Mid-July garden update

A pretty little sunflower playing peek-a-boo. I love the patterns of the seeds.

Outdoor activities have been limited lately due to the extreme heat and humidity. Plus ozone alerts.  Who would think that in a county which is heavily forested and has such low population that we don’t even have a traffic light, we would have trouble with air quality?  It’s the Ohio River Valley influence again.

Any work that must be done outdoors is usually in the early morning.  However, some relief is in sight with cooler weather predicted for the next few weeks.

Garden in July. Still looking pretty good. The corn in the far right of the photo has been harvested. We’ll take the used stalks to the neighbor for his cattle. Squash vines dying. Plenty of basil and cilantro which should be harvested soon. Now is when the real work begins.

The garden is still looking pretty good but doesn’t seem to be producing as much as most years.  We are usually overwhelmed with zucchini and summer squash this time of year but not this year.  Also, green beans that we generally pick by the bucket seem sparse.  The first crop of corn has been harvested and put up.  Thanks to Mikey the guard dog for keeping the raccoons out of the corn patch. And it looks as if the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will be plentiful.  Just not yet.

Garden in July. Flowers for cutting. Peppers coming on. Squash vines dying.

One of my great pleasures is planting flowers for cutting in the garden.  I love to bring in big bouquets for the house.  The varieties change from year to year but I always have a row or two of sunflowers, especially the mammoth and the multi-stemmed varieties.  Zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, are usually sown, but I add other varieties, such as baby’s breath.

The many containers with flowers seem to be holding up well, probably due to better watering and care.  This is one reason to plant in pots.  The flower beds could use a good weeding and some more mulch but that will have to wait until the cooler weather next week.

Living in the country makes one cognizant of the cycles of nature, whether it’s the heat of summer or the cold of winter. I think it’s easy to lose sight of man’s connection to his environment if you don’t experience some contact with nature every day.  Just my humble opinion.

I hope that you get some time outdoors this summer.

In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.  John Muir

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Memories of Paris

Memories of Paris, 24 x 36, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

I completed this large painting this past week.  Well, I may not be finished as I keep tweaking it. You would think that a painting of the sky through some tree branches would be easy but I’ve worked on it for some weeks.

Memories of Paris, detail 1, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

I’m not quite sure why I was attracted to this subject.  Maybe the cool spring colors.  It seems to exude a feeling of peace.

Memories of Paris, detail 2, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

It was my intention to just give an impression of the sky view, not to paint every detail.  In fact, I think that is boring. I like the viewer to bring something to the scene.  If you look closely at the detail images, you’ll see many variegated colors, both in the foliage, the flowers, and on the tree limbs.  But also, look at the blank sections of the painting.  You’ll spot a vapor trail and some wispy clouds.

Memories of Paris, detail 3, acrylic on canvas, Kit Miracle

And, do you see the surprise that I hid here?  It is a pair of birds.  Maybe they’re getting ready to build a nest in one of the trees. Not overly obvious, just a sweet sign of spring.

Calla Lilies and Other Garden Musings

Happy Independence day, everyone!  Celebrating here in the United States. Family, friends, plenty of good things to eat.  And maybe a beautiful tour through the garden.

Calla Lily, Picasso variety, watercolor, pen and ink, 14.5 x 10.5, Kit Miracle

The calla lily is in bloom.  This is the standard Picasso variety. It seems to require no care at all except to weed around it once in awhile. Unfortunately, Japanese beetles, slugs and snails love to munch on these lovely blossoms.

I love these tall, elegant blooms. They’re somewhat waxy in texture and will last a few days.

Calla lilies seemed to be a common motif in the art deco period, maybe for their simple lines and shapes.  I also like their speckled leaves.

Calla Lily plant in the garden

Fair as a lily, and not only the pride of life, but the desire of his eyes.

Charlotte Bronte

Trusty Guard Dog, Mikey

On another front, the first planting of sweet corn is nearly ready; only a couple of days left.  This time last year, the raccoons came one night and decimated the crop.  Thus, our trusty guard dog is being posted out by the garden. Based on his enthusiastic barking last night, I think his presence was effective.  A couple of more days before we can harvest.  Mikey says he’s tired and needs some sleep.

What a difference a week makes

We returned from vacation last Monday and have been playing catch-up in the garden this week.  Apparently we had seven inches of rain while we were gone for ten days.

The main garden, about 40 x 60.  June 7th before we left.

Here is a photo of the garden right before we left.

The garden on June 21st. Quite a difference, eh?

And here are a couple of  photos of the garden after we returned.  After it’s been hoed and weeded, of course.  Corn at least two or three feet taller.  Everything else coming along.  Already harvested squash and peas.  Lots more to come.

