Auto, Cars, Craft

Learning Curve

There always comes a time in life where the road meets the rubber. Or in my case, where the needle meets the needle plate. Except when the needle can’t meet the needle plate. Or when you’re learning to drive a standard and having trouble getting the road and rubber to meet. Which would both be the case with me.

Re-learning to drive...

Re-learning to drive…

I take most of our orders for screenprinting and embroidery, especially since January when we hired my dad and I became permanently chained to the inbox. However, my brother will occasionally take an order, without my knowledge. Which is fine. Until he tells a customer I can do something for them that I don’t know how to do. It is at this point that I get a little flustered. Because learning new things is difficult. Especially when you are on a timeline and have someone wanting to pay you to do said new thing to a high standard of quality. Not ideal circumstances to learn. But, no one asked me. Obviously.

Embroidering hats

Embroidering hats

I have finally become proficient at running the embroidery machine. It is a single head with 15 needles and on most days, we get along just fine with one another. But, with 20 hats with puff embroidery thrown in the mix about ended our relationship.

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Puff embroidery is a new ballgame. It is essentially taping craft foam onto a cap and sewing over it to create a raised effect. Sounds pretty simple, but there are a lot of technicalities that are unaccounted for. So after a few phone calls to a technical support line (me and Juan, the phone operator, now know each other on a first name basis and I have an open invitation to dinner if I am ever in the Houston area) and endless explanations for why my machine was acting up, I got it right.

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I wish I could say I’d mastered driving in the same way. I can do it, I just need a lot of practice. So, my practice course of choice? A dirt road. Good decision, not much traffic. But, a dirt road that ends with a hill that pulls out onto the highway on a corner: bad decision. I put the clutch in, had the brake down, and when I judged it was clear, I let the brake and clutch off and slammed on the gas. Which resulted in some major gravel slinging and the tires taking off out from under themselves and nearly landing me in the opposite ditch. So, I’m basically as good as I expected I’d be.

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But, I am getting better. And eventually, I’ll get really good at it. It might take awhile, but I’ll get there. In the words of one of my missionary friends: life’s about the journey, not the destination. So, I’m gonna keep learning new things even when it’s hard and avoid hills in a standard at all costs.

Farm, Garden, Medicine

Pinky Promise?

How often do I even write anymore? Not often enough. I have the stories to tell, just not the time to get them written. Well, I guess I just haven’t been making the time. In between delivering t-shirts all over the tri-state area (we literally drove around 500 miles just in delivering last week), it’s hard to keep up with much. The garden is coming up nicely, though. I’ve managed to get almost all of the “small” garden planted, which are mostly root vegetables and tomatoes. I have a couple rows left to plant, then it’s time to move on to the big plot. That’ll be for potatoes (mostly sweets) and squash, melons, peppers, and any other random seeds I find in my collection. The last to be planted in the small garden were the carrots. I ordered an abundance of colors (carrots come in red, yellow, orange, purple, I even found a black variety) I like all the different colors because they all offer different phytonutrients. The motto for my major in college was: “Eat a Rainbow”, so all the different  colors are important, people! But, in my effort to get just the right blend of seeds, I missed the staple: a plain old orange carrot. So, who do you call when you need something? Mom.

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Everybody always tells me I look like my mom. Which I do. And sometimes I act a lot like her too. We both share a love for too many details, cantaloupe, and digging in the dirt. Here we are picking green beans together last summer. (By the way, the greens that are on my side of the picture that look like fronds are the tops of the carrots we grew last year, they were pretty huge)

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Anyway, back to the matter at hand (it’s a pun, you’ll see) I called her to see if she’d stop by a little store in town to get some carrot seeds. Harmless, right? Well, apparently, as she was walking out of said store, she was looking at some tomato plants and tripped, catching herself with both hands right before she face-planted into the concrete. I’ve talked about how graceful I am, so this is just a testament to where I get it from. She decided when she got home that her hand was just sore from the fall and it would be better in the morning. Wrong.

Post Fall: Day 1

Post Fall: Day 1

She woke up to it looking like a blown up surgical glove and after some coercing from me, we headed to the emergency room. Where we spent a beautiful Saturday getting seen by doctors and nurses and sitting in waiting rooms.

Peace, Love, & Pinkies

Peace, Love, & Pinkies

The verdict: she broke it. The bone on her pinky finger was smashed together in the fall, so she got a cast on her right arm. And, she got to sign her name with her left hand, which looked like the work of a first grader. (See previous blog post where I had to arrange first grade signatures on notecards for a comparison)

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The good thing about spending the day with your mom in waiting rooms is that it leaves a lot of time for photography. Actually, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a well arranged selfie. The ER seemed like just the right place.

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Her original cast was white and after being seen by the orthopedic surgeon, she got a permanent blue cast (now decorated with flames due to the artistic talent of my cousin), which she will wear for four weeks. No surgery necessary. And no pinky promises. At least for awhile.

