What are you reading?

Books, my not-so-secret addiction

What are you reading these days?  This is a question I am frequently asked as most people who know me, also know that I am a true bibliophile (lover of books.)  I covet books.  I love the smell, the feel, the heft.  Just opening a new book gives me chills of anticipation.

So, most friends are also surprised when I reply with several titles.  How can you read more than one book at a time?  they ask.  Well, you can watch more than one television series at a time, can’t you?  You watch an episode and then come back the next week to watch the next one.  Then I can see the light dawn as they get what I’m saying.

I like a variety of books and subjects to read and switch off during the week.  Quiet morning time is often reserved for more contemplative, deeper non-fiction.  Later in the day, I escape with some fiction (many genres).  And bedtime reading is, let’s just say, a wee bit boring, or at least nothing that’s going to keep me awake all night.

So this is my current reading stack.

Bronnie Ware’s The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.  Since I already have more years behind me than I have before me, I mostly want to see how my life compares with others who have reached the end of theirs.  There are some interesting concepts but I do find that the author wanders around a bit.

John Muir’s A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf.  This is more of a journal than a bonafide book.  It is scanned and has all the errors that some scanned books have.  But I always find Muir a fascinating and awesome writer and person.  It’s nearly incomprehensible some of the treks and adventures he made with very little in the way of supplies or equipment.  Bedtime reading, for sure.

Dr. Michael Mosely The Fast Diet.  The author discusses some of the science behind intermittent fasting and the research for better health and longevity.  I think I like’d Dr. Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code better but this book is very readable.

James H. Rubin How to Read Impressionism: Ways of Looking.  I’ve read so many books about impressionism, the period, the specific artists of the era, that I doubted there would be anything new here.  However, the author approaches the subject by grouping the artists and paintings by location and subject matter more than chronologically.  It’s an interesting read but I have noticed that his conclusions do not always agree with other authors.  It’s loaded with color pictures and is a good reference.

Then this past weekend I indulged a guilty pleasure of zipping through two sci-fi dystopian books by Dima Zales, The Thought Readers and The Thought Persuaders Not deep but good entertainment.

So, this is what is on my reading table these days.  What is on yours?

So many books; so little time. – Frank Zappa

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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

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.