Monthly Archives: September 2012

Country living, the good and the bad

If you’ve been following my blog then you know that I live in a 130+ year old

Seckle Pears, also called sugar pears

farmhouse in a county that doesn’t even have a single stoplight (and they’re proud of it.)  This is a big change from the megalopolis that I lived in 25 years ago where I had to fight three and a half million people to work every day.  Yippee for rush hour!  Now my drive is about 25 minutes of beautiful rolling countryside.  Yeah, the weather can affect that which is why I have 4 wheel drive.  It’s a necessity out here.

I often have people say to me, How can you stand to be so far away from everything?  Don’t you miss the services in the big city?  What about shopping?  I just give them one of those are you kidding me? looks.  So…I have satellite TV.  I have satellite internet which is faster than my high speed internet at work.  And, well, UPS delivers.  I’m only about an hour from an international airport but I live in the middle of my 90 acres.  Taxes are low.  I can’t see even a single neighbor from my house.  And those neighbors that I have, I actually know.  As an aside, did you ever realize that when you are packed in like sardines in the city, that you often don’t even know your next door neighbor?  How sad is that? 

My mailman will actually bring a package to my door and, if I’m not home, just stick it in my studio.  My husband exchanges recipes with the UPS guy.  If you need help, you just call someone.  People actually show up!  And much of the payment for services might be a basket of pears or some fresh eggs.  Or an I’ll catch you later

In case you’re looking for your own place in the country, I can tell you that property is usually much cheaper.  My 90 acres isn’t in the heart of NYC or LA.  It’s not actually enough to make a living on unless you’re doing some intensive farming, but it’s a nice place.  In Texas this would just be a big back yard.

So, what are the disadvantages of country life?  Well, you know those friendly neighbors?  They really do want to know all your business, or at least seem to.  I’ve always contended that it would be easier to hide in a city with a million people than it would to be in a place with a million acres.  People out here notice things.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but if your cow is out, they’ll stop and tell you.  Or bring you a pie when you are sick. 

There is also that shopping thing.  When I run out of that essential ingredient for a recipe, it’s a long way to town if the local mom and pop store doesn’t carry it. (You learn to improvise a lot.)  And restaurants tend to be a little more countryfied.  You probably won’t find that goat cheese pizza at Sally’s Truck Stop.  The wine offerings at Wal-Mart are certainly limited and the clothes down at the J.C.Penny….well, let’s just stick to basics.  On the other hand, think of how much money I can save from impulse buys! 

A trip to the city usually involves a good part of a day and lots of stops.  I find myself saving up all my shopping for a single trip.  Also, there is a constant list on the fridge of what I need to buy next time I go to the big city.  But art supplies, books, even tractor parts can now be purchased on line at often cheaper prices than at the stores so what is wrong with that? I’m saving money on two fronts, i.e., not shopping as much and doing more internet shopping.

One really big advantage of living in the country is the stars!  I just love to stand out in the dark gaze at all that magnificence.  And just wait for a meteor shower!  Wow!  There are also the critters, for better or worse.  Possums and skunks, rabbits (there go my new expensive perennials), squirrels, and chipmunks.  Deer are pretty but very dangerous to vehicular traffic.  We’ve had run-ins with seven of those rats with antlers, one resulting in totalling a brand new car.  Coyotes running the creek beds on a frosty night will send shivers up your spine and make you snuggle deeper under the covers with their howls and yips.  Whipoorwills are nocturnal and blasted persistent if one happens to take up residence in a tree outside the bedroom window.  And very occasionally a bobcat which sounds like a woman screaming.  OOOOooooooo.  

But overall, the country life is the life for me.  I love the peace.  The decompression on the way home at night.  I love the change of the seasons which seem so intense. I love picking fresh vegetables from the garden or fruit from my orchards.  Yep, green acres is the place for me.  (I can’t believe I just said that.)

