Category Archives: country living

Bread and Miriam

Bread and Miriam. My friend is delighted to display her new painting. We had such a fun morning visiting, talking about books and life.

I had the great pleasure of hand delivering my painting Bread to my friend Miriam.  She was so delighted to be able to buy this.  “Making this bread was the best experience of my time during the COVID pandemic.”  Miriam used my bread recipe for no-touch sourdough bread.  I heard back from so many friends and blog followers that they loved this recipe. 

Still need some bread?  Check out this post from last year. https://my90acres.com/2018/03/28/crusty-artisan-bread/ https://my90acres.com/2020/08/02/bread-a-new-painting/

Summer Super Sale still going on.  40 to 70% off.  Adding more every day.  Check here to see what is currently on sale.  Or contact me personally if you’re nearby and I’ll deliver. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KitMiracleArt?ref=l2-shop-info-name&section_id=1

Independence Day

Flag Day, Milltown, Indiana Kit Miracle

July Fourth has always had a special meaning for me.  Far beyond the picnics and bands, the fireworks and family gatherings.  There is just something about the holiday here in the United States which makes me proud and excites my sensibilities.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a marching band in person or even a fireworks display, although I love both of those things.  The big booms reverberate in my chest all the way to my toes. 

And I love the family gatherings.  In our case, not quite reunions but a group of friends and relatives who show up to spend a pleasant day in the country.  This year is especially poignant since we haven’t seen many of these folks for over a year.

The kids will run around, sneak blackberries from the bushes, and whine about when they’re going to eat.  The adults will swap tales and events.  And the young men will regale everyone with some awesome fireworks.  (Fortunately, we’re not in the super dry western states where fireworks are banned these days.)

But I often reflect on the meaning of the day.  Independence Day.  The declaration of our split from our English heritage and ruler, King George.  What a chance our founding fathers took!  What moxy!  What great beginnings, too.  I wonder what they’d think of the form of government they started nearly two and a half centuries ago.  Would they be proud? Astonished?  Perplexed? Maybe all three.

I hope that you have a great day, an enjoyable day, and perhaps can reflect on the meaning of this special day here in the United States.  Be kind. Be safe.

Garden update, home on the farm

Life out here on my 90 acres has been so busy this spring.  Making some progress tackling my three page list of things to do (yes, really!) but there are still plenty of things left to do.

Garden May 15th, you can see the corn coming up in the foreground. The far end of the garden is tomatoes and peppers.
These tomato and pepper plants look so small.

We got a late start planting the garden this year on May 15th.  I did manage to plant the first crop of corn on April 27th.  It is now as tall as I am.  The freeze in early May delayed planting but we got to everything else in one day. Then we had about a week and a half of hot, dry weather so I had to haul water.

A month later, June 20th. Everything is growing well. The corn in the distance on the right is as tall as I am. The left distance is the second crop of corn. And the sunflowers on the left side of the garden. The posts have solar-powered motion detector lights to scare away marauders.

The past few weeks have been pretty wet but at least not gully-washers as sometimes happens.  I planted really wide rows to allow my husband to get down them with the rototiller.  This is after I hoe around the individual plants.  As you can see, everything is really established now.

Hundreds of thousands of cicadas. Even the birds got sick of them. A week and a half ago, the sound was deafening. Now, none. There is a lot of debris left, but that will decompose soon.

The cicada invasion has been here and gone. Finally! Hundreds of thousands of the bugs. The birds, toads and lizards are full. A week and a half ago, the noise was deafening. Today, barely anything at all. Wait another seventeen years. And, no, I did not eat any. Blech!

Other chores which needed attention.  Trimming out the lane (1/3 mile) both on the sides and overhead.  This is a several day job, particularly during the extreme heat and humidity.

Then I started on other tasks: trimming bushes, digging flowerbeds, potting flowers, etc.  And those are just the outside chores. There are many other tasks, cleaning the greenhouse, attics, closets, preparing for company.  Taking the grandkids on road trips or to art classes.  It’s always something.

But, I am still able to get out to the studio, mostly in the afternoons.  (Outdoor work is reserved for mornings when it’s cool.)  Recently I created a small series of sunrise paintings.  Who doesn’t love a beautiful sunrise?  Every one is different. And contemplating my next big series.  Just some ideas rolling around but I’ll get there.

