from the flowery parts. Not so difficult to do. Here are enough seeds to grow several gardens full of flowers, the equivalent of a whole rack of seed packets from the nursery from just a few plants.

These are old fashioned varieties that will stay true to type, meaning that plants grown from these seeds will be the same as the parent plants, at least in theory. I got two books on seed saving for Christmas that confirm this.

Right now, the seeds are stored in loosely covered glass canning jars on a the cool shelf of the attic, waiting.

Soon, soon ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Been gone from the blog for about 3 month since my last post.

Just living and doing, and living and not doing.

I've rediscovered the joys of just sitting and thinking, or sitting and not thinking about anything in particular, staring at passing clouds and light on tree branches like I did when I was a kid. I highly recommend it. Thoughts wander in wonderful directions when allowed the space to do so.

Last night I ordered FREE 2008 seed catalogs from the following sources.

Johnny's Select Seeds
Seeds of Change
Kitchen Garden Seeds
White Flower Farm

I'd fallen off their mailing lists because it has been so long since I ordered anything. Had them sent to my PO box so they wouldn't get mixed in with all the other junk mail and accidentally sent to the recycling bin.

Some companies sell organic seeds, others do not.

In anycase, I'm beginning to feel anticipation, looking forward to March planting of early vegetables this year.

Creative intentions are being readied for planting, too.

As always at this stage, they are numerous and unsprouted, like seeds held in the hand before the soil has begun to warm. Those that eventually reach the stage where they can put on leaves and set fruit will be something I'm willing to write about. For now I keep them cradled within my cupped palm and curled fingers.