Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Shem, Ham and Japheth survived the Deluge of 2017

Do you name your cars? We try to, but some names stick while others don't. In our 25 years of marriage we've owned "Herman" the VW Baja Bug, "Augustine" the VW Bus, "Red" the Mitsubishi Eclipse, "Suber" for the (you guessed it) two Subarus. 

All our other cars just got their generic names, Escort, Rabbit, Dasher, Blazer, etc. Right now we have the very original designations of "Your Car" and "My Car." 

We have the same routine with our trees and plants - some we name for convenience's sake. "Have you watered Landon the Plant and The Little Stones" has much more significance than just "Have you watered the jade plants?" No one wants their jade plants to die or freeze, but you really don't want your jade plants you named after your friend's son and grandson to end up in the green waste can.

Our house currently has four trees we call by name. There is "Little Stevie" who is named after our beloved neighbor Steve. He hates Crepe Myrtles, but he still loves us even though we planted a messy tree between our two houses. The other three trees in our yard with monikers are "Shem, Ham and Japheth" - our majestic yet stress-inducing California Redwoods.

If you're thinking of planting a California Redwood in your yard, and you live in the Sacramento Valley, rethink that decision. These trees get big, really really big. They need water, lots of it. If they get big (and they will) and they don't get water (which they won't in a drought) you're going to end up with lots of firewood landing somewhere on your property. Or on your house. Or on your neighbor's house.

We keep our redwoods watered even in summer, because we can't afford not to. If either Shem, or Ham, or even Japheth were to decide it was time to come down, it won't be majestic. They will either take out part of our house, the neighbor's house, our trailer, our pool house or our pool. There's one small sliver of yard they could fall into and cause only some fence damage, but so far they haven't responded to my emails about it. They've just got their heads in the clouds, growing bigger and more majestic every year.

We just experienced the fourth wettest January in recorded history. Rain, rain and more rain. On this date, January 31, 2017 Sacramento is .90 inches shy of our total rainfall for the whole year. What that number doesn't convey is the gale force winds we got with our January storms. Winds that took the breath out of us. Winds that had us going to the sliding glass door and sending messages of encouragement to our three big trees, telling them to "Hang in there, You got this, Dig deep boys, Spring will be here soon." Standing at the sliding glass door talking to redwood trees, pleading with them to not fall into the point where you're standing may seem a bit crazy on a beautiful day like today, but you just had to experience those winds to understand.

On one particularly windy morning, while standing at the sliding glass door, Ernst let out a sound of distress. "Oh, no. I think Ham is leaning into Japheth." "NO!" I exclaimed, as I ran to the door made of thin glass, watching our massive trees bend from side to side in gale force winds, knowing they would reach that pane of glass should they fall. We stood and stared, trying to recall if Ham has always leaned a little towards the right. I got the idea to check my Instagram history to check if any one was off kilter. Sure enough, whew, Ham was fine, he's always had a bit of a bend in the trunk. It was time to step away from the glass and go check on Little Stevie. 

My advice? Plant appropriate trees. Water them. Prune them. But never name them. 

From left to right, Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Standing tall, ready for spring.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to make a killing on Etsy. Or not.

Chicago Cubs winning the World Series?
Definitely a good thing in 2016!
I'm ready to put the year my husband had heart surgery (the second in one year's time) and the year my Mom died behind me. So, I'm more than ready to tidy up the loose ends of 2016. And that means the joy of paperwork. I just totaled up my Etsy earnings for 2016. Gulp.

I recently saw this very interesting list of factors that Etsy sellers should think about when analyzing their shops. It comes from the owner of a shop called Norwegian Wood. She's had 6905 sales on Etsy, so of course my envy meter is in the red. But being a fellow Northern California seller, I thought I'd give her advice a looksee.

Brand? I'm supposed to have a brand? Sounds painful. But I'll work on it.

Define need. And, I'm not supposed to "simply make stuff that I like making"? Oh, boy, I've got some thinking to do on this. 

Ha, Ha, Ha! "Do the math about the time and costs involved..." But that would just make me cry, and the goal for 2017 is less crying. 

Fortunately, in adding up my material costs for 2016, I did pretty well. So many friends have donated unused fabric to me, I've done all right with my expenses. I could purchase more things in bulk, such as my batting, but I just don't want to impact our home that much. So if it doesn't fit in my craft closet, it's not coming in the house.

Repeat laughing from above. Etsy is as saturated with quilts as California is from the Storm of 2017. The ground's wet, the rivers are rising and we're all trying to just tread water.

If I took better pictures, I might do better. Or should I say, if I actually made more quilts, and then took better pictures of them, I might do better. 

But with my particular product, I think I'm much better in person than over the Internet. At the close of my miserable 2016, I hauled in my quilts and hats to a little craft area at my job where a co-worker was selling her quilts. I sold a lot! But they didn't give me the money until 2017. Grr.

From what I've seen, no one else is taking only recycled, upcycled and/or repurposed fabric pieces and turning them into one-of-a-kind rag quilts with unique names and funky descriptions and selling them on Etsy. But since the quilt market on Etsy is so saturated, it's hard to stand out. Hence the need to find some in-person craft shows to do that don't cost more than a bolt of batting.

I just posted two new quilts, Willow and Calico. They took me too long to make and my profit margin is not that great, but I loved making them. Branding, time plus costs plus materials, market saturation, wants verses need, I can't think about that right now. I have some more quilts to plan. 

She never wants the Cubs to win again. Ever.