A composite of three recent sunrise paintings. Same location (Florida Keys), different days. Golden Sunrise, God’s Eye Sunrise, and Confetti Sunrise. All acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12. For sale in my Etsy shop and local shops around here.

How’s your summer going?  I hope you’re having some fun, seeing some friends and family as things open up now.  Still cautiously keeping safe but a little freer.

Brutus

Brutus, the old farm truck. A family member for over three decades.

There’s always something to do here on the farm and spring seems to be the busiest.  This past week my husband and I spent time trimming back the brush and overhanging branches on the lane.  This doesn’t sound like much except that it’s a third of a mile long, with trees and bushes on one or both sides.  The delivery vans have to run the gauntlet, often leaving with debris decorating their vehicles.

Usually I just walk along with my battery-powered hedge trimmers.  When the battery runs down, so do I.  And I can only reach just so far up.  Getting to the overhead branches is more challenging.  In this case, one person drives the truck and one person stands in back with clippers or a chainsaw.  We got over nine truck loads so far and we’re still not done. The temps were in the 90s a couple of days ago, but they were in the 50s today.

Since I was the driver this time, I spent a lot of time in the truck.

Brutus is our farm truck. (My husband names every vehicle we have.)  We ordered Brutus new back in 1985, a handsome but no frills Ford F250 4WD. Let’s see, that makes him 36 this year. Every farm has an old truck.  Come meet ours.

After many years of hard use, Brutus is showing his age. Rust, holes, dents, and even lichen.

He’s very reliable but has never been coddled.  Never spent a night under cover.  And is used but not intentionally abused.  He’s hauled rock and a whole lot of firewood over the years.  He’s been able to get out during the worst of snowstorms.  Both of the boys learned to drive in him, which in the country is way below the legal age (only on the farm). 

Uh oh, you can see the ground through the floorboards. Oh, well, slap a car mat over it.

Unfortunately, Brutus is showing his age.  The speedometer doesn’t go past 99,999 so he’s now clocking at over 117,000 miles.  The radio still works (AM only) but the heater doesn’t.  He has two gas tanks but I don’t think the gage works on either one.  We don’t worry about anyone stealing him as he’s pretty touchy to get going, besides, he’s not a beauty either. And his top speed is about 45.

Spring follow-up

One of many beautiful peonies. The scent is so lovely.

We have been so busy with spring activities here on the ninety acres.  The temperatures have exploded from the frost predictions earlier this month to near 90s this week.  No rain so we’re doing lots of watering.  Everything I planted last weekend – the entire garden pretty much – is up and looking healthy.  I’ll post photos later when there’s more to see.

The air is a flood of beautiful scents, roses and peonies, honeysuckle, too.  The locusts are about done.  The strong perfume seems to be the only redeeming value of the multiflora roses and the wild honeysuckle, both which are fighting it out in the scent category. 

Top: Tame climbing roses vs wild multi-flora roses. Bottom: Tame honeysuckle bush vs wild honeysuckle vine.

The farmer who rents some of our fields has been working until way after dark these days.  You can see by this monster disk how much time it takes to prepare the ground.  Not counting that “other” natural odor that was spread on the fields.  Well, that’s called soil improvement. 

Disking the fields. That is some big piece of equipment.

And the cicadas have emerged in ever-increasing numbers.  They don’t bite or sting, just climb out of the ground and then hang onto anything they can while they emerge from their shells.  They can’t climb on vinyl or metal but they do like wood or just about anything else they can attach to.  My husband uses the leaf blower to blow them off the porch.  I use the broom.  And now they’re starting to sing to attracts mates.  Not as loud as it will be but it’s already beginning to sound like that weird alien noise in a sci-fi movie. The birds and frogs and toads seem sated but I watched two little lizards stalking the same bug today.  I think they both missed. 

The Reader, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18, Kit Miracle

Of necessity due to the heat, studio time has been limited to afternoons.  I did manage to finish the painting which I started as a demo a couple of weeks ago.  The Reader is a lovely piece, not in any series of paintings but just because I like the subject.  I’m already scouting around for the next topic.

