Category Archives: country living

Random Thoughts on Saturday Night

Fire pit on Saturday Night

Random thoughts on Saturday Night

So I’m sitting outside by the fire pit on Saturday night thinking about this and that.  Cedar wood smells great in general but I smell like a smoked weenie.  Lovely.

I love listening to the sounds at night.  Earlier it was the yipping of coyotes in the big woods.  Then the hounds at the farm over the hill.  Then another hound chimed in.  And the sound of a distant train. My dog decided to add to the chorus. The temperature has dropped so the peepers have stopped.

Watching the kazillions of stars welcome the big moon. And then two planes crossing paths high in the sky.  I could just barely hear them go past.  This is a very rural county.  It boasts not having a single stop light so when it is dark out here, it is dark! I wish I had that app on my phone that identifies all the stars and constellations and satellites.

My thoughts drifted back to last weekend when we were being deluged with eight inches of rain.  The rivers here in southern Indiana are still swollen.

But Monday was sunny and warm.  I volunteered to help out with a school program at the arts center.  As I sat there enjoying the show, I thought how great it is that performers can perform and children can enjoy such programs.  What a wonderful world.

Tuesday was an even more gorgeous day.  My husband and I drove over to Huber winery for a tour, tasting and lunch, courtesy of our youngest son for an anniversary present.  It was a lovely day.  Can’t say much for Google Maps whose directions were sketchy at best. Oh, well, tour the countryside.

Wednesday was a bit rainy.  Indoor activities, shopping in town, and a meeting. Oh, and planted peas.  Ever hopeful for spring.

Thursday, gusty winds and some rain squalls.  I tore down some fencing from the old chicken coop.  It was rusted and entwined with vines.  My eldest son is building a new coop on his place.  At first I was just planning to cut the rusty wire but then I decided to see if I could pull the metal posts.  These are damn heavy!  But with all the rain the ground was soft. I started to rock them back and forth, then pulled one.  Then another.  Constantly checking the trees above me to see if the gusty wind was going to drop a branch on me. The more I worked on the posts, the madder I got.  Finally, I got all the posts pulled out.  And the sun came out.  A feeling of accomplishment; man (or woman) against nature.

Friday I spent preparing for my son and his girlfriend who were visiting for the weekend.  Then lunch with friends.  And some time at the library using the free wifi and researching.  I’m planning on redesigning my website.  Not