Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dovetailed Tasks

Fitting little tasks into big tasks is SOP for most of us. You wash a couple of pans while you wait for a pot to boil. You pull a few weeds while the watering can fills. My mother has always called it "dovetailing." This week, I was able to dovetail in a few small tasks while I rested my body during a long, hard day of willow harvesting.

I wanted to get the lion's share of the willow harvest done on Tuesday. It's a big job, but the weather couldn't have been much nicer. The willow was threatening to bud out sooner rather than later, but the snow was mostly gone. There was just enough left to give the dog a nice, cool place to watch from while I worked.

Last year when I wrote about the harvest, I mentioned that I generally prefer to cut for a couple of hours max, then sort what I've cut. I just don't have time to sort right now. So I stuffed the willow into buckets and hauled them to the Clink, an unheated part of the shop with a nice, cold concrete floor, for sorting later.

Not sorting right after cutting meant I had to make rest breaks intentional and long enough to make sure I could last the day. So here's what my routine looked like.
  • Cut a row.
  • Carry the bucket to cold storage.
  • Plug in teapot.
  • Sharpen tools.
  • Brew tea.
  • Do a short task.
  • Sip.
  • Stretch.
  • Repeat.
One of the short tasks I got done was de-waxing some Irish waxed linen I got on sale because it was too, too waxy.

While I was making my tea, I poured the extra boiling water over the spool of waxy thread, then dunked the whole spool in the pool.

The wax rose to the surface, where it congealed as the water cooled.

On my next break, I skimmed off the wax and repeated the process.

The thread is dry again now, and without all that excess wax it will actually get used.

I dovetailed in some other tasks, but I'm sure you don't want to hear about sweeping up dead Asian lady beetles. I should have left the bodies where they were and used that time to change into a shirt long enough to prevent the waistline sunburn I got. Yup, I burned the muffins. So today I smelled like vinegar (old family recipe for treating sunburn) and wore cotton knit pants inside out (seams = ouch).

I miss the smell of fresh willow in the studio, but I'm making good progress on other work in the studio this week. And it feels really good to have the harvest 90 percent done. I'll think about sorting it all later.

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