Cicadas and more, spring 2021

I love perennials. Nothing much to do except enjoy their beauty year after year. Azalea and irises.

All is not art.  Spring on the ninety acres has arrived and so has the work.

This beautiful red/pink rhododendron is right outside our kitchen breakfast nook.

The past several weeks have been devoted to getting my big show up and running.  Framing and delivering, shipping, some marketing, some public events.  Exciting but exhausting.

Now, to tackle my three page list of things to do this spring.  Yes, I still make extensive lists for almost everything.  It just relieves my brain from having to remember everything.

We’ve had beautiful, rain-free weather this past week.  A little on the chilly side but make hay, etc. etc.  Weeding the flowerbeds.  Seems as if we are beset by bedstraw this year.  Or as I like one of its other common names sticky willie. Grrrrrrrrrrr.  I hate this stuff.

A few of several pots of plants on the patio. Full sun. My favorite Provence memory.
Flowers waiting to be transplanted to pots. A couple of perennials, too.

Bringing out all my pots, mixing large batches of soil – potting soil, manure, peat.  Planting about thirty of them for sun, shade, large, small.  Oh, my back but I just divide the job up to smaller pieces.

Peppers, tomatoes, herbs and more.

Then a big push on to get the main garden planted.  It’s a serious garden of about 25 x 40 feet.  The sweet corn was planted a few weeks ago and is making a good showing.  The peas finally came up in the spring garden (a whole different garden area), and we have been eating fresh lettuce for several weeks.  The asparagus patch is nearly done for the year.

Just a small part of the garden. I planted fifteen various tomato plants and about the same number of peppers. Many varieties. PLUS….we have more in the small spring garden. I remember one year planting 64 tomato plants! Last time I did that.

Yesterday meant planting tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, herbs, more corn, and lots of flowers for cutting.  It’s not very interesting at this point but in a few weeks, it should really start growing. 

So, let’s talk about cicadas.  It’s the widely touted seventeen year emergence.  And they’re HERE!  At least emerging.  They do not have mouths or stingers so they’re harmless to handle.  They feel kinda creepy as they crawl on you with their little claws.

A cicada emerging. I’m finding these in the grass, the flowerbeds, just about everywhere outside.
Slightly creepy feeling, this is what the cicadas look like when they first shed their brown shells. It will attach itself to something – twig, trees, side of house – while it pumps up it’s wings, then takes off to find a mate for a day. No mouths or stingers.
A cicada hanging on its discarded shell which it attached to a plant. After it pumps up its wings, it changes color and then flies off.
Holes in the ground from the emerging brood. I’ve actually observed a flicker listening and diving for the emerging beasties.

I remember the last time they were here, the air was a cacophony of a high pitched sound, like something you might hear on an old sci-fi movie.  I guess we’ll deal with it or stay inside.  And remember, the birds and especially our chickens love these things and go after them like candy.

I’ll pass.

Cinco de Meowo

Cinco de Meowo. Leo at a year old. Quite a bit of difference from the little fluff ball he was last spring.

Our cat Leo is now a year old now.  We got him as a tiny kitten from our son.  He was born a barn cat in the cellar window well.  Now he is a big, slightly pampered feline.  Would rather spend the night outdoors and sleep in his chair during the day.  I worry but what mom doesn’t.  He has plenty of places to hide, some very sharp claws, is a great climber, and a big scary dog who chases away other critters.

Funny how we become owned by our pets.

Leo at a few weeks old. Ready for adventure.
Leo begging to sit in my lap while I paint. Not happening. But look at those eyes!

Trees in the neighborhood

Spring is in the air down here in Southern Indiana.  The temperatures are warming.  The spring flowers are blooming.  Our yard and fields are showcasing daffodils and spring beauties.

Earlier this week I was in the woods planting some small saplings of native trees.  These are free from the state DNR.  As I was locating the new plants, I looked around at all the other trees in the area.  In the many years of living here, my boys grew up knowing how to identify trees by bark, leaves, the wood and even the smell of the wood.  But I realize that many people have never had the opportunity to explore the woods with some knowledge.  So here are some of the trees in our own woods with names that will be familiar to you.  By just the bark. 

Let’s see how good you are at identification.