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On being an Amazon Vine reviewer

Amazon Vine reviewer

Several years ago I received an e-mail from Amazon inviting me to participate in a brand new program called Vine.  What the heck is that, I thought.  In their e-mail they said that they would send me FREE books!  I got to KEEP the books!  So what’s the catch?  I had to read and write a review for the books.  Okaaaaayyy…..  What’s the real catch?  So I called them.  Yes, it was true.  This was a brand new program.  They were inviting me to participate.  Yes, I could keep the books.  At the time there was some nonsense that I had to keep ALL the books they sent to me.  Yeah, right.  Do you have any idea how quickly those pile up?  (BTW, that changed recently. I guess they got some complaints from hoarders about the number of books piling up.)

Anyway, I’ve been a Vine reviewer since the inception of the program.  Now if you’ve read my previous posting about my addition to books, you know this is like asking an alcoholic if it would be OK if someone sent him free booze every month.  Heh heh heh.  And the answer to that question would be?  Heck, yeah!

So the way the program works is this.  Twice a month I receive an e-mail notifying  me that a new posting has been made in a special compartment of the Amazon website where I get to choose a certain number of books.  They mail them to me.  I get to read and write a review about them.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.  Since the beginning of the program, it has been expanded to include all kinds of products, not just books.  Food items, vitamins, toys…you name it.  Whatever Amazon sells.  I’ve received some really terrific stuff.  Aside from the books, I’ve received some neat food products, earphones, a flat bed screener, computer programs, toys….I can’t remember everything.

The big misconception by the public and what I’ve read online is that the Vine reviewers have to give everything a good review.  That is definitely NOT so!  I have been very frank when a product has been a real stinker.  And some of them have been.  I actually do try to read and review every book but they do pile up which is the big downside of this program.  I’m a reader and have a whole bunch of books that I want to read for ME, not just for Amazon.  But who’s complaining? 

Are all of the reviewers as conscientious?  I couldn’t say.  I only know that I read at least a couple of books a week from the program, not counting my own, or considering that I have a REAL life.  I’m not even in the top 1,000.  Do the top reviewers real ALL the books they review?  I can only speculate.  If you rely on the reviews for Amazon or any other website, at least be a bit skeptical.  I would say that most of the reviewers do a great job but there might be a few who take shortcuts. 

Anyway, thank you Amazon, this is a great opportunity. And, for you curious people out there, I use a pseudonym, not my real name so you won’t be able to track down my reviews.  It’s better that way, don’t you think?

How do you know when your painting is finished?

How do I know when my painting is finished?

That is a question I often ask myself.  For me, the answer is when I can’t think of one more thing to add.  Then STOP!

I’ve noticed that when I’ve taught a class, particularly a watercolor class, that sometimes the participants keep messing with their paintings until …well, they’re a mess.  Stop!  In the case of watercolors, leave some white space.  Leave some space, period.  When I’m working in oils, that is a little more difficult but I always try to avoid the overworked look.  With oils, I stand back and just LOOK.  It seems the closer I get to the final product, the more time I spend looking.  Sometimes it is even best to put it away for a while.  That advice is often offered to young artists but it’s true.  Sometimes after you’ve come back to your work with a few weeks off, the errors will jump out at you.  Other times, you’ll realize that you’ve nailed it.

I ask myself, what am I aiming for?  What is my message?  Despite painting in a realistic style most of the time, I am not aiming for anything approaching photo realism.  If you want it to look like a photo, then take a damn picture!  I’m looking for the message.  What struck me most about this subject?  What am I really trying to convey?  When is enough enough?

Wolf Eyes, detail, oil on canvas

This is a close-up view of a painting that I’m working on right now entitled Wolf Eyes.  I’m just about at the point where…there’s nothing left to add.  Time to set it aside for a while.  I’ll put it on my website when do finish it.  The message that I’m shooting for is the young man in his prime, he is oozing with virility and he knows it.  Wolf Eyes.