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Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 10:34 AM PST

Underground Railroad Quilt Code

by Melanie in IA

Did quilts help guide escaped slaves to safety? Did different quilt blocks have specific meanings to slaves, perhaps based on their African past? Was the pattern of stitches and knots informative about routes to take, perhaps creating a topographical map?

The most famous telling of a quilt code says that indeed, quilts were a vital part of the Underground Railroad, and their history with it was unwritten until very recently.

One of the blocks in the quilt code is the Bear's Paw, shown here.

This pattern consists of several squares, rectangles, and right triangles. When different scraps of fabric are used, the pattern takes on the complexity of a map that is remarkably similar in design to the African Hausa embroidered map of a village ...

Just as the Hausa design defines the perimeter of the village and identifies major landmarks, the Bear's Paw pattern could be used to identify landmarks on the border of the plantation ...

Because the bears lived in the mountains and knew their way around, their tracks served as road maps enabling the fugitives to navigate their way through the mountains. ... The bears' trails formed a map.

From Hidden in Plain View, by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D.

The Underground Railroad is attributed with helping to move thousands of slaves to freedom during the late-1700s to mid-1800s. Not a physical railroad, of course, it was an "underground" movement of abolitionists and allies, with a web of routes and safe houses. The routes traveled north to Canada, south to Mexico and Spanish Florida. Those slaves who escaped endured incredible trials of strength and courage.

There are documented truths about the Underground Railroad, from those who made it function and those who escaped. But it also has been romanticized and mythologized. It is not always easy to separate fact from fiction.

Hidden in Plain View?

Prior to 1999, there were few known sources claiming the existence of a quilt code. According to the great wikipedia,

The first known assertion of the use of quilts ... was a single statement in the narration of the 1987 video Hearts and Hands, which stated "They say quilts were hung on the clotheslines to signal a house was safe for runaway slaves." This assertion does not appear in the companion book and is not supported by any documentation in the filmmaker's research file.[1]

The first print appearance of such a claim was Stitched from the Soul, a 1990 book by folklorist Gladys-Marie Fry, which states -- without providing any source -- "Quilts were used to send messages. On the Underground Railroad, those with the color black were hung on the line to indicate a place of refuge (safe house)...Triangles in quilt design signified prayer messages or prayer badge, a way of offering prayer. Colors were very important to slave quilt makers. The color black indicated that someone might die. A blue color was believed to protect the maker."[1] Fry's book is rife with other errors, including a number of quilts which she misdated by anywhere from 50 to 100 years (e.g., one claimed slave quilt contains multiple fabrics from the 1960s).[2]  ...

The idea, clearly presented as fiction in Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, that slave quilts served as coded maps for escapees, entered the realm of claimed fact in the 1999 book Hidden in Plain View, written by Raymond Dobard, Jr., an art historian, and Jacqueline Tobin, a college instructor in Colorado.[3]

In 1999, the stories of a woman named Ozella McDaniel Williams were published in the book Hidden in Plain View, by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D. The book also includes a mesh of related research about African symbolism, escape routes, and information about the times.

Author Tobin met Williams, a South Carolina quilt vendor, at a flea market mall. "Ozella," as the book refers to her, told Tobin stories she claimed were passed down through her family. This oral history, if confirmed, would change our understanding of methods of communicating about the Underground Railroad and routes to freedom.

According to Williams, there were eleven quilt blocks in the code. The blocks were sewn into quilts, which would be displayed one at a time on fences or clothes lines. Because it was normal to air quilts regularly, showing the quilts this way wouldn't arouse suspicion by owners or overseers.

The blocks shown below, as well as the Double Wedding Ring block, were in Williams' version discussed in the book. Some versions include other blocks, as well.

A short version of the code says

The Monkey Wrench turns the Wagon Wheel toward Canada on a Bear's Paw trail to the Crossroads. Once they got to the Crossroads, they dug a Log Cabin on the ground. Shoofly told them to dress up in cotton and satin Bow Ties and go to the cathedral church, get married and exchange Double Wedding Rings. Flying Geese stay on the Drunkard's Path and follow the Stars.
The book presents this very short interpretation, but it includes linkages and suppositions and speculations about the meanings of all the blocks, as well. For example, the Bear's Paw block shown above is interpreted as both a map of the plantation itself, as well as advice to follow actual bears' trails over the mountain.