 

Postcards from Texas

South Padre Island, panorama from the balcony, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

We recently drove to Texas to pick up our granddaughter and take her to the beach.  It was wonderful being able to introduce an eight year old to the ocean for the first time.  We went down to South Padre Island which my husband and I first visited forty years ago.  Needless to say, it has changed quite a bit.  When we initially visited, it had one Holiday Inn, a couple of mom and pop hotels, a few ramshackle houses and a few restaurants.  Of course, most people go there for the ocean and the beautiful beaches.

South Padre Island, postcard #1, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Everything has changed except the beaches.  Still beautiful.  Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.  But the Gulf side is now lined with high rises and there are now many, many eateries and other things to do. We took an Eco and Dolphin watch tour, visited the Sea Turtle Sanctuary, and went to the light house.

South Padre Island, postcard #2, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

I usually take some painting materials on my trips but this time I restricted myself to just watercolors.  One thing I love to do is paint postcards and mail them to friends.  I’m not sure where I came up with this idea but I think it was when I read about a guy who financed his trip to Europe by preselling postcards.

South Padre Island, postcard #3, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Amazingly, they come through the mail just fine.  Yes, mailing original art.  With a stamp.  I make the cards from heavy watercolor stock of at least 140 lb.

South Padre Island, Dolphin Watch, postcard #4, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

South Padre Island, Seagull, postcard #5, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Wildflower perfumes in spring

Spring in southern Indiana is a cacophony of overload for the senses.  As an artist, I’m naturally attracted to the visual of the changing season.  From the pale greens of new shoots and leaves to the endless variety of flowers.  Something new is blooming every week.  And sounds add to the wallpaper of the experience as I presented the cheerful house wren in a recent post.

One thing that I haven’t touched on are the beautiful scents that waft through the air.  Yes, there are plenty of floral perfumes from cultivated plants, but today I want to show you three wildflowers with really strong scents.

Multi-flora roses, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

The first is the multi flora rose.  First introduced from Asia as a soil erosion remedy, it quickly got out of hand and is truly a noxious weed.  So difficult to get rid of.  However, for a few short weeks in spring, the scent of this flower is almost overpowering in the woods and ravines. It’s only redeeming quality in my opinion.

Honeysuckle vine in bloom, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Blooming right on the heels of the multi flora rose is the wild honeysuckle vine.  I’m not sure if this species was introduced but is is definitely invasive.  Around here we have the variety with white blossoms which fade to a creamy yellow as they die.  Great food for hummingbirds, they unfortunately tend to strangle many trees and bushes.  If you’ve ever seen a walking stick with a spiral design, it was naturally created by the honeysuckle vine.  Its perfume is so strong as to be almost nauseating.

Common boxwood in flower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Following on the heels of the honeysuckle vine is the common boxwood.  This shrubby bush is semi-evergreen in this area.  It is an under story plant and likes the shade of larger trees.  There are many varieties of this plant but around here it has smallish white flowers in little groups which look a lot like a small honeysuckle blossom.  Again, the perfume is pleasant and not as overpowering as the first two plants.

For people with allergies, the Ohio River Valley is probably not the most pleasant place to live, but the wildflowers certainly put on a show, both in blooms and scents.

A visit to the garden in late spring

One of my blog readers recently asked to see more of the garden than just my flower paintings.  So I thought I’d take you on a little tour.

The immediate yard around the house is about two acres and it sits in the middle of the whole property.  Much of that is in woods, fields, streams and some fields.  Very private.  Love it.

The Big Chicken standing in a bed of Lilies of the Valley

As visitors drive up the long lane which turns at the end, they’re greeted with my giant chicken.  His head bobs on a spring in the wind. Children and silly grownups like to beat on it with a stick so it sounds like a metal drum.  It stands in a patch of lilies of the valley which acts as a ground cover of sorts.

The main garden, about 40 x 60.

To the left and south of the house is the main garden which is about 40 x 60.  We have this plowed each spring and then I plant it in thirds, rotating crops each year.  Here you can see two crops of sweet corn, many varieties of tomatoes and peppers, some eggplant, squash, beans, herbs, and always always flowers, including a whole row of sunflowers.  I do all the planting and hoeing between plants.  My husband rototills between rows.  However, by late July, most of the garden takes care of itself.

The spring garden. Onions, garlic, pea pods, kale, asparagus patch, with spinach and lettuce bolting in the cold frame.

This is the spring garden which is pretty messy this time of year.  Three kinds of onions, garlic, kale, lettuce and spinach bolting in the cold frame, asparagus, and to the far left two more kinds of squash.

Some patio pots. These are usually in direct sunlight.

I have several flowerbeds and an herb bed, but I found it easier to maintain flowers in pots.  So, there is an eclectic collection of about 40.  Some flowers for sun, some for shade.

More pots, this time with shade plants.

A little pot on my studio porch. Just because I had extra flowers.