Sycamores are an extraordinarily beautiful tree, especially in winter. The upper limbs show bright white against the rest of the drab forest but the lower trunk has a shaggy, peeling bark. They have very large leaves and little fuzzy seed balls. I can never see sycamores without breaking into our state song, Back Home Again In Indiana…. Now you can’t get that out of your head, can you?
This is a very large sugar maple in our front yard. In autumn, it hosts a beautiful display of reddish leaves. Actually, there were several of these trees on the property when we moved here. As you can see, the poor tree is nearly done with interior rot. We have never sugared but I imagine it was popular in the day. It was the host to a pretty neat tree house when the kids were young.
We were delighted to find a whole little grove of shagbark hickory in our woods when we moved here many years ago. It has a very distinctive shaggy bark. (Thus the name.) The nuts taste like pecans. If you can get any. The squirrels and other critters usually harvest everything.
Young locust on the left and mature locust on the right. A rather shaggy bark, these elegant trees can be found on most old homesteads. The wood was often used as fence posts as they seem to be resistant to rot. They have a small leaf so there isn’t anything to rake in the fall. They also have the most beautiful creamy white racemes of flowers with a heady perfume in the spring. The bees love them. They’re the tallest trees in our yard towering over 80 feet. They also propagate by underground runners so they might appear anywhere nearby. I don’t know if these are black locusts or honey locusts but I still love their stateliness.
This hackberry tree was a real puzzle to us when we first moved here many years ago. It has a very knobby bark and tiny whitish/green blossoms. It seems to reseed well but I don’t know if that’s an advantage. The young one on the left has more pronounced knobs but the mature one on the right is also still knobby. A good shade tree, it stands about 60 feet high in our yard.
The native dogwood tree bark reminds me of a puzzle with many interlocking pieces. These days they’re under attack from an imported disease but so far, they’re holding their own. A beautiful understory tree with large white blossoms in spring, they go unnoticed the rest of the year.
This crab apple was given to me as my first Mother’s day gift many years ago. It has a glorious display of pink flowers each spring. It’s progeny has been shared with many people. As you can see, the woodpeckers have been having a go at it as well but it’s still hanging on.
The cedar tree is often thought of as a trash tree but they are quite handy to have. We have used them as fence posts, bird feeder posts, and built an arbor out of cedar logs. We even had some milled to use as benches. They have a lovely red variegated color inside and a wonderful smell.
Wild Cherry with some problems. These trees have a very dark bark and are messy. These are not cherries to eat but contain cyanide so they can be poison to livestock and animals.

These are just a few varieties of trees on our property. I haven’t included the red and white oaks, river birch, ironwood, hazel (a bush, really), sweet gum, pines and more. What is native to your area?

Getting by in an emergency

A few years ago I posted about the challenges of living in a rural area during emergencies, especially if the power goes out.  Living in a 135 year old house which only received electricity in probably the 1940s or 1950s has it’s challenges.  I talked about having alternatives and backup plans.  Like oil lamps, wood or kerosene heat, propane stoves or water heaters.  But sometimes you just need a little electricity.

You could buy a huge generator but it’s difficult to justify spending thousands of dollars on equipment than you may only use once every few years.  I’m going to talk about a few items which might make your life easier for about $100 or less, for most of them together.

A couple of inexpensive hand-cranked emergency tools. The radio on the left and the flashlight on the right. I like the flashlight but the radio seems a little tinny. You have to put your own batteries in to charge. And you should take them out between uses in case they corrode and ruin your equipment. Only about $10 or less at a big box store.

The first are having a hand-cranked flashlight and / or radio.  You can pick these up at your local big box store for under $10.  They’re usually in the camping section but check around.  They’re not terrific but work well in a pinch.

The power bank and side view showing the USB ports. You can charge this up and it will hold for several months. I don’t know the brand name but there are many, including many sizes. This one is 16,000 mAh.

My next recommendation is having a power bank.  This allows you to plug in your phones and USB items.  You just charge them up (when the electricity is on) and they’ll hold a charge for a long time.  Keep them in a drawer or place where you can find them easily.  It seems the power always goes out when my phone is nearly dead.  They’re smaller than a paperback book and cost about $30-$40. Useful for camping, too, but not recommended to keep in a hot car.