About another, the Monkey Wrench block, the authors state, "Ozella told us that a quilt made of Monkey Wrench patterned blocks was the first of the ten quilts displayed ... a signal for the slaves to begin their escape preparations" and gather physical and mental tools.

Along with this understanding of the block, the authors include discussion of the role of the blacksmith on the plantation, with tools including the monkey wrench. The blacksmith's metal-working ability may have hidden the smith's function of conveying information to other slaves under the ring of the hammer. A photo of an African textile is shown, to further convey the importance of tools in the previous environment.

More than 120 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, claims of a quilt code arose. Had the evidence been missed all those years? Was the truth really hidden in plain view?

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Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 03:00 PM PST

DK Quilt Guild: Be Prepared!

by Melanie in IA

Be prepared... for what? For sewing and quilting, for mishaps and disasters, for the disposition of your stash and equipment when you can't use it anymore. There are ways to prepare for all of these things.

DK Quilt Guild: A place for quilters to gather, share ideas, projects, and to make the world a better place, one quilt at a time. Join us and share your thoughts, projects, questions, and tips. Quilters here are at many different levels of skill. Beginners and non-quilters are welcome, too!
There are a number of steps to take when preparing to start a new project. Of course you need to choose the project or pattern and decide on fabric. (Actually, for a lot of my projects I decide these things as I go, so I don't necessarily do them before beginning.)

Prepare your fabric.
I always wash mine when I get it home from the store. I'm sensitive to chemicals and also prefer the feel of washed fabric. When I take care of it right away, it is ready to use from my stash. I use laundry detergent that is free of perfumes and dyes, and I don't use fabric softeners in the washer or dryer. If you are quilting for anyone with sensitive skin, including infants or sick people, these are sensible steps.

Before cutting, I press carefully with a hot steam iron, because cutting is more accurate on flat fabric. Accurate cutting is the first step to accurate piecing.

Prepare your space and equipment.
When's the last time you changed your rotary cutter blade? Like knives, rotary cutter blades are less dangerous when they are sharp, because you cut with the correct force. But even when they are "dull," they cut through flesh (and fingernails) in a hurry. (Ask me how I know...) So change your blades regularly. Think about your cuts before you start, and make sure you know where your fingers are. Consider wearing a "klutz" glove. Emergency room visits are a lot more expensive than simple precautions. (Ask me how I know...)

Wipe the cutting mat to clear lint caught in grooves. This keeps it from transferring to fresh fabrics, and also allows the mat to "heal," giving a smoother surface and better cuts.

Pay attention to your sewing machine. Change the needle regularly. If it is making a quiet popping sound as it moves through fabric, it is dull and needs to be changed. Check the machine owner manual to see how often the machine needs to be serviced, or whether you should oil it yourself. Many newer machines are self-lubricating, but not all of them. If you no longer have the manual, you may be able to find it online.

Wind bobbins. Clean out the area around and under the bobbin case. Your manual should tell you how, but likely calls for using a soft, small brush, cotton swab, or soft cloth.

Clean your iron. Mine calls for tap water, which is great for saving money, since I don't buy distilled water. (I iron a lot and go through a lot of water. Tap water is much more convenient for me, too.) Though I use filtered water, it still has a lot of chemical and calcium residue. Frankly, I don't clean my iron often enough, so I never remember the process. Finally I decided to put the iron's user instructions on the underside of the ironing board (it wedges up under there nicely), so I can find them easily.

Turn your ironing board. The narrow end is useful when ironing shirts, but you aren't ironing shirts when you're quilting. If you turn your ironing board so the broad end is to your left (if you're right-handed), you'll have more surface to use when pressing yardage.

