In Which Our Heroine Returns Home To October’s Hall

The pumpkin lamps have been lit on the mantle, the cider is warming on the hob, and there’s a fresh gingerbread cake cooling on the counter. October is here, and with its arrival, I am home. The larder may be a little less full this year, compared to some other years, and the air a bit colder, but such is the mercurial nature of things. It will not be the first lean year, and likely won’t be the last.

I’m just happy to be home at last, where it is easier to think and I can remember who I am.

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another

Mobile vet has been and gone. The Goblin Boys did SO WELL, and after several tubes of squeezy paste (wet cat treats in a little tube), have more or less forgiven us. Now we wait to see what the blood work results look like and continue on toward getting the boys neutered next month. Sadly, the vet was still unable to feel Puca’s missing testicle, so we’re going to have to get an ultrasound done to find where the hell the damned thing is, and his neutering is going to be a lot more invasive than normal to get it taken care of.

Yes, I’m having a panic attack about the amount of time this little jerk is going to have to spend under anesthesia, as well as trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to afford it, along with the work my truck needs to pass inspection.

On the other hand, I’ve got the Grotesquery painting framed and listed in the shop and updated my pinned post on Twitter. I’ve been meaning to get the new pinned post done for a while, but kept putting it off. Glad to have that off the plate. Today and tomorrow are for getting the Hallows Ghost story finished and ready to be posted on October 1. It’s mostly done. Just need to do the last scene and then proofread/edit it.

First, though, time to go drop the truck off at the mechanic.

A Small Grotesquery and Helpful Kitties

The best part about autumn really is being able to cook the things I love to cook again. Last night I made a pot of sausage and kale soup for dinner, with enough left over for lunch for the next couple of days. Tonight I’m planning to bake a pear crisp, using the rest of the pears a friend gave me from her pear tree. The household cooking is generally divided by season around here, so Himself does most of the cooking in the warm months on the grill, and I do most of the cooking in the cold months, and it works pretty well. The cats do their best to help us both year-round, which is to say that Púca nearly made a successful attempt to jump into the soup kettle last night while I was stirring it.

Slowly but surely figuring out a new household pattern that lets me get some serious work done, and as a result I’ve got a new painting finished! Turns out that some of my monsters make excellent grotesques when combined with medieval illuminated manuscript techniques and stylizing. Planning to see if I can find a frame for it this afternoon so I can get it formally listed in the shop, and then get another one started later on.

I spent some time earlier in the week reconfiguring my Ko-fi membership tiers, so now monthly subscribers will have exclusive sneak peeks at whatever I’m working on that I won’t be posting elsewhere online, as well as the ever-popular cat pictures (since subscription donations go toward helping keep them fed and housed by providing a steady source of income), in addition to the discounts that the two high tiers already get. With shifting away from Patreon, it’s so much easier to manage perks, which frees up a lot of mental bandwidth to make sure I can reliably follow through on them. I’m hoping to add more as I go, but for right now, it’s a good start.

Now, though, I’m off to the store to see about a small frame for the newest Smol Monster and maybe a couple of extra to have on hand for it’s upcoming siblings.

Now Is The Time Of Endless Pots Of Soup And Tea

Autumn has arrived, and overnight the temperatures dropped and the winds began sharpening their edges, warning of the impending winter. This is my favorite time of year, when the trees change their dresses to bright reds and golds, and the smell of apples and dying leaves fills the air. It is the time of gathering root vegetables and making soup stocks, of setting the kettle back on the counter and finding where all the sweaters got put.

It’s also the time of staring down having to make plans for heating oil and nightly panic attacks about how we’re going to afford this year’s heating bill, with the oil prices still almost twice what we usually pay. This year we also have to come up with the money to get the Goblin Boys neutered by the end of next month, and this summer’s unexpected flood of vet bills already washed away the buffer we usually have set aside for winter’s expenses. Púca, in particular, is going to be very expensive, as his neutering is very probably going to involve an ultrasound to find a wayward testicle, followed by invasive surgery to extract it. All told, that’s going to run close to $3k, and we have not been able to afford get them onto an insurance plan yet. Oh, and my truck needs new tires before I can get it inspected, and I’m already overdue enough on that, that my driver’s license may get suspended, because Mass. is kind of a dick about that sort of thing.

