Living a Steampunk Life, in Real Life, Entry #2

I blogged back on June 26th to let people know that I might randomly post a little here about my Real Life, since I have the tendency to go about my days in ways that connect with the past. I just wrote this for my own personal livejournal, and thought it might be of interest over here, too. And I can’t help but wonder how my Victorian era counterparts dealt with summers such as the one I write about, back before Deep Woods Off was invented. I know of various herbal insect repellents, but I have tried them and really… they do not work. Maybe insects existing a century ago had not yet built up a tolerance to such mild repellents. But in this day and age, rubbing your arms with lemon balm will make you smell nice, but it won’t keep you from being bit. So, then, here’s my journal entry, to share with friends of this blog.

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I’m sure many of you know that this is a horrific year for mosquitoes. Wait, it’s a GREAT year for the skeeters, but it’s hell for us redblooded humans. I have literally been held hostage inside the house, even on perfect summer evenings. It’s just not worth what I have to go through to sit on the porch. Here’s my basic regimen for tending to the veggie garden. And keep in mind it’s Summertime, with summer temperatures.

1. Put on thick flannel pants.

2. Put on zip up hooded sweatshirt. Flip the hood up. Tighten the drawstring TIGHT at my neck.

3. Spritz my face with Deep Woods Off, and also mist down my clothes.

4. Run to the garden, stick hands in the green bean plants, scream in terror at the CLOUD of skeeters that immediately swarms me. Pick the beans as fast as possible.

4. Run to the tomatoes, yank them off the plants.

5. Grab a few raspberries.

6. Gaze sadly at the poppies and borage flowers that require a lengthy, careful harvest, and sigh. Leave them be. I can’t spare the sanity or blood loss it would take to harvest.

7. Grab my baskets and run like hell for the house, as the skeeters have already mutated to creatures immune to my Deep Woods Off.

It’s nuts. Utterly insane. Yes, we grow our own food for health and self-sufficiency reasons, but also for MENTAL health. I love spending time nuturing the plants, weeding, harvesting small flowers for tea, and just letting the day slide off me. This year, that’s impossible. All I can do is buck up, grab the food and go.

On the bright side, the tomatoes ARE prolific and I am turning them all into sauce, and canning it in pint jars. If you are curious what goes in my sauce, it’s evolved into this. No particular measurements.

*Tomatoes, blanched, peeled, thrown in the biggest pot in the house.

* At least one chopped onion.

* As much garlic as your significant other can stand on your breath.

* Oregano

* Bayleaves

* Salt and Pepper

* Sugar. Anything up to a quarter cup, to cut the acidy effect.

* Chopped bell peppers. Red and yellow are fab, green are okay.

* Chili powder

This year I’m also chopping up bok choy and tossing it in, since there’s a lot in the garden that we aren’t otherwise getting at. I figure it’s extra nutrition! Don’t worry about chopping anything neatly. You’ll see why.

When it’s all simmered for hours and has thickened up, and you’ve tasted and adjusted the spicing, cool it down. (Actually I cook mine over a few evenings, since time is limited. I stuff it in the fridge in between).

Get out your blender, throw blobs of the tomato mess in, and whirr it up till smooth. Repeat till it’s all been blended down. Viola! That bok choy has vanished into saucy goodness, and no longer poses a threat.

Eat it up, freeze it up, can it up. Whatever. Just don’t share it with the damn mosquitoes.

Living a Steampunk Life, in Real Life

I use this blog sporadically and randomly, and with no real sort of focus or goal. My typist has her own private journal, and now we’ve decided that when she writes about activities that would suit my Steampunk era, I’ll let her cross post them here. She lives in the country, and rather enjoys doing many things the way they were done in the Victorian era – or earlier! These sort of posts may be of interest to my SL friends who don’t have access to my RL private journal. So, let’s give it a go.

Today’s Garden Harvest:

Three dozen Garlic Scapes which will be finely diced and either dried or stored in oil.

Three quarts of quite fat strawberries. More jam perhaps? Already did nine pints. Debating. Must clean them up at least.

Handful of poppy flowers. (Drying, for tea. Don’t panic, I use sparingly for sleeping.)

Handful of Borage Flowers for tea.

Big bunch of Sweet Woodruff for May Wine

Shall mince the scapes, clean the strawberries, wash the woodruff and let it air dry (stuff dries FAST on its own). I may pull down hanging bundles of oregano, chocolate mint and spearmint to crunch into jars. The catnip is a slow drying herb and needs more time to dry.

Tomorrow I hope to harvest mints, catnip, oregano, chives, sage, chamomile flowers and raspberry leaves.

Everything is growing very well! Won’t be long to peppers, radishes, lettuces, beans, raspberries… tomatoes still look a ways off.

Oh, and I tea-dyed an all-cotton peasant blouse and a pair of cotton gloves. Both were FAR too blindingly white for my taste!

World Steam Expo 2011

(Ceejay is lounging about somewhere sipping absinthe, so her typist will take the controls of her blog for a post!)