Folding solar charger front. Four panels in all and you can attach it to your backpack to charge while hiking. This brand is Hiluckey but there are other brands, too.
Folding solar charger back. The white square is a built-in flash light.

Another handy item is a solar powered charger.  The one I have folds up to about the size of a wallet. You can set it out, or attach it to your backpack as you’re hiking.  Mine also has a built in flashlight.  It has a couple of USB ports, too.  Costs vary depending upon size and power, but again, around $30-$40.

Multi-purpose flashlight radio. This is my favorite little gadget. The radio (three bands) is really good. Three power sources – hand crank, solar, or lithium battery. And the reading light and flashlight are very bright. Plus it has USB ports for those essential phones. About $40 or less.
Multi-purpose flashlight / radio back showing the hand crank, battery door, antenna, and the light/auto switch.
Multi-purpose with three-way flashlight.

Finally, a little item that I LOVE is my multi-purpose flashlight / radio.  This is the neatest little gadget.  It comes with a lithium battery to insert and a little screwdriver.  The battery can be charged by hand-cranking or it has a small solar charger on top.  It seems to hold a charge for a long time.  The charger flips up to show a good light for reading.  In addition, it has a very good flashlight on one side and some USB connections on the other.  The radio is terrific!  It has AM/FM/ and weather band.  Very good reception with the fold out antenna.  It also has a built-in SOS alarm and light, and a motion sensor good for 3 meters.  The cost is about $40.

I recommend that you keep a few of these items handy for emergencies but they’re also very useful for camping or putting into a GO bag.  A small waterproof box or bag will make them readily available for use.  The links below will take you to more information about some of these items.

Hiluckey Solar Chargerhttps://www.amazon.com/25000mAh-Hiluckey-Portable-External-Smartphones/dp/B08CSD9VWY/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=hiluckey+solar+charger&qid=1613507019&sr=8-5

Multi-purpose Flashlight Radio https://www.amazon.com/Emergency-Radio%EF%BC%8C4000mAh-Solar-Portable-Flashlight-Lamp%EF%BC%8CCell/dp/B083TLZN7G/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=multipurpose+flashlight+radio&qid=1613507123&sr=8-4

Waiting for spring

We had a little over an inch of snow last night.  The sight that greeted us this morning was so pretty.  Every branch and plant was covered.  Actually, it seems as if we haven’t had a heavy snow of several inches for a few years.  Even though winter has been relatively mild – so far, I am already sick of the season.  News exhaustion, tired of restrictions, worried about COVID.  Missing my family.

The past few weeks since the holiday crush, I have been concentrating on finishing up my Breaking Bread series of paintings.  These are middling to large, 24 x 30 paintings expressing my thoughts and observations of people eating together, or not as the case may be.  A few are humorous but most are thought-provoking. Scenes we see every day or used to at least.  But they are also mentally or emotionally draining. 

I decided to take a little respite this week and paint something lighter.  Think spring.  Back to some small watercolors with pen and ink, even colored pencil added. Some florals and landscapes.  Promises of things to come in a few months.

Landscape with spring daffodils. Watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil on Arches paper. 10.5 x 13.5 Kit Miracle These naturalized daffodils are a delight to look at every spring. I didn’t plant them but always send thanks to the person who did.

The first one that I tackled was Spring Daffodils.  This is a landscape of the naturalized daffodils in my yard.  Sometimes they come up as early as mid-February but usually they’re not out in full force until March and April.  It’s just such a peaceful scene with spring colors.

Purple Irises. Watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil on Arches paper. 10.5 x 13.5 Kit Miracle

Another scene is of some of the purple irises out by the woodshed.  I know that I planted these shortly after we moved here many years ago but can’t remember the name.  It doesn’t really matter.  I have many varieties of irises from light purple to deep purple, peach and white, and some more that I’ve forgotten.  It’s always a pleasant surprise to see them explode in color in some out of the way place. 

I’ll take another week “off” to paint some of these spring scenes.  They have lightened my mood and inspired me during these dismal times.  Then I’ll get back to the more serious series.  I have four more paintings to complete before the big show in May and June. 

I hope you have some activity to inspire you during these difficult times, too.  Take care of yourselves.