Stressed? Me? Nah…

*hyperventilates into paper bag*

On the plus side, at least rice, soups, and stews are reasonably inexpensive to make a large quantity of and it’s the season where cooking them doesn’t make me want to die? It’s not the first time I’ve had to feed us on a shoestring budget, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Back to the studio…things to paint and stories to write…

Mad Molly Comes Hunting/Poor Lost Lamb

The other day, I woke up from a nap with a song in my head and was reminded of how I came across it and its story lying on the Road.  It was told to me by an old woman in a dead mill town one late autumn afternoon over glasses of homemade lemonade, after I asked her about the song I’d heard her singing while I stopped to stretch my legs.

* * * * *

“Hey ho, hie away home

Bread nor bones nor drippings has she none

Molly comes a-huntin’

Hie, hie away home

Poor lost lamb,

Hide away,

Hide from all the sorrow

On this dark day.”

(Obscure folk round to the tune of “Hey Ho Nobody Home/Ah Poor Bird”)

A long while back a trapper, a particularly bad-tempered man, lived up in the mountains with his wife, Molly, and their several children. One autumn, he got injured and was unable to leave his bed, leaving Molly to tend to him, the house, the children, and all the other things that needed doing.  The winter storms came early that year and, what with everything, the food got low too soon.  The trapper complained at her day in and day out for the house being too cold, and the soup being too thin, and how the children never stopped making noise while he was trying to sleep.

Well, one day poor Molly looked at her starving children, and at her ill-tempered husband, and made a decision.  She told her eldest to take the little ones out and see if they could find a bit more wood for the fire to warm their father’s bones, and when they were gone out of the house, she took a pillow and stopped her husband’s yelling once and for all.  When the children came back, she told them their poor father had gone to his great reward, and only the littlest ones cried.  Later, she had her eldest help her bring the body out to the old root cellar, and said that they’d bury him in the springtime.

The next morning, she told the children she was going hunting to see if she could catch a rabbit for them to eat, and she’d be back soon.  Well, old Molly, she went out and circled back out of sight of the house to that root cellar, took out a hunting knife, and brought some meat back home.  That night, the children went to bed with a bellyful of good, hot soup, and Molly breathed a sigh of relief.

The trapper hadn’t been a particularly large man, however, and the winter and being bedridden had made him thinner. It wasn’t long before the soup pot grew light on meat again, and the children’s faces grew pale.  One snowy evening, a lost stranger showed up on the doorstep, having seen the smoke from her chimney, and hoped to find a warm place to stay for the night.  Molly looked at her starving children, and at the stranger, and made another decision.

In the morning, the stranger was gone, and Molly told her children that when he’d moved on, he had left them some venison as a thank you for letting him in, and that night, the children went to bed with bellies full of good, hot soup again.

Meat doesn’t last forever, though, not with growing children in the house, and once more the soup grew thin and her children’s faces grew pale.  Molly looked at her starving children, and made another decision.

She pulled on her boots and her coat, and told the children she was going out hunting to see if she could find something for them to eat.  There were other folks living in the mountains, isolated from each other by the snow, and over that winter, more folks went missing, but Molly’s children didn’t get hungry again.

Eventually spring came, and the snow melted, and rumors went around about a wild animal or a demon hunting folks out in the mountains.  Some folks went round to all the cabins, checking on the families out on their own to see how bad things were.  When they turned up at Molly’s house, they found her fat-cheeked children and they found the root cellar and a pile of bones that didn’t come from any rabbit or deer, but they never did find Molly.  Someone found a relative to take the children in, and they all made sure that they never found out how she’d been feeding those kids all winter long.

Years after, when folks would go missing in the winter, it was said it was Molly that got them, and parents would keep their own children from wandering off into the mountains by telling them that if they strayed too far, Mad Molly would catch them to make her soup.

As far as I know, they still tell it, too.

(If you liked what you just read, please toss a few coins at your mostly friendly resident word-witch to help keep her little monsters fed!)

The Great Mothpocalypse of ’22

What with one thing and another, the studio itself has been largely closed up since the arrival of the Goblin Boys. Yeah, I’ve gone in to get things, but haven’t spent any real time in the room, nor has the door been open for more than a few minutes here and there. Ordinarily, this would be fine, except this time something went Very Wrong.