We had an amazingly good time at World Steam Expo this year, and I even cajoled Ken into costuming up a bit. We got him an extremely nice, well crafted bowler hat, upon which he wore his father’s welding goggles. No cheap imitations for him – these are family heirlooms that his dad wore when working in the auto industry, many decades ago. Looked great.

I went for a Steampunk nature girl look – straw pith helmet with mosquito netting, ribbon/brass/gemstones jewelry, peasant blouse, green alligator skin corset, beige skirt (which was a revival of a retired work skirt, lots of lace added, new brass buttons, etc.), brown stockings and brown cuffed ankle boots. Also slung a loose leather belt on over the corset to hold gloves, con pass and just generally steam up the look. And for the crowning touch, a homemade rustic butterfly net. I think the ‘industrial’ side of Steampunk is a bit overdone, and wanted to explore another facet. Besides… there’s a basis for it! I love this blog, it explains a lot: A Steampunk Container Garden – The Victorians Practically Invented Potted Plants.

Pics from the con WILL be forthcoming, as life allows. Ken’s careening through massive amounts of tasks nonstop every day, but when the pics are flickred, I will post a link! In the meantime, if you are curious, there’s a lot of everyone else’s pics in the flickr community.

Besides music and goofing off and ogling lots of costumes and filking and gadgets, we attended some really good panels about distressing clothing, working with metal, and possibly the most interesting, the influence of steampunk on modern design. We left the con with a definite high spirit of ‘we can do it!’ DIY confidence and enthusiasm!

…. which was a good mindframe to be in, as we arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, to find no electricity, water, internet, cable… just a lawn full of storm-ripped branches and the realization that our town had been hit pretty damn hard by a massive tornado-ish storm.

And so, we slid from Steam Expo into living life in the Victorian era for quite a few days. Water was hauled from a neighbors pond, kerosene lamps were gratefully lit. We do have a generator and could keep the fridge, freezer and a couple of lights going, but really, we’d gone back in time. I got a lot of reading done! Oh, and did I mention we were in a heatwave, and no A/C?

Anyway, it was an adventure, and I do believe the con had us in a great mindframe to weather it.

Read A (Vintage) Book!

I took yesterday and today off work to catch up with life and finish getting ready for World Steam Expo! Been really nice. Yesterday I slept in, then met up with a friend for lunch at Chipotle (LOVE their shredded beef tacos and guacamole). We then ambled over to Curious Books to take advantage of a huge credit she had from a previous used book dropoff. Friend only used about $20 of the credit, then tossed the remaining amount at me – about $55! Woo! So, I indulged in some sweet little rarities that are Relevant To My Interests (and also great thought-fodder and info for my Steam and Dieselpunk projects). I found these three used-but-decent little hardbacks, and paid a whopping total of $7.92 for all of them, after using up Friend’s store credit:

“The Ethics of Opium” by Ellen N. La Motte – 1924. This little gem breaks down the total revenue of many countries and then shows how much of that revenue came from opium. Every country gets a chapter with the dry figures, and then a nice wallow in critique and uppity attitude towards the country exporting the ‘chests’ of opium. For example, here’s how the chapter on Japan ends: The admission as to smuggling made by the Japanese delegate at Geneva, together with perpetual seizures of contraband morphia and opium, leaves no doubt that Japan is the active center for a huge illicit drug distribution in the Far East. This it (sic) too bad. All sincere friends of Japan deeply deplore this. Japan, with her great traditions behind her and her responsibility as a great Oriental nation, cannot afford to damage her prestige in this manner. She should not imitate nor make herself a willing cat’s-paw for the nastiest traffic the Christian nations go in for.”

“Food and Clothing” – 1914. by Leno Osborne, who apparently was the supervisor of the Department of Home Economics, for the Oklahoma City public schools. It’s a small course-book filled with all sorts of practical advice on cooking and clothing. (throw the coffee grounds, an eggwhite and some salt in a pot of cold water, bring it to a boil for three minutes. Strain. YUM.) Other vital-to-know recipes include divinity, candied orange peel and creamed dried beef. Them’s good eatin! And here’s your inspiration from the Textile section: The woman who feels herself entirely capable of managing her weekly washing has solved a big problem in home economics. The satisfaction of having pure, clean, sweet smelling clothes for the family, and the house, is worth all the troubles of “wash day.”

“Health Habits” from a series on physiology and hygiene – 1920. Co-written by Professor M.V. O’Shea of the University of Wisconsin and J.H. Kellogg (yes, of corn flake fame), credited as the “Supervisor of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Author of “Man, The Masterpiece,” etc.” And from this book, something to make you totally paranoid of dust: It is important that we try to breathe the air which we know has the least dust in it. Men of science who have made a study of this matter have found that house dust is especially dangerous to health. It often helps to bring on those dreaded diseases, pneumonia and tuberculosis, so often, indeed, that these diseases are called house diseases. It has been found that the very best way to cure them is to live out-of-doors, – to breathe outdoor air all the time.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must flee for my life to the great outdoors, boil some coffee over a campfire and tend to my poppy garden.