Auto, Cars, Travel

Jeepers Creepers

Remember how we were talking about how I get weird job assignments, like organizing kindergarten signatures? Well, I think this might top that.

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I always hope that my brother gets a good nights sleep. #1: I have to work with him, so I don’t want to deal with any crankiness. #2: we run a business together, so when everyone is well rested, we are more productive, and productivity = profitability. #3 (and this might be the most important): if he wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, he’ll sometimes do “research” and end up buying things we don’t need. Our eBay account is linked to my email address and I woke up to this notification on my phone.

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We have been talking about needing a better delivery vehicle because shoving 15+ boxes of shirts in my Honda is getting a little tiresome. And, we have talked about a Jeep. But, we hadn’t talked about buying one (sight unseen) from an eBay auction. Only a small detail, right? Well, that’s what we ended up with. A 1990 Jeep that was used by the National Forestry department in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.

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Three other small details that weren’t mentioned. #1: the Jeep is located in southeast Missouri. #2: the Jeep is a manual. #3: neither of us know how to drive a standard. But why dwell on the small details?

Missouri has a reputation around here. I live close to the border on the southwest side, so depending on who you talk to, you’ll get varying opinions. When the man selling the Jeep called to ask if we would trade part of the cost on the vehicle for three feeder pigs, I knew exactly the type of person we were dealing with. So, I spent my morning calling all the local pig farms I knew of to see when they’d have some feeder pigs ready. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately), all the pigs still needed a few weeks until they were ready. Hauling three squealing pigs across the state isn’t really my idea of a great time anyway.

The man selling this Jeep has quite a story. Unfortunately, he is not the most politically correct individual, so most of his stories, I can’t repeat. I’ll summarize: he got hit by a semi-truck while walking near the highway (yes, this is actually a true story) and has continued to fall on hard times and that was his reason for selling the Jeep. When we showed up to his place (with more “over the bridge and past the barn” directions), he informed us that the neighbor had recently killed his son-in-law (three shots: two in the back and one in the head) and was now in prison. He also informed us that he hadn’t seen or heard anything. Yes, this is still a true story. So, obviously, I really wanted to stick around and hear all the rest of his stories. Plus, he had a bathtub in his front yard. I feel like that speaks for itself.

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We’re not tire kickers, so after a few minutes of looking under the hood and firing it up, we were ready to make a deal. While he was getting the paperwork together, he continued telling stories about run ins with game wardens, planting green beans, the time he rode a bicycle to a city 50 miles from there to get a job, how he got fired from said job, and ended up back on his grandparents farm, and is trying to get everything back up and running (the motor for his truck was sitting on his porch). I don’t know how I get so lucky to come across characters like him and why they feel the need to tell their life stories, but all I know is I run into a lot of them and they’re all more interesting than the last. So, moral of the story: never judge a house by the bathtub sitting in the front yard or a Jeep by it’s previous owner.

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Farm, Food, Garden

Honeyberry Heaven

Let me start off. I’ve never been good with directions. I get turned around, don’t pay attention, for whatever reason, I always get lost. But, I blame this on growing up in Arkansas. We have no sort of grid system, we have curvy little highways that run through the hills and small towns. So, if you don’t know where you’re going, you may not get there. I have been wanting Honeyberry bushes since I heard of them. And, it just so happens that the largest grower and supplier of Honeyberry bushes in the US is located a few towns over from us. What luck! Honey berries are similar to blueberries, but bigger and more prolific.

Berry farm

Berry farm

So, my dad called the place and scheduled for us to go pick the plants up. Never having been to this place, he asked the girl on the phone where they were located? During high school, I worked at my uncle’s drug store and when anyone called to ask me for directions, it was a disaster. And, the girl working at the berry place was apparently just like me.

That's her in the orange

That’s her in the orange

Dad told her he knew how to get to the town and what highway we’d be coming in on. We needed directions from there. Here are the exact directions she gave: “Drive past the guy who builds the little buildings and if you look through the trees, you’ll see a barn up on a hill. Turn on the little lane by the barn. If you get to the bridge, you’ll know you’ve gone too far.” See, this is how we give directions in Arkansas. Which bridge? Which barn? You’ll know when you see it. So, we drove and came to what I thought was the right barn. It was on a hill. But there were no trees. Nope, not the right one. We crossed a bridge, but there was never a guy building the little buildings before it, so that couldn’t have been right.

Not the right barn.

Not the right barn.

After driving around for about thirty minutes trying to find this place, we stumbled upon it. And sure enough, there was a little barn through the trees on the hill and a little lane. The owner later informed us, in a heavy Russian accent, that “Barbara runs the phone, so don’t call because Barbara is no good.”

The right barn.

The right barn.