Clean up your space. Since I lay projects out on the floor, I always vacuum thoroughly before I start something new. I also wipe off my cutting table and my sewing surface.

You may not need to do these things for each new project, but think about whether they're needed or not.

Prepare for comfort.
There are ways to make your work space more comfortable, probably limited only by your budget. Here are a few tricks I use to make my work more comfortable.

While you sew, sit in a desk chair that is adjustable for height and back support. Sit with good posture and stop regularly to stretch your neck and shoulders.

Because I iron a lot, I use a chef-style gel mat to stand on. It provides a lot of cushion and reduces fatigue. I also have one in front of my cutting table.

Another element of comfort while cutting is the surface height. My cutting table is a plastic-topped, folding "buffet" table, the type that can be found at most discount stores. It is much too low by itself, but I have it raised with PVC pipes slipped over the legs. The pipes are cut to raise the table about 5 inches. Other people find that bed risers work well to raise their table.

Lighting is key to reduce eye strain. Enough light, in front and above you, makes your work easier. Besides general lighting, I have Ott brand fluorescent lights at both my cutting and sewing tables. These were purchased at the big-box home store, not at the quilt shop, which made them less expensive.

If you use basting spray or other chemicals, make sure your ventilation is adequate. The fumes can quickly give me a headache. Also, check the can for flammability and take appropriate precautions. When I spray-baste, I use an old, clean flat sheet on the floor, under the work I am spraying. It keeps the over-spray from getting on the carpet or other surfaces. The sheet can be washed to remove the residue.

And remember to prepare your stash of chocolate.


Are you prepared?

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Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 08:10 AM PST

The Daily Bucket: Thursday

by Melanie in IA

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.

Jim bought a new thistle feeder recently. Hung a few feet from the house, the feeder is a mesh bag. The holes allow the birds to latch on with their feet, and to pick the seed out. The goldfinches took to it right away, often gathering with three or four at a time on the bag.

The first time I remember seeing goldfinches was in Michigan, on a road trip with Jim early in our marriage. (You're right; I hadn't been paying attention before that.) Seems like it was Traverse City but I could be wrong about that. A home had many feeders in the yard, and the birds swooped in with their roller coaster flight, stopping at the feeders for a moment, and curving away again.

Now I know that sine wave is one of the easiest ways to identify the birds in flight. They populate our neighborhood and our yard all year, though most thickly in summer.

Someone commented recently about different species of birds flocking together. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Goldfinches often flock with Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls. Spring males are brilliant yellow and shiny black with a bit of white. Females and all winter birds are more dull but identifiable by their conical bill; pointed, notched tail; wingbars; and lack of streaking. During molts they look bizarrely patchy.

The range map on the Cornell site shows that it is a North American bird, ranging in summer into Canada and in winter into eastern Mexico. In Iowa they hang out year round.

An Audubon image of finches shows the difference in color for male and female birds. The female is shown on the right, with the "unripe" coloring. This is also the winter coloring for all goldfinches.

What natural things are going on in your neighborhood today?


Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:45 AM PST

The Snowshoe Quilter

by Melanie in IA

Some love the snow; some love quilting. Simon Beck has found a way to combine designs sometimes found in quilting with his love of snowshoeing.


Snow shoe quilts?

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Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 08:05 AM PST

The Daily Bucket: Monday

by Melanie in IA

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you.  Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
Sure, I'll throw a bucket out, collect your daily observations! This morning in east central Iowa, it's overcast but bright. A whole 22° now, which is the same as a couple hours ago, and not likely to get higher.

Yesterday afternoon we watched 5 deer move through from the neighbor's back yard into ours. This little one stopped to graze under the feeder for a few minutes before moving on.

What's going on in your neighborhood? Be sure to tell us where you're located.

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about the natural happenings we see. Birds, blooms, bugs and more - each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.

We have a small opossum that hangs around under our feeders. It shows up most days in the mid-afternoon, to graze on seeds and bits left by the birds and squirrels. Cute with its fur sticking out wildly all over, it's not very big. Based on the three-pound pot roast I made recently, I guestimate it's only three or four pounds. A "typical" opossum is about the size of a large house cat, and weighs in at 10 to 13 pounds.

