Saturday, November 28, 2009

Irish Thanksgiving?

Hello! We are fully stuffed with our Irish Thanksgiving meal, sitting in the living room with a few folks. Dessie, right next to me, is dozing off. We have been cooking since yesterday morning, and it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself, complete with three kinds of potatoes for 17 people! Here’s a list of what we had, along with a photo of the leftovers.

All home made: mashed potatoes, cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, creamed corn, cranberries, gravy (with just a little bit of turkey—we got two giant drummies from Asda supermarket but that was all) and vegetarian gravy. Top it off with two apple pies. Yummy!

We started cooking after breakfast with Jill, assembling all the ingredients that we prepared yesterday. Around 3:30 people began to assemble, and we made pilgrim hats! How cute are we?! By 4:15 everyone had arrived and we sat down for a meal. Jeff read a Thanksgiving story, and then we went around the table and each said thank you for one thing. In our hats, of course. Finally, one guest insisted that we sing “Oh the Lord is Good to Me” because he knew an American once who loved that blessing. Then, food! There was no American football to be had, because in a couple minutes we are going to begin constructing our advent wreaths. Some other day, perhaps January 10th when Joe Wags is on TV for the Junior All American game. (WHooooo!!!!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A day in the life... Chelsea

Well hello! It is amazing to me that I last posted few weeks ago, but it is true. My aim today is to post a day in my life. Many people have been asking what I have been doing, and though it seems very normal to me I guess it is not so normal to all of you. So here it goes.

We wake around 7am and hit the road. All Jeff and I have to do is brush our teeth and get dressed, because we eat breakfast with everyone at the house. Some weeks we are responsible for waking people up and making the breakfast, which means we get to the house a little earlier. Here is a photo of our morning walk, complete with rainy day weather. The walk is a nice way to shake out the cobwebs from sleep, but it sure is muddy. Usually my pant cuffs have mud splatters, and it is totally normal around here. After breakfast I usually do things like help with medicine, double check tooth brushing, laundry, etc.

AM Work
At 9:30 (supposedly, anyway) everyone goes to work. My morning task is in our house, cooking lunch with three other women. We have three hours to cook! It is too much, but means that I am doing all sorts of fun things. We also manage laundry and cleaning in there, so the time is certainly not wasted. First we head to the "store," which is a building all of 30 feet from our front door. There we have a community storage space filled with all the essentials. We pick up the vegetables and maybe meat for the day, and stock up on any of the essentials that we may be out of in the house. You know-- cereal, TP, flour, light bulbs. Several people are involved in maintaining the store, and some days they are in there doing their work in the morning as well. It is really wonderful, and a good way for the community to save money because it is all bought in bulk.
After we get our stash for the day (lately, a lot of root vegetables from the garden and thats about it) we start the cooking. We work on this massive beast called an Aga, which is basically an old-fashioned farm house stove. It used to be a wood stove, with a fire in the middle, warmer on the left, ovens on the right, and stove space on the top. The Aga and I, we have a love-hate relationship. I do not know how I would do cooking for 15 every day on a conventional oven. But, ug... the Aga is not an accurate stove or oven. You can "change" the temperature, but the only settings are 1 through 5, and it changes the temp of the whole thing at once but very, very slowly. The roasting oven is sometimes too hot while the baking oven is too cold. Baking cakes and cookies is difficult, as they are either scorched or doughey. Oh, and if it is a windy day the Aga may be lukewarm all over anyway. I am learning, and so far I have not burned myself on it (which is apparently impressive). So that is morning work. We are supposedly done cooking at 12:30 and eat at 1:00, but with my cooking style I am often steaming spinach right before we eat so that it is perfect. Some days I sit for that half hour, other days I do not.

Usually tasty, sometimes crazy. Today we made squash soup, paprika cabbage, and quinoa with lentils. Camphill generally (that is, not just this community) is stuck with some residual gender role issues. Not only do I cook with three other women (and it is the same in nearly every house), but we also serve up everyone when we cook. I and Christina, the other co-worker who cooks with me, serve everyone their plate. We sit down to eat and the first people to be served are asking us for seconds. Don't get me wrong, some people need help getting their food and I do not mind that. But sometimes I would like to enjoy what I am eating for a couple minutes! There are some people that recognize this, and others that do not. Anyway, sometimes I feel a bit like a 1950s housewife, which many of you can imagine, does not settle well with me. Jeff has been jumping in here and there to break the stereotype every once in a while.

