Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed 2015

For about a year now, I have been working on adding some milkweed to the garden where I volunteer, at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall.  Last year I went out looking for milkweed plants, dug some up at a construction site and transplanted them in the rear naturalized area at the village hall. Here is a link to that blog.

Last November, I just about froze, snow seeding milkweed seeds on a cold windy day.  During the fall, I asked my friends to bring me a milkweed pod, should they see one in their travels.  I saved them until this one cold day.  I opened the pods and let the seed fly.  I will share what I learned this day.

Tip:  Do not put fresh lipstick or chapstick on your lips before releasing the seeds.  If you do, the fuzzy part of the seed will stick to your lips!  Very uncomfortable!

This spring and summer there are small clusters of the plants growing, and now they are blooming.  Butterflies and other pollinators love the nectar from the flowers.
Here is the native milkweed as seen today, July 22, 2015. It's about 4 feet tall.
Last night as a group of us were weeding in this area a female monarch continually returned to this area.  So today I took a bag lunch and chair over there in hopes of getting a photo of her.  She showed up the minute I sat in my lawn chair and opened my lunch. My photo was nothing but a blur. I've learned it is difficult to snap a photo of a bee or butterfly.

Now I'm hunting for the eggs that I hope she has laid on the underside of the large fuzzy leaves.

Monday, July 20, 2015

How to avoid problem shipments--repost from 2012

WARNING:  This is a long post. Make yourself a cup of tea/coffee before you sit down to tackle this blog!

Coneflower Fiesta, one of the quilts is the problem shipment
Terror, that's what I felt when I learned that my complete show of quilts, packed in 8 boxes had been delivered to house several blocks away, and were sitting outside all day.  It was time to change how I ship and return-ship my quilts. When you are preparing to ship a quilt, think of the awful things that could happen to it, in transit, and after it arrives at the destination. How can you wrap it to protect it as best as you can? I thought I had taken care of everything!
Have a written appraisal for proof of quilt value
 1. Have your important quilts, (the ones that travel to shows, contests and exhibits) APPRAISED.  Fortunately I began having them appraised about 5 years ago. Find a qualified appraiser to create a written (not verbal) appraisal of your work. If a quilt is lost you must be able to prove what your quilt is worth. Just because you think your quilt is worth $10,000 your insurance company might think it is only worth $500.
Insure your quilts.  Talk to your agent to determine the correct coverage for you.

2. Insure your quilts.  Once they leave your home and are entered into a quilt show your home owners policy no longer covers them.  Check this with your insurance carrier to be sure.  I have an "inland marine" policy that covers items that travel.  If you regularly ship your quilts, you must carry your own insurance!  Years ago I gave up trying to insure each shipment when I went to the shipping counter. That is when I began insuring my work privately.  Shippers will usually state somewhere that they will not insure one-of-a-kind or works of art. 

This is a page from my Quilt Inventory notebook. I keep track of every quilt I've made, size, year, description, price, and eventually its new owner.

3. How much to your insure your quilts for? In the beginning I sent my agent an inventory of what I owned, to use as a starting point.  Tell them how much your work travels, how much is out on the road at any one time, and keep them updated every year or so with what the total value is.  Let's say you have $100,000 of quilts in your closet, your agent will figure out how often the stuff moves, how much to insure on your premises, how much is in transit, and how much is at another location on display.  The insurance company will figure out what dollar amount will cover the possible risks. This may take a few days to be determined.  Make sure your agent thoroughly understands what you are doing with your quilts.
The quilt is rolled around a tube, wrapped in a plastic sheet, ends tied securely. Place an address label on the outside of the "tootsie roll"

4. Pack your quilts carefully avoiding wrinkles and creases.  Always enclose the folded or rolled quilt in a heavy plastic bag, or in a large sheet of plastic. When rolling my quilts I slice open a heavy garbage bag so it becomes a long flat piece, snugly roll up the quilt, and tootsie roll the ends. Think of what might happen to the box with a quilt in it.  It could get dumped out of the box into a puddle, the box could fall off the truck and get run over and the list goes on.......  A heavy plastic bag when securely wrapped around the quilt can protect it when it is dropped on the ground, in a puddle or left to sit in the snow.  These things happen. A container from a traveling show once opened up at a shipping warehouse, the quilts dumped out on the dirty floor, 2 of the 8-10 quilts in the container had to go to a textile conservator to be cleaned, the shipper paid for it.