The title calls it a "possum," but that is actually a different animal native to Australia and New Guinea. In North America, the animal is an "opossum." Both are marsupials. With its prehensile tail and opposable thumbs, the opossum is an excellent climber.

Besides the seeds my opossum enjoys, they are foragers and will eat carrion, rodents, insects, frogs, and plants including fruits and grains. As they are nocturnal, usually they are out at night. However, in the winter sometimes they change their patterns to take advantage of warmer temperatures during the day.

If you're hungry, you could try this recipe for roast opossum. The recipe also includes stuffing.

1  Roast Opossum:.

2  The opossum is a very fat animal with a peculiarly flavored meat.

3  It is dressed much as one would dress a suckling pig, removing the entrails, and if desired, the head and tail.

4  After it is dressed, wash thoroughly inside and out with hot water.

5  Cover with cold water to which has been added 1 cup of salt.

6  Allow to stand overnight. In morning, drain off the salted water and rinse well with clear water.

7  Stuff opossum with opossum stuffing (stuffing recipes next); sew opening or fasten with skewers.

8  Place in roaster, add 2 tablespoons water and roast in moderate oven (350°F) until tender and richly browned, about one and one half hours.

9  Baste every 15 minutes with drippings.

10  Remove skewers or stitches, and place on heated platter.

11  Skim fat from gravy remaining in pan.

Okay, and this was too funny and too weird to leave out. Listen to Cy Scarborough and the Bar D Wranglers at the Bar D Chuckwagon in Durango, CO.
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Or in terms a capitalist should appreciate: does the investment in children's nutrition have a positive return? If food benefits are reduced through sequester or legislation, is there negative impact on children? Or is it one more item we can cut from the federal budget with no harm?

Yesterday I wrote about food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.) It's easy to see that at the individual level, the benefit can make all the difference in an individual's health and well-being. Even at an average benefit per person of only $4.45 per day, that can determine whether a person eats or does not eat. It is more difficult to prove the benefits of the nation's investment in the program, from the standpoint of societal well-being.

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For an adult, food insecurity may create transitory problems. But childhood hunger and food insecurity can have a lifelong impact due to their greater vulnerability.

How prevalent is childhood food insecurity? From Feeding America:

- 16.7 million children lived in food insecure households in 2011.[i]
- 20% or more of the child population in 36 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2010.  The District of Columbia (30.7%) and Oregon (29.0%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.[ii]
- In 2010, the top five states with the highest rate of food insecure children under 18 are the District of Columbia, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, & Florida.[iii]
- In 2010, the top five states with the lowest rate of food insecure children under 18 are North Dakota, New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, & Massachusetts. [iv]

[references at the linked website]

Good nutrition early in life helps create a foundation for health, education, and later economic viability. The lack of high-quality food can have negative impacts on all these areas. According to the American Psychological Association,
The first three years of a child’s life are a period of rapid brain development. Too little energy, protein, and nutrients during this sensitive period can lead to lasting deficits in cognitive, social, and emotional development. [emphasis added]


Hunger reduces a child’s motor skills, activity level, and motivation to explore the environment. Movement and exploration are important to cognitive development, and more active children elicit more stimulation and attention from their caregivers, which promotes social and emotional development.


A community sample that classified low-income children ages six to twelve as “hungry”, “at-risk for hunger”, or “not hungry” found that hungry children were significantly more likely to receive special education services, to have repeated a grade in school, and to have received mental health counseling than at-risk-for-hunger or not-hungry children.

In this same study, hungry children exhibited 7 to 12 times as many symptoms of conduct disorder (such as fighting, blaming others for problems, having trouble with a teacher, not listening to rules, stealing) than their at-risk or not-hungry peers.

The research shows the negative impact of hunger. It is harder to tease out the impact, positive or negative, of food benefits, including SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

Consider a couple of reasons why it is hard to provide evidence of efficacy. First, there is no ethical way to identify children who qualify for food benefits, and then to create a control group of those who do not receive them. We cannot compare those who do receive benefits against those who do not in a meaningful way.