In the afternoon I work in the weavery. Look how beautiful! Like I have said earlier, I do not actually do a whole lot of weaving, but a lot of finishing work. That can be as simple as tying the ends of a scarf, or as difficult as a bag or toy. Here, you can see a few of the things that I have been working on. The purple purse is my favorite, I just finished it today! Also, a big bag, a turtle, and a cushion. There is a whole lot of room for artistic preference here, which is wonderful. It is for a funny reason though-- the weavery here is not dependent on selling any of the products made. So they do not mind if we make crap now and again because there is room for mistakes. Don't get me wrong, we do still sell a lot of it. Soon we will have an advent fair, which is what the push is for now. A lot of the things we are working on now are for in-house consumption as well, as people prepare for Christmas time gifts. I am anxious to buy some items to send home! They really are beautiful. By the time I leave the weavery, it is dark outside already.

The evening is pretty mellow. Before supper some nights I help with showers, other nights I just chill out for a while. We usually help prepare supper which is a small meal here, just bread and jam or perhaps some cake or fruit salad. Afterward, everyone does their own thing. The house we are attached to is not particularly social, which is tough sometimes! If we sit together after supper, it is really just that-- sitting together. Jeff and I have made some headway getting people to talk with us, but it is slow in coming. People start heading off to bed at 8, and if we are "housekeeping" (which is two nights a week) we mop the floor and encourage people to do their nightly routine. There is more hand-holding in this respect than there was at Community Homestead, and I am trying here and there to encourage more independence. For instance, does a person really need me to get them to go for their evening juice? No, he does not, but the routine suggests that he goes when we say something rather than when he feels like it. Little bits of independence that could be encouraged. If we are not housekeeping we go back to the cottage when we feel like it. But if we are housekeeping, come 9:30 everyone is off to bed, and we start our walk home. I like this walk, as it is a nice reflection time.

Well, there you have it! This was a very long post, but I think our moms appreciate knowing what we do every day. If you have questions, please post them and we will answer them in our next one! Lots of love...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

People can't get enough of the pictures

Week Four: Jeff

Its been a few weeks since you have heard from me. Work in the mornings so far has consisted of tidying up around our cottage and Rainbow house in the community. The work has been intermittent but satisfying. Tomorrow I will start my permanent post in the garden. Being that it is fall going on winter, I will be helping to prepare for the spring. Some mismanagement over the last few years has meant there is much work to do and I am glad that I can contribute. To tell the truth, I have been quite stir-crazy over the past two weeks. The opportunity to allow for me to feel like I am actually contributing to the community, something I have been looking for.
The one negative aspect to this job is the Irish weather! Wet and cold are constants here. This hardened Minnesotan won't accept defeat in the face of some above zero temperatures and rain but I will surely relish in the four conscripted tea consumption times. The weather here is strange to describe because my concept of "rain" isn't what happens here. Very little of the day is actually pouring, the rest is drizzle or light rain and most days you can faintly see your breath. Being always at the dew point gives the impression that it is raining even when the sun is out. Sun showers are an everyday occurrence at give us a welcome showing of some blue sky and warming rays.

In the woodwork shop I have almost completed a giant owl (measuring about 2.5 feet high). I inherited this project from someone else and am rather uninspired with it. I will take a picture when I am finished. After I am done, I am going to be starting on some new projects that we can hopefully sell. The trick is trying to find projects where villagers can contribute. Right now many spend much time rasping lamp stands but it is a task that is quite uninteresting. If anyone has ideas or projects that they would want done for them, please let me know. As we progress, I will post the projects we are working on.

I had the realization last night that I am now settled here. Though I still have to wrap my head around the steering wheel being on the wrong side, most things here seem normal. I don't have to think about what a lorry or larder might be (a truck and a pantry, respectively), I just know. I am no longer concerned about public custom in public and have learned to navigate the phones, buses and taxis. I still look the wrong way when crossing the street but some things I don't think will ever change.

Chelsea and I are beginning to make friends but we are a rather odd age for coworkers it seems. Most of the temporary coworkers are younger, 18 or 19; it is common for Europeans to take time off before they go to university. They like going into the nightclub on the weekends and we weren't really those types even when we were that age so... they make us feel old. The permanent coworkers are in middle age or older. That leaves us smack in the middle. It leaves us to blaze our own trail and so far that has been fine.

I must go out now for a practice driving time to make sure that I am not going to kill myself or others while shifting with my left hand, driving on the left side of the road through roundabouts. Insanity over here, dumb Brits and needing to be different than the rest of the world...