At the far east side of the yard is an old perennial bed.  This time of year you can find weigela, yellow garden loosetrife, lilies, lambs ear, coreopsis and much more.  It’s always something. The columbine is past.  Yet to bloom will be yucca, gladiolas, purple cone flower, and I have forgotten what else. And, I love my favorite flying pig garden sculpture made from old farm implements.  It bounces in the wind, too.

East perennial bed with flying pig.

There is always something new to see in the garden.  I tidy it up once or twice a year but am not obsessed with having every weed pulled and tamed.  There are successes and failures.  Some plants readily reseed themselves.  Some even seem to move! The raspberries will be coming soon.  The day lilies are blooming.  It’s just a pleasure to walk around nearly any time of year.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine,  food and medicine for the soul.   –  Luther Burbank

Baby wrens

Baby wrens in nest.

I love house wrens.  Every year we have a nest on the front porch, either in a fern or in the wren house.  This year there are five baby wrens.  I counted the other day but you can only see four beaks in this photo. I love to watch the busy parents feeding this brood.  I can’t imagine how many bugs, grubs and worms they bring but it’s constant this time of year.  I was watching through the window  earlier today while working at my computer.  Although I’m sure the birds saw me, my presence didn’t seem to affect them at all.  They have a very bright chirrup, chirrup, especially if they’re alarmed as when the dog decides to nap on the porch, too.  We’ve even found them nesting in the pocket of a shirt my husband had hanging in the shed.  (Apologies for the bird poop, but that’s country life!)

UPDATE:  The babies fledged the day after I took this photo.  I saw a wren already looking at one of my hanging flowerpots which is another favorite nesting site.  Might get another family this summer.

Flowers, flowers and more flowers

Pile of paintings. This a a stack of recent flower paintings, usually four to a sheet. Watercolor, pen and ink. Kit Miracle

May has been the hottest month on record in these parts. I’ve been trying to capture local flowers in watercolor with pen and ink but the heat has pushed everything into high gear.  The flowers are blooming faster than I can paint them.

Hurricane Alberto dumped some rain on us but it wasn’t too bad.  Unfortunately, accompanying winds broke off a large limb of a maple tree in the back yard.  More clean up and some firewood.

Persimmon flowers. These waxy, bell-shaped flowers on the persimmon tree will yield wonderful fruit in late summer. Watercolor, pen and ink, 10.5 x 14. Kit Miracle

And the vegetable garden, about 60 x 40 for the main garden, plus the additional spring garden which includes the cold frames, asparagus area, onions and garlic, peas and the squash patch.  I planted this entirely. Yippee.  And it needs hoeing as soon as I can get in there after the mud.

This doesn’t count the nearly forty flower pots, plus flower beds, plus general spring tidying.

And, of course, trimming bushes coming up this week.

Sheesh.

Four flowers. A typical quarter sheet of watercolor paper has been divided into four sections. Here you can see lamb’s ear, weigela, Venus looking glass, and lavender.

I really want to paint something besides flowers.  I keep telling myself, OK, they’re all done.  Then a walk through the yard reveals some more.  Stop, already!  Ok, humpf, I’m over it.

Anyway, here is a whole pile of recent paintings.  It’s been fun if hectic.  I’ve spent some time roaming through my plant books and guides to identify each one but if you see some errors, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by.

It’s not work if you’re having fun

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

I think people who are creative are the luckiest people on earth. I know that there are no shortcuts, but you must keep your faith in something greater than you,and keep doing what you love. Do what you love, and you will find the way to get it out to the world.” — Judy Collins

My husband will often call me in from my studio for dinner. I’m busy.  I’m right in the middle of something, I respond.  Or my brother will quip that I haven’t really retired but have just found another job.  Yes, I agree.

When I go out to my studio, a commute of about 30 feet, I am lost to the world.  Music or recorded books.  Ideas abound.  Running out of something to paint or express is totally foreign to me.

This does not mean that there are not challenges or some labor involved.  I spent several days recently cleaning my studio.  Let me be frank. Artists are pack rats.  We can always think of something we can do with the flotsam and jetsam in the creative space.  This could be useful.  Maybe I’ll need this some day.  Really!  But, there comes a time to clean and to toss.

I have spent plenty of time at the burn barrel…mostly with few regrets. Occasionally I think of something that I’ve gotten rid of and wish I had saved but it was probably for the best.

And then there is the business side of art.  Following up on e-mails and phone calls.  Scheduling exhibits and competitions.  Ordering supplies.  Keeping up with the money…or lack thereof.  Successful artists really pay attention to these details.

But, this isn’t anything at all like writing a fifty page grant application (or final grant report). Or next year’s budget. Or a formal business plan for a new venture just because the powers that be never thought you could.  (They were impressed.  And someone else ran off with the business plan. Pfftt.)

So, yes, I’m retired and have a steady income stream.  That is always a relief.  But the more important thing is that I just get to do what I want with my time.  And I want  to create art.  That’s enough.  It’s not work.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” — Warren Buffet