Second, most available data is collected from survey participants. Survey participation (by the adult/guardian) is voluntary, participation in food programs is under-reported, and diet/nutritional data is suspect to some degree due to self-reporting.

New research by Brent Kreider, Professor of Economics at Iowa State University, pushes through some of these problems. His methodology uses CDC data from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) to look at the impact of SNAP on childhood health. His research appears in the Journal of the American Statistical Association.

A report from Futurity quotes Kreider about the importance of the research. According to Kreider,

nearly half of all American children are expected to receive SNAP assistance at some point in their childhood.

The NHANES data includes the results from both interviews and physical exam. A difficulty of the research is that children receiving SNAP benefits are in generally poorer health than their peers who have food security. A reasonable question is that of cause and effect: does receipt of SNAP lead to poorer health? Or are conditions of food insecurity, which leads to SNAP receipt, a causative factor of poorer health?

And the question at hand, does SNAP have a positive impact on children's health?

In a word, YES.

Again, Futurity quotes Kreider:

“Our methods do not allow us to pinpoint exact estimates of how SNAP affects children’s health, but we can provide informative ranges on average causal effects of the program,” he says.

Despite the inherent limitations of the data, they found that the program has been effective in improving the well-being of children.

The researchers also found evidence that SNAP reduces the prevalence of childhood obesity and anemia, but those results were not statistically significant.

In other words, even with the limitations of the data, Kreider and his research partners found that SNAP provides positive health benefits for children.

These health benefits have individual and national impact. Hungry children have higher health costs, education deficits, and poorer preparation for the workplace. We all carry the burden through higher immediate costs and lower potential economic growth.

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The impact of SNAP and other food programs is real and positive, both today and in the future. The lack of a new farm bill, which funds the food programs through the USDA, is not tenable in the long term.

Please contact your senators and representative to demand passage of a new, five-year farm bill that fully supports nutritional assistance programs. These programs provide a safety net for children and adults in need, and they also support farm producers through the demand for food.


Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 10:23 AM PST

Do You Qualify for Food Stamps?

by Melanie in IA

The recent diary by l3em0n, Eating on $5 a Day, the Food Stamp "Entitlement", drew high interest with more than 300 comments and at least 130 recs. It's clear that many members of the Daily Kos community have experience eating on a very low budget, whether with or without food stamps.

It's also clear from my readings over the last two years that many kossacks continue to struggle financially, whether due to job loss, illness or disability, or other change in fortunes. Indeed, use of food stamps has increased 77% from 2007 to 2012. Some may qualify for SNAP, popularly known as food stamps, and not know it. I can't find my source again, but a few weeks ago I read that millions more can qualify for food assistance but have not applied.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) helps feed more than 46 million people in America each month. The financial benefit is intended to supplement household income, as the name implies. Households are expected to contribute 30% of their income to their food budget.

In 2012 the average benefit per person was $133.42, or $4.45 per day. Depending on other resources available, this might be "enough" or it may be nowhere near enough to cover costs. So while it is not much, if you are hungry it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Do you qualify?


Eligibility depends on personal financial factors as well as state of residence. Factors include resources, income, "deductions", employment requirements, age or disability, and immigration status.

For resources, the application will look at assets. Cars are treated differently depending on state.

Households may have $2,000 in countable resources, such as a bank account, or $3250 in countable resources if at least one person is age 60 or older, or is disabled.  However, certain resources are NOT counted, such as a home and lot, the resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly AFDC), and most retirement (pension) plans.
Income is determined by household "gross" and "net" income, and the number of members of the household. For example, for a household with one member must have gross income less than $1,211. Deductions are made against that to determine net income. These are not tax deductions, but include things like dependent care or medical costs, and costs of shelter.
Excess shelter costs that are more than half of the household's income after the other deductions. Allowable costs include the cost of fuel to heat and cook with, electricity, water, the basic fee for one telephone, rent or mortgage payments and taxes on the home.
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EDIT: Thanks to Mr Robert in comments for adding this link to a prescreening tool. It takes a few minutes but can help determine if you may be eligible. It is NOT an application. Each state has their own application process.
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How much can you get? The maximum allotment for a one-person household is $200 per month.
The amount of benefits the household gets is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household's allotment. This is because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food.
Please see the USDA's pages on eligibility for more information.

