On snow and exploding whales
I'm happy to report that I was able to get just about everything out the door in good time for shipping and all local pickups and deliveries made, though a few by the skin of my teeth as a handful of pieces due for pickup the last Sunday of the market were still hot off the sewing machine as of five o'clock that morning, yikes! A couple red leads didn't make the holiday cutoff, due to a series of dismally poor-quality hides having to be sent back to the tannery. Those couple remaining pieces will be shipped out on Monday morning--and a million thanks for the patience of those kind folks. The quality of my raw materials is of paramount importance to me, and I refuse to spend either my money or yours on crummy leather. If it happens, I'm always happy to substitute another color of your choice if time is of the essence, but sometimes it takes a few tries to get my paws on a side of leather that's high enough quality for me to be happy to ship gear made from it.
It's been an action-packed holiday season and I am sure happy to have worked with some really great folks on a world of different projects. This here is a custom bear paw harness done for Yuki-san, the shiba "brother" of Jiro with the rad "green flames" harness.
The bear paw cutout on the back saddle was an awful lot of fun to do, and I was pretty tickled about the claw marks on the shoulder straps, too. I dug up some photos of bear claw marks on trees for the shape. I think I've mentioned before that I often work with veterinary tools--the claw marks were dug out with a surgical curette, rather than being cut, so that the slashes would look torn into the leather.
I'll have to sit down and look through my camera for more fun stuff... I was in such a sewing frenzy that I sometimes didn't even have time to stop and shoot portfolio photos, sewing long after dark and boxing things for shipment before dawn the next day. There was a fun set of tiny little vines and leaves collars for cockapoos Carmella and Tulip, and a mini version of the squares and dots collar for beagle Copper down in Sacramento... a flat collar for landseer Moses that's bigger than my friend Claire's belt size ;0).
Meanwhile, we wrapped up the last weekend of Holiday Market in fine style. I'd decided not to do the last Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday stretch through Christmas Eve in hopes of making it down to my parents' house for the holiday. It ended up being a wise choice because I went down like a poleaxed steer on Sunday night with what I am guessing is Giardia* though remains undiagnosed because though at one point I actually blacked out in my mews while feeding my hawk, I am either too stupid or too stubborn to have gone to the hospital when my medical professional of choice was unavaliable, being pretty firmly of the school of "that which does not kill you can probably be cured with ginger ale and crackers if you wait it out long enough". Perhaps not wise, but I really do hate hospitals exactly that much**.
Anyway, between the suspected flagellated protozoan parasites and the heinous ice storms, it was an hour-by-hour thing whether or not we were going to make it out for Christmas, and when we had a break in both situations we made a quick escape out with the bare essentials; the clean socks and undies, the Christmas gifts, and the dog all made it, but the camera along with several other helpful items did not. I'd have liked to post photographic documentation of the f*n Winter Wonderland that was the Siskiyous and the Shasta pass, but this awesome artist's rendition will just have to do:
That pretty much sums it up. In case you're wondering, the crack in the rearview mirror is one of Simon's few puppy indescretions. His sharky little puppy teeth can still be felt on either side--Mr. Armadillo thought until very recently that he'd bonked it while jumping around and cracked it with his noggin... no, he actually gnawed the frame top and bottom and cracked the glass by squeezing it when I left him in the car for thirty seconds.
So... we apparently timed it perfectly to make it through the passes while everything was just under siege by slush but the temperatures hadn't dropped below freezing yet. Yucky, but not really dangerous. We made it to my parents' house on Christmas Eve, stayed through the next day, and made a quick escape the next morning, again with perfect timing as the passes were frozen again just after we got back through.
I was apprehensive about having timed Gaia's feedings, but even that worked out as perfectly as possible; she weighed in perfectly to the gram for that day's flight training so we had a quick training session with a few mews jumps to the glove for a light feeding. Wild birds don't necessarily eat every day, and falconry birds often eat on a 48 hour schedule. It's not generally a problem for them to miss a feeding, but when you're not there to monitor the situation you tend to err on the side of overfeeding, particularly when you happen to be an apprentice with a bird at a tricky and very precise stage of training and the weather is potentially severe. Often when you feed them up in anticipation of going away for a day or two you lose several more days of training while your bird doesn't have any interest in food, sitting around instead on a window perch with that comfy meal percolating through their system and one foot pulled snugly up in their warm belly feathers. But! occasionally I do something right and she was spot on target for what we call her "initial response weight", or the weight at which she becomes interested in coming to the glove for food.
So we had a quick visit in the mews and the next day, yesterday, went out for her very first outdoor flight training. It went beautifully, though we had to go out a bit early--I'd timed the amount of food I had given her the night before so that she'd be hungry around late morning. We started getting weather reports for heavy wind and rain so I made a dash out a few hours earlier than planned. She wasn't as keen as I might have hoped but did respond beautifully with a series of half a dozen short flights from the training perch and happily enough recalled to the glove from the top of the weathering yard and out of a plum tree. All in all, a very satisfactory first flight session. She ate a little heavily so today we'll go out in the mid-afternoon assuming her weight and appetite are on target for our first session on a creance line--a weighted line of fifty-odd feet that we use for longer flight distances. In theory, if I'm managing her handling correctly, we'll spend a week or so polishing her whistle/glove response and doing a bunch of training to a lure (a vaguely bunny-shaped leather and wool pad on a rope, baited with meat) on a creance line, a few days of the same sort of training without the creance, and then we'll go hunting.
There's more to it than that, but... if all goes well, things should progress very quickly from here.
And lastly, this is already miles long, but I just feel the need to leave you all with this glorious incident from Oregon's news archives. The thing that really makes me laugh about this is imagining the scenario in which when considering how best to remove a manky dead whale from your beach, clearly a half-ton of dynamite is the go-to option.
There's really no other way to say it than the way Dave Berry did:
I am probably not guilty of understatement when I say that what follows, on the videotape, is the most wonderful event in the history of the universe. First you see the whale carcass disappear in a huge blast of smoke and flame. Then you hear the happy spectators shouting "Yayy!" and "Whee!" Then, suddenly, the crowd's tone changes. You hear a new sound like "splud." You hear a woman's voice shouting "Here come pieces of...MY GOD!"
Hope you all have the very happiest of holiday seasons... whichever you might celebrate, and an undisappointing Festivus, for the rest of us. ;0)
*note to self: be more careful in re: dead quail, whistles and hood braces (and other equipment that's likely end up in my mouth), and keeping better track of the pockets into which both are stuffed.
**I promise I'll call Dr. B on Tuesday, dad!