These telescoping boxes made the round trip from Wisconsin to LaConner WA and back
5. Use a strong cardboard box, they may be reused, but after two round trips I recycle the boxes.  I have found using telescoping boxes by U-Line #4872 easy to use, but not inexpensive.  You change the length of the box to fit the quilt.  If the box is beat-up before it leaves your home, it will really be in bad shape when it arrives at its destination.

6. Choose a shipper that services your area.  I will continue to use UPS, I think they provide a great service, and I will continue to entrust my quilts to their drivers and trucks. Take advantage of the tracking that your shipper offers.  You can check on the progress of your boxes at the end of each work day. With UPS there is no charge for this service. If you like another shipper, and you trust them, get to know their counter people, and set up an account with them. If you get to know the employees they will be extremely helpful when you run into problems.

7. Write down the phone numbers of your shipper in your personal phone book.  If a shipment is missing and you are upset, you may not be able to find the right phone numbers on their website!  So go look for them now.

8. Put your labels on everything.  Print up a good sized fabric label and sew it firmly to the wrong side of your quilt.  Stick an address label on the plastic that covers your quilt.  If the box opens and the contents fall out, there should be a name and contact information right on the plastic covered quilt.  Attach one to the inside of the box too.

9. Never let a quilt out of your control if you don't have GOOD photos of it.

And this is what I  should have done:

10. Always send with "quilt signature required" option.  UPS charges about $4.50 per package for this service. I chose not to do this because of the extra cost.  I figured I would stay home the day the quilts were due and there wouldn't be a problem!  And of course there was.  I never dreamed the driver would deliver all 8 boxes to the wrong address!  The place where they were dropped off, no one was home. With signature required, the driver wouldn't have left them sitting outside.  At least they would be more secure riding in the delivery van. Hopefully someone would have rechecked the address, and brought them to the correct address.

11.  When shipping more than one box, ship them on different days. This way all the boxes won't be riding together. Early in my quilting career, a semi loaded with quilts going to a show, caught fire and burned up. What if your quilts were on that truck?  Can we plan for everything catastrophe?  We need to try.

Several years ago, I was dropping off some packages at the shipper.  It was a warm day and the sun was shining. A semi trailer full of damaged packages had been dropped off, unloaded, and several workers were going through the packages.  A large truck had evidently been in an accident and the boxes looked like they had gotten wet and were twisted and beat up. The workers were deciding, what could be sent on to the recipient, and what would have to be destroyed. All the recipients would have to be notified about their damaged packages. What a mess.  The whole scene made me sick. There must have been some special treasures included in some of those packages, what if your quilt was in that mess?

12.  Robbi Eklow has a different solution.  She rents a mailbox at a service.  When a quilt is delivered to her suite and box number, the carton is safely held  behind the counter until she comes to pick it up. I must point out, that this is not an option at the United States Post Office!  This is a private service offered by UPS or Pack-n-Ship type businesses. This is a good option, for small shipments.  My 8 long boxes would have taken me 2 or 3 trips in the car to get them to my studio, but they would have been safe!

13. I am aware that nobody died and no person was injured, so I have to keep this mess in perspective. Yet I realized that our quilts are great treasures.  If one is lost, a part of the maker disappears with it. A little part of us is stitched into each one we make. Yes, it would help to have an insurance settlement, but nothing can truly replace the thing that we spent so many hours creating.

Keep those quilts safe! Please feel free to add your ideas here.

Ann Fahl

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bat Hotel with Pond View

Large native area in the back of the Mount Pleasant Village Hall 2014
For several years I have been concerned about the plight of the honey bees, hive collapse, and the disappearance of Monarch butterflies in the Midwest. The media mentions these problems from time to time and I’ve done quite a bit of research on these topics, to see how I can help. Now as a master gardener volunteering at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall, I hope I can help the pollinators a little bit. Native plants and other flowers which the butterflies and hummingbirds like have been planted in the gardens and rain gardens around the property.  But what about the bats?  They are considered as pollinators too.