Many who use SNAP benefits still need to supplement their food budget using food pantries, free meals (soup kitchens), and the like. Lack of resources (kitchen space, available groceries, especially discount groceries and farmers' markets, knowledge of nutritional cooking) further limits ability to eat a healthy diet on a low income. However, it is a benefit available and can be accessed if you need and qualify for the help.

Here are FAQs from the USDA that may help answer some of your questions.

Some states have online applications. You can find them through the link.

Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people. That is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population, including more than 1 in 5 children. This group exists to raise awareness of the complexities of the issue, to consider solutions, and to advocate for change.

Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 06:06 AM PST


by Melanie in IA

This is my one-hundredth diary at Daily Kos. Since I started writing, that's not quite two a week. It's not what anyone around here would call prolific, like kos at almost 13,000 diaries, or even Joan McCarter at 6,700 and some. Still, I've had some things to say.

When I look at my full list, I can see a quarter of them have been about quilts and quilting. Many of those were published through the DK Quilt Guild. Eighteen more are Daily Bucket diaries for Backyard Science. I find this kind of funny, as the more regular writers of bucket diaries are people with many years' experience closely observing nature. Some are naturalists by profession, or otherwise scientists. I am none of these things, but merely enjoy being outside and observing the world around me. The diaries (my own but especially others') have taught me so much. It's been a true pleasure to be embraced so warmly in the group.

A handful of my diaries have been political, but there are so many great writers who do that so well, my voice will rarely have some unique slant on the subject. I did enjoy writing Sheldon Adelson's Big Bet, after speaking with my son about Adelson's expected value of political contributions.

Jim and I have written several together. Of course, only one of us can take the by-line, and it isn't always clear which of us "should" have it. We laughed a lot when we wrote Our Librul Holiday Letter, imagining actually sending it to the conservatives we know. More significant was the one on the AIDS Quilt Touch Application.

Two of my favorite diaries are about Iowa. Neither of us was born here. We moved here more than 20 years ago so I could attend grad school, and when we did, we assumed we would move on when I was done. Yet here we are, not because we got stuck, but because we choose to live here. My very first diary was Ten Things You Didn't Know about Iowa. Several month ago I added the homage THIS is Iowa.

I may be most proud of one of my recent diaries. Based on quality of writing, the diary itself is nothing to brag about. But with it I helped establish a group, Hunger in America, to raise awareness of the problem and potential solutions, and to encourage advocacy on behalf of solutions. We've just started, but I look forward to the insights of those in the group as well as outside of it. If you're interested in joining us, please let me know.

"Success" is a pretty hard thing to measure when it comes to writing. We have various stats for comments, recs, views (remember views??), whether or not a diary hit the rec list or Community Spotlight. How they've done by the stats seems uncorrelated with how much time they took to write. Some diaries have taken me days, even weeks to write, to find the words and tone I wanted to use. Others I jotted off in a few minutes. There are so many other variables that impact readership, including the news of the day and how impassioned others are about it.

I've had a few on the rec list, though I'm not really a "rec list writer." And Rescue Rangers have deemed my work worthy of the Community Spotlight a few times. It's fun and flattering when it happens. But really, success has to come from my own satisfaction, not from tags, or from statistics. As an old hand now, I'll indulge in giving a little advice:

- Write for yourself, about what interests you. Don't try to write for the flavor of the day. Don't worry about stats or whether or not you hit the rec list or spotlight.
- Edit. Give readers every chance to understand your point of view. One trick that helps me a lot is to read my words out loud. With this method I catch a lot of typos and other clumsy writing. If you need help with editing, ask. The New Diarists group is willing and able to help both new and more experienced diarists.
- Be a generous host. Encourage readership and comments by sticking around and responding.
- Be a generous guest. Read and comment constructively in others' diaries, including any of several community diaries. This can help you gain name recognition and build a following.
- Don't get discouraged. Yours is a unique voice and you can add value to the community with it. Keep writing. Writers write.

