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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving in the tree of birds

There are two more feeders for Emily and Laura to fill this year, and so many birds the tree seems alive with movement.

Today has been grey from start to end. I hoped to get pictures of my flying pigs enjoying the additions, and finally went out at three, for the last grey light. 

One of the new feeders, and probably a downy woodpecker. He had been boosted from the other new feeder.

The other new feeder, commandeered by an American crow. I bought it Wednesday morning, and in a fit of largess the girls picked out the fruit and nut block. It seemed the right thing to do, although it also attracts black birds. This is the first week we've put out "the good stuff," the black bird magnets. They have to eat too, just like the cardinals, I remind myself. Somehow the crow is more acceptable than starlings and cowbirds. A tufted titmouse above the crow's head is waiting.....

American gold finch. Just passing through; all those little white safflower seeds are too troublesome to extract from this feeder,

when it can reach right into this feeder.

"You talking about me?"

Not a great day for pictures; I gave it up rather sooner than later. But, not quite the end.

A final shot of my flying pigs, working on niger seed, keeping that village in Ethiopia funded for another year. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Back to business

Back before I retired, when I began earning my living by weaving, I was barely middle aged, far more spry, fresh from a manufacturing plant where I knew the value of a costed bill of material. What I did not know about sourcing thread for weaving, however, probably filled a warehouse. Of course it was available from the well known shops of the time, neatly wound on one pound cones, and sold at retail.

Retail! Aarrgghh, as Lucy said. In manufacturing everything is purchased at some level of wholesale; you cannot purchase at retail to sell at retail. This was back in the eighties; there was no internet. I recall purchasing a Thomas Directory, and it was a bit helpful locating some suppliers. I was able to direct one of my competitors to a good source of mop cord, for instance. He wove place mats.

One good source of information was dumpster diving. Jan would stand guard and I would look through the trash behind a shop for return address labels on shipping cartons. Ah, the good old days. Another  source was the U-turn, going back to visit a place of interest. R&M Yarns, for instance. We saw their name emblazoned across their roof, from an interstate in Georgia, on the way to visit our niece.

Over time we built up our list of suppliers for each kind of cotton we used. The thread for the jacket that made up a third of our sales was the only thread we had produced at a mill. Our several hundred pound orders amused them, no doubt; it probably was the overage they held back from regular orders of a ton or so. I called it the jacket from hell; the most constructed garment we made, and I was not sorry to see the last of them leave the booth the last morning we were in business.

Most of our thread came from brokers who dealt in mill ends, the wonderful eclectic world of any kind of cotton thread you can imagine how to use. Mill ends come about when the spinner makes too much of an order, the dyer doesn't get the color right, the thread isn't wound properly—any number of reasons that cause the original customer to reject the lot and the manufacturer have a loss on his hands, to sell to the thread broker at close to cost, and start over.

We bought from two major thread brokers back then, one in Tennessee and one in North Carolina. I have found my Tennessee broker again, and I think the North Carolina broker flitted past my eyes on the internet, but I lost it before I could bookmark it, and haven’t found him again.

Never mind, I've found Sheldon! Spent his career in the New York garment district, retired to Tennessee, to a sort of bus man’s holiday. The first time I pulled into his Tennessee warehouse I actually drove past several times before I decided the very back road Tennessee accumulation of dilapidated metal sheds and garages actually were a warehouse. “The lady from Ohio is here,” I heard him say through my car radio as the slats on a blind across a trailer window parted and his eyes and ear with telephone were revealed.

“Hello, Sheldon, how are you?” I said enthusiastically, last week. “Older and uglier,” he responded, and we were back in business. An old mill in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, is his new warehouse. I told him what I was looking for and I could just see him moving from box to beautiful box of “the large shipment I just got in from…..,” describing the grist and the color.  No matter the order would be small. We both love the stuff.  

I ordered some denim blue flake and some yellow 10/3. I do hope it comes before the holiday; I have a full beam and am about to weave more towels.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The pressure is off

Taking Emily and Joe to inspection last night, there were groups of people at every drive and intersection along the long, long route to school. They jumped and cheered and waved homemade signs at passing autos, exhorting the team to victory and its fans to cheer loudly. The enthusiasm made me smile and wave back. There was no such joy from the rest of the car.

We passed police cars staged along the route. I remembered the newspaper said the team would be given a police escort the several miles from the school to the freeway. The band and team busses would not leave for another ninety minutes, but quite a crowd was assembling. I thought how nice the whole send off would be.

The game was televised on a very local television station and at half time Jan and I tuned in to watch the band perform. They are very good. The home team led by ten or fifteen points.

Toward the end of the third quarter I wandered by again and Jan spun the dial. The boys in blue and white were up by far more than twenty points. I called my son-in-law and simply said there was little chance of a loss, so we needed to discuss options. He asked for the inspection time Saturday and calculated what time they would leave Cincinnati to arrive on time.

The stony face that came through the door at midnight confirmed the probable victory. Miss Emily avoided me so completely I finally asked her to stand still while I delivered my news. She went to bed without a word, and I stifled a grin.

I had an email this morning from the chief band parents, explaining the great victory and providing a link to a written form to request absence from next Saturday’s game. It can be turned in only on Monday; any later and the absence would be unexcused. That did make me smile. I wonder how many will not perform.

These footballers are two victories from a divisional state championship. There’s a lot of skin in this, including the grandma who drove two band members to practice or games three times a week. Let’s all cheer the team, and the band that plays at half time in their support. They've gone a long way.