I came in the other night to start reclaiming it and trying to get it organized in such a way as to be reasonably kitten-safe, and more or less walked into a horror movie set. Moths. Everywhere. Clouds of those little dusty-beige bastards known as clothes moths. Dozens of them fluttering around, nonchalantly wandering up and down the curtains, casually hanging out by the nightlight like it was the local bar…

I like moths. Moths are neat. I DO NOT LIKE MY STUDIO LOOKING LIKE A SCENE FROM AN ALFRED HITCHCOCK FILM. Clothes moths are one of those things that I accepted years ago that I’m basically stuck with for life, and that there will always be a small number of them around. Trying to get rid of them entirely is far more work than I want to bother with over something that is more or less harmless when kept in check.

This was not remotely in check. Turns out that when the vacuum had gotten stored in the studio, it had some dust and lint in it, and the moths had decided that it was the perfect nursery. The vacuum has been relegated to the screened porch until I can deal with it, a couple of scarves got tossed, and there are baggies of yarn in the freezer. Moth traps were ordered and delivered at light speed.

The moth traps should work very nicely. I got swarmed when I tried to open and assemble it in the studio and had to go out into the kitchen to do it, instead. Trying to set them up while 10 or 15 moths fluttered around all “Heeeeey babe, lookin’ gooood…” was more than I wanted to deal with first thing in the morning. Pretty sure I saw a couple with tiny fedoras.

On the other hand, there will probably be plenty of moths for the cats to hunt for a bit until I get the problem back under control. Oisin, in particular, considers them to be a delicacy, and is going to be delighted with the buffet.

Release The Kittens!

Gods help us all, the Goblin Boys were finally given a clean bill of health from the vet earlier this week, and are now free to roam about the house during the day. They’re sweet, and adorable, and Oisín loves them, and wow they are A Lot. They’re also still not allowed to have free run without supervision, due to the things that we can’t kitten-proof and their total lack of good manners or sense, which means I still don’t really have access to my studio until we can get them settled fully (there is absolutely no way to even remotely kitten proof it…Oisín himself isn’t allowed in here unattended). Trying to work from the kitchen table is not ideal, and there’s a lot that I just can’t do at all, so I’m trying to do what I can in between kitten-related disasters. Slow going, to say the least.

In the meantime, it’s giving me a chance to focus on figuring out how to make a couple of my side projects go, like the bantam izbushka farm (it has a name! and lore! and several newsletter-type articles already sketched out!), which may, in turn, help me get the larger plans for “Auntie Yaga’s Home For Wayward Monsters” worked out. There are physical items that I need to make for them before I can fully launch, but I can do a lot of the prep while we’re working on the Goblin Boys training. These projects may end up requiring a website format change in order to give them their own sections, or they may end up getting their own Ko-fi pages instead. Still working on figuring out that part.

Also working on a small Hallows ghost story as I can, which my Ko-fi and Patreon subscribers got to read a snippet of. Like everything else, it’s frustratingly slow going, but it is going, at least, which is an improvement over a couple of weeks ago, so I’m taking the win.

They’re so cute when they’re not dismantling the house

(As ever, if you want to help support your mostly-friendly wordwitch and help keep the little monsters fed, tossing a few coins in the tip jar is always wildly appreciated.)

Catawampuses, Moths, and Moonroads

image via The Carterhaugh School

But if there is to be no modus vivendi, if the battle between the crocodile of Realism and the catawampus of Romance is to be fought out to the bitter end–why, in that Ragnaruk, I am on the side of the catawampus.” ~Andrew Lang

I have been out of sorts, to say the least, lately. Adventures in Prehistoric Epidemiology is an ongoing battle to clear Bodach and Púca of giardia, and then Oisín developed an eye issue (it’s been cleared, he’s fine), and we had to change vet practices in the middle of everything, and it’s just been marrow-deep exhausting. 0/10, do not recommend.

Trying to find time, energy, and maybe half a spoon to work with while dealing with 6 solid weeks (and counting) of feline medical drama has been challenging, to say the least. I figured out a portable set up for working outside the studio, but dredging up an idea of any kind has felt like trying to pull a mammoth out of a tar pit with broken chopsticks and a piece of thread.

To be honest, everything has felt like that, lately, not just creatively. Yesterday I hit the point where I was so tired, in pain, and just plain miserable from wrestling with the crocodile of reality (yes, I’m taking liberties with Lang’s quote) that I wanted to cry. So, I pulled out my tarot deck and asked for some directions.

It told me to go take a drive and clear my head and I’d feel better, for the love of little orange pumpkins. Yes, I listened. It was right, too. I got a good 50 miles of sun and wind and movement, and I saw an old house that was growing pumpkins along its white picket fence and there was a big, beautiful, bright orange pumpkin right there next to the road, and it was exactly what I needed to scrape some of the sludge off my brain.