Thanks to everyone who reads my work. Thanks to those who "follow" me, and the confidence that implies. Thanks especially to Jim, who always encourages me, often makes suggestions, and occasionally co-writes with me.

And thanks to you for reading this rather self-indulgent diary today.


Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 03:00 PM PST

DK Quilt Guild: Obama in Quilts

by Melanie in IA

Politics and Patriotism in Quilts

Since the birth of this country, quilters have expressed their interest in politics. Even in the late 1700s, toiles were introduced featuring likenesses of George Washington. Sometimes those textiles were used as handkerchiefs, and other times were incorporated into quilts.

DK Quilt Guild: A place for quilters to gather, share ideas, projects, and to make the world a better place, one quilt at a time. Join us and share your thoughts, projects, questions, and tips. Quilters here are at many different levels of skill. Beginners and non-quilters are welcome, too!
Martha Washington, a famous quilter herself, constructed one medallion quilt featuring a center panel of William Penn negotiating with natives for land in what is now Pennsylvania. Certainly that is a somewhat different kind of political event, but an important one, nonetheless.

Quilting and other arts were socially acceptable means for women to express their political interest and opinions. Until 1920, when women won the right to vote in federal elections, the homely arts were one of the few ways to do so. Through their quilts they campaigned for suffrage, for abolition, for temperance, and other causes. This quilt was made in 1983 when Jessie B. Telfair lost her job after attempting to register to vote.

They made and sold quilts to raise funds for wars, and to commemorate the dead. The Civil War years saw tributes to Abraham Lincoln as well as patriotic encouragements of the North and the South. They celebrated the history of the country. The centennial in 1876 sparked a tremendous celebration in quilts of the Founders and events surrounding the birth of the nation.  This quilt was made by G. Knappenberger in about 1876 in Pennsylvania, commemorating our nation's 100th birthday.

The Great War, the Depression, World War II, the Gulf War. AIDS. All of these are subjects for political expression through quilts. Fannie B. Shaw made this amazing quilt, named Prosperity is Just Around the Corner, at the beginning of the 1930s.

And indeed, quilters are at least as active now in political expression as ever. Pam from Calif showed some great, contemporary patriotic quilts in her November diary.

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Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people. That is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population, including more than 1 in 5 children. This group exists to raise awareness of the complexities of the issue, to consider solutions, and to advocate for change.
Under the light of a nearly full moon, the ten-point buck nibbled at the bushes, ten feet from my front window. The next day, a young deer grazed, unconcerned, close to the house in my back yard. I live in town, in a neighborhood with young families. It's more common to see deer in the yards this time of year than to see kids.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates the state deer population after the hunting season at about 200,000 animals. Their tremendous reproduction rate, along with some migration from other states, has brought the herd back from a few hundred animals in 1936.

Unchecked, Iowa's deer herd could grow at a rate of 20% to 40% each year. At this rate, deer numbers would double in as few as 3 years. With Iowa's abundant agricultural crops providing food, densities could potentially reach 100 or more deer per square mile before natural regulatory mechanisms would begin to affect deer health and slow the rate of growth. Deer numbers this high would cause economic hardship to Iowa's landowners as well as alter the natural vegetative community. Maintaining a deer population in balance with the wants and needs of the people in the state is a difficult task, but hunting is the only viable management option to achieve this goal. [Emphasis added.]

HUSH, or Help Us Stop Hunger, is a state-sponsored program in Iowa.
HUSH is a cooperative effort among deer hunters, the Food Bank of Iowa, meat lockers and the Iowa DNR. The two main goals of HUSH include:

(1) reducing the deer population while

(2) providing high-quality red meat to the needy in Iowa.