Yes they are creepy, and as I child I had two run-ins with them, but I’ll spare you the details.  Bats are having problems too.  My neighbor has a bat house in her yard for years, it looks interesting but I never really considered using one myself.  Now I’ve rethought the problem, maybe we can help them a little at Mount Pleasant.
Here is the Bat House, just purchased, before installation. 12" x 18" x 5".
When shopping at the local garden center there was one for sale under $50.  So I proposed the purchase and installation to Logan Martin who coordinates with me and the Master Gardener program.  He said “yes,”  and today the bat house was installed!  I have accomplished another step in my goal to help pollinators.

 So what’s the big deal?  Bat houses should be placed on buildings or poles a minimum of 15 feet above the ground.  How would I get a tall enough ladder over there, to nail one up?  This is where Logan helped. He arranged for me to meet with Bob at the Dept. of Public Works; we decided where it would go; and he arranged for a truck with a cherry picker and an able person to hang it for us.

Ideally, a bat house should face the Southeast, it needs to be up high, and have plenty of open space for the bats to approach the box.  They need to be in a sunny spot where the temperatures inside reach 80-100 degrees!
The rear of the salt shed has an eastern face, the house will be installed on the SE corner

This morning, May 28, I met Peter Shilling behind the Mount Pleasant salt shed, we discussed a few things before he climbed into the cherry picker.  Then up he went with some tools and the house, it was secured into place with long wood screws so that high winds would not knock it down, the sun can warm up the box, and now it’s ready for occupancy.
Peter Shilling installing the bat house, slightly above 15 feet from ground level
Thank you Peter, for helping to install the box.  The open bottom and side ventilation holes can be seen.
To me, the location seems perfect. The box is placed up high enough, in a spot near water, the little retention pond should offer a lovely view as well as plenty of bugs. It is on the back side of the municipal salt shed, so it is away from where most people would be walking to and from the village buildings.  Will some nice bat family find our cozy hotel and move in?  From my research, I find it is possible that it could take a year or two until that happens.  For now we wait.  The red carpet is out.
Here is the view of the pond, which the bats will enjoy when living in our bat hotel!

Helpful links for bat enthusiasts: 

Follow all the links and you will learn all kinds of stuff.

Kind of batty,
Ann Fahl

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Treat

Trillium in the Sun, quilt by Ann Fahl, 43 x 43 inches
 This weekend I was going to treat myself to a gardening weekend.  This means no household stuff, no family history research, just playing outside in the dirt!  All winter I look forward to this time of year and now it's here.

It turned cold last night, a new front came through and it rained all night.  There will be no gardening today while the temperature is in the 40s.

The good news is that the trillium are blooming and they are wonderful. My woods is full of these lovely white flowers. When this happens I try and design another trillium piece in my head.

Ann Fahl

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Puddle in the Basement for Inspiration

You never can tell when an event might trigger some inspiration or a memory.  In Wisconsin yesterday, we had terrible rainstorms with tornado warnings.  Late morning when I returned home from errands I saw I had a small leak in my studio.  This happens when either the sump pump or the down spout near the door is clogged. 

I ran to the basement and got my basket full of rags, and threw them down to soak up the moisture on the carpet. Then proceeded to look outside for the cause of the problem.  When I finished with all my delightful tasks, a threw all the wet rags in the washer and dryer. 
This isn't just a rag bag

I'm done mopping and everything has dried out. It's time to put my studio back in order.  It might look to you just like a basket of junk but as I was folding up the cleaned rags I found the most interesting things:

A piece of a t-shirt with some experimental embroidery
My son's t-shirt from college
An old Case IH shirt that they gave away at company picnics when my boys were young
My very first T-shirt purchased at Paducah when my flamingo quilt won a prize
A pair of my husband's underwear
Pieces of my first flannel sheets
The striped towel my grandmother got free in a box of detergent. This is a true relic.

This isn't just a rag bag it is full of family memories!

Ann Fahl