When I was little, people always asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I changed my mind all the time. And I’ve changed my mind again. I want to be this lady. She was one of the leading pioneers to bring honey berries to the US and she knows her stuff. She spouted off information about planting and growing and everything in between as fast as I could understand it.

Giving instructions

Giving instructions

I asked her how long she’d been growing berries. {Insert thick Russian accent here} “I grow berries in Russia since I was 9 years old. I’m 54 now.” That’s a lot of years of berry growing. I think I’ve got some catching up to do before I can be like her, but I’m getting a start on it. I’m not sure I’ll ever achieve that accent, but that’s okay, I’ve got an accent of my own and I’m fine with that. The honeyberries are in the ground and the raspberries look like they’ll be putting on blooms any day now. And, I’ve got the email address of the best berry lady in the land, so I think I’m set. Let the berry growing commence.

Farm, Food, Garden

On Guard!

I have a cow. Her name is Ellie. Because she had an L on her head and I bought her when I was 14, so that seemed like an appropriate name. Actually, it still seems pretty appropriate.

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Growing up on a farm gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of different things. And when I say opportunity, what I really mean is necessity. As in, I was an extra set of hands, so I was just told what to do and how to do it. Which, I guess, is a pretty effective way to learn.

The other day, dad decided to teach me about fencing. Not the medieval, stick a fake sword into you kind of fencing. Like fixing fence. So probably no one else calls that fencing, except for me. After he showed me how to clip the barbwire to the posts, he decided to impart some knowledge to me. “A cow can get their head through there if they find a slick spot, but these barbs are gonna cut a little bit.” Well, yeah, they are.

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I proved him correct, two seconds later, after the wire popped back and caught my cheek. Luckily, it’s just a scratch. But, I’m pretty prone to incidences like this. If I can spill it, drop it, lose it, stain it, trip over it, hit my head on it, it’ll happen. You get the vibe. I walked through my door the other day and managed to get one of my belt loops stuck on the door knob. How does this happen? I have no idea. But, I about fell down trying to get myself unlatched. The fence did get done though, not much thanks to me.

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Leave me in the garden and I’ll be good. There’s not much to hurt yourself there, just me and the dirt and the seeds. I currently have snap peas and cabbage seedlings coming up. And, a load of raspberry offshoots that I am trying to transplant to everywhere else. Basically, they’re taking over and I’m in the process of reallocating all the land to make a raspberry farm. Newest additions to the seed startlings? Parsnips, rutabagas, radishes, and beets. I spent all winter picking out exactly what I wanted to plant and it’s finally time. Things are starting to get serious around here.

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Dessert, Food

Day In The Life Of

I had a really long day. So, I decided to put my dog in a hat and take a picture. Because there is just something so funny to me about dogs in hats. You just can’t help but smile. Lilly was less than thrilled.

My favorite co-worker

My favorite co-worker

People ask me what I do all day. Which is a really good question. Some days, as you can see, I stop to take pictures of my dog in a hat. I mean, you have to appreciate the small moments in life. Other days, I do embroidery on hats. All. Day. Long. Actually, the dog picture and the embroidery happened on the same day. I think the embroidery drove me nearly to the point of insanity. If you’ve never had the pleasure of running an embroidery machine (with fifteen needles and fifteen bolts of thread) that continually beeps at you every time a thread breaks for 8 hours a day, I’d invite you to come try it. These hats were 16000 stitches x 14 hats. In case you can’t calculate that, I’ll make it simple: there were a lot of thread breaks (and a lot of beeping and some frazzled nerves).

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What I really mostly do is answer emails and take apparel orders and get designs together for said apparel orders and basically make sure everyone has the answers and things they need. And in between all of this, sometimes I bake pies. I know, I live a tough life. There is a purpose for the pie though. I decided when my friends and I became twenty something’s (you know after all the monumental birthdays are over), we still needed to celebrate. But can we all agree that cake seems a little overdone? Okay, now that we’re on the same page, pie. It’s one of the best things. And, on your birthday, you deserve the best. So, on birthdays, I bake pies. Amy’s was the most recent.

Apple Pie

Amy’s Apple Pie

But, really, my actual job (not my pie-baking sideline) does encompass some odd tasks. I got an email from one of our regular customers after I had been helping her with her design for a kindergarten graduation shirt. She needed names put on the back, and said she’d mailed them to me. I kept waiting to receive the new email from her. The next day, I went to the mailbox and there was a big envelope from her. Sure enough, she mailed (not emailed) me the kids names. All hand written on notecards. So, that day, I had to lay them all out and take pictures for our designer to recreate. And, just in case you were wondering, arranging notecards of kindergarten names was not included in my original job description. I did, however, go ahead and write it down on my resume’, so my next employer will know the full extent of my qualifications.

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It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s definitely never boring. And, on the good days, you get pie. Now that’s hard to beat.