In the 2011-12 deer hunting season, more than 6,000 deer were donated. With partner meat lockers and the Food Bank of Iowa, the state distributed enough venison to generate a million meals.  

Hunters can buy extra permits for antler-less deer. Once the deer has been field-dressed and delivered to a cooperating meat locker, the locker will process the meat.

The state pays the lockers $75 per deer. If an "average" deer yields 60 to 100 pounds of usable meat, the state pays approximately $1 per pound.

Food Bank of Iowa distributes the meat through partner agencies in 55 of the 99 counties in Iowa. These partner agencies include:

- Food pantries
- Soup kitchens
- Homeless shelters
- Shelters for victims of domestic violence
- Nonprofit day care centers
- Residential care centers
- Child and senior programs

With a retail price for beef well above $3 a pound, and even bone-in chicken legs at $1.50 a pound, venison is an inexpensive alternative.

Agencies that prepare meals, as well as individuals, can find venison recipes that may be useful. The Ohio DNR offers dozens of recipes at this link. Other sites I'll explore at other times offer recipes and tips for making the most of food dollars.

In Iowa, deer is a plentiful resource for meat. The cooperation of many parties makes it possible to distribute that meat to where it's needed. In addition, the harvest of deer helps control damage to crops and landscaping alike.

Note: this diary is not intended to promote or glorify hunting, guns, or red meat. It is just information about one of the ways more food becomes available to more people. If you want to argue about hunting, guns, or red meat, please do it elsewhere.


Does your state use game to support food agencies?

57%16 votes
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35%10 votes

| 28 votes | Vote | Results

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about the natural happenings we see. Birds, blooms, bugs and more - each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.

Photo credit to Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG

One of the great thrills technology provides is a peek into otherwise unseen worlds. We can view deep into the universe, see the structure of atoms, and watch as hibernating bears give birth. And we can be armchair bird-watchers, waiting patiently with eagles and other raptors for their eggs to hatch.

The Raptor Resource Project has been working to create, improve, and maintain nest sites for 25 years.

In addition to directly managing over 40 falcon, eagle, and owl nest sites, we provide training in nest site creation and management across the United States, reach more than 85,000 people each year through lectures, education programs, and our website, and develop innovations in nest site management and viewing that bring people closer to the world around them. Our mission is to preserve and strengthen raptor populations, to expand participation in raptor preservation, and to help foster the next generation of preservationists. Our work deepens the connection between people and the natural world, bringing benefits to both.

One of the more spectacular parts of their work is the nest cams, with their first nest cam installed in 1998. Nest cams allow us a view into the breeding life of birds we couldn't otherwise enjoy.

Only 129 miles north of my back yard, the Decorah bald eagle nest site has been cammed since 2009. This live link shows -- well, not much at all at the time I linked it. (Note there are occasional commercials, which help fund the site.)

The nest you see in the live stream was built in 2007, replacing a previous nest that fell after a support branch broke. It is about 80 feet high in a cottonwood tree on private property. The nest is about six feet across and five feet deep, and its estimated weight is more than 1,300 pounds.

The pair of eagles in the photo at the top is the nesting pair. They have been together since the winter of 2007-08, and they have hatched and fledged eaglets in each breeding season since.

In October RRP made this announcement:

October 26, 2012: The Decorah Eagles Have Surprised Us With A New Nest

In addition to working on their current nest, the Decorah Eagles have begun building an alternate nest. Multiple nest building is fairly common among Bald eagles and we don't yet know which nest they will choose for 2013. We absolutely cannot install cameras at the new nest tree this year, so we may not see the Decorah Eagles for the rest of the 2012-2013 season. We'll miss watching them online, but it is exciting to see them building their new nest. Once again, Mom and Dad are giving us fresh insights into the lives of bald eagles! Stay tuned for updates and information as the season progresses.

A slideshow of the nesting pair and their new nest is here. The show will play itself.

So we may not get to see the nesting progress in 2013 as we've enjoyed in years past. If we're able to, watch around mid-February. Last year the first egg was laid on February 17, and the first hatching was March 27.

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