While driving, I started thinking about a post from The Carterhaugh School I’d read a while back, and when I got home I dug it out. I got thinking about catawampuses, and cheshire cats, and roads made of moonlight, and moths, and pumpkins, and the way that the smells of caramel apples, fried dough, sun-baked midway dust, and autumn leaves combine into one of the best smells in the world, and….

and then I remembered why I am, and will always be, Team Catawampus. Reality (and Realism) is so often harsh and exhausting and leaves one drowning in tar. Give me the catawampus, and it’s grinning tabby cousin, any day.

When Mists Dream, The Brumesmith Listens

Brume (/bro͞om/); noun; mist or fog

Just as those of us with form and mass dream, from time to time, of being shadows or formless mist, so, too, does the swirling mist dream of what it would be like to have a solid form. A clever brumesmith can take the dreams of mist and smoke and give them shape and form.

Brumeries are compromised of mixed gauges of jewelry wire, beads, found objects, and other shapes the mist dreams of being.  Due to their somewhat ephemeral nature, they can be deceptively delicate.  No two will ever be alike, for after all, no dreams ever are.

* * * * * * * *

Managed to wrangle a few minutes free of the chaos and get a few things into the shop. Still have artwork to get listed, but that’ll wait until tomorrow. My day started off with taking Oisin to the vet for an urgent care appointment first thing, which burned a lot of my available spoons for the day. Now, dinner…

A Pause In Running Around To Update

A dark antique half-circle table on which a autumnal still life scene with pumpkins, shelf mushrooms, thin branches, and a spray of peacock feathers, behind which is draped a sheet of rustic-woven undyed linen fabric hanging on the wall.
Looks suspiciously like a photography backdrop, doesn’t it?

I thought about feeling guilty about falling off the planet for a few weeks, but, to be honest, with the state of the country, I decided that I’m not going to. It’s a LOT and I’m giving myself slack for, understandably, not coping well with my country deciding that I’m no longer a full human being in my own right. Got my feet back under me now, though, and doing as well as I can. Hope y’all are, too.

I haven’t been completely laid out, though. I’ve got the legal paperwork for the business set up, my late father’s vehicles are all sold, and the new kittens will be done with their medication tonight, and clear to start integrating into the household once and for all.

Oh, yeah, we adopted a pair of kittens from a local animal shelter a couple of weeks ago.

Two black kittens cuddled up face-to-face. One has his paw thrown over the other's neck, while the other has his face snuggled under his brother's chin.
How can I be expected to work under these conditions?!?

They’re brothers, originally named Maverick and Rooster, who have been renamed Bodach and Púca, respectively. They’re about 11 weeks old, now, but were 8 when we adopted them. There was a little drama at first, as there was a small possibility that they might have been exposed to FPLV, but after some checking, it was determined that they couldn’t have been, however they *did* turn out to have some parasites, and had to be put back in quarantine and medicated. We’d been planning to just treat all the household cats, and integrating them into the house sooner, but then poor Oisín had a really dangerous reaction to the medication, so we had to do it the hard way. He’s fine, now, but it was a bad night that involved emergency vet calls, and watching over him until dawn. Hopefully we’re now at the end of our Adventures in Prehistoric Epidemiology, though, and things will continue to settle down. It’s hard keeping several determined cats away from each other when they don’t want to be.

Oisín gave us all a big surprise and has turned out to be World’s #1 Best Dad Cat! We figured he’d get along with the kittens, but no one expected him to decide that they are his kittens and he’s going to Dad all over the place. He figured out how to invent little cat games they can play with each other through the screen, and worries SO MUCH if they so much as squeak. It’s adorable.

Sadly, a lot of this has meant that I’ve been so busy trying to deal with the extra workload of keeping the house sanitized, constant laundry, running back and forth to pet stores for more supplies, and also having to go up to NH to deal with the vehicle sales, that until this week I’ve had very little time or spoons to do anything else. I have been able to spend the last couple of days getting the studio cleaned up again, though, and getting back on course. Himself put a shelf up on the wall for me so that I can get a space cleared out and set up to be a dedicated photography space, which I got done earlier today. (That would be the photo at the top. Isn’t it pretty?)

There’s even a couple of pieces that I’ve got listed and waiting to be published within the next couple of days! It’s amazing how much easier it is to do things when you have the right tools!

Now it’s time to get back to it, though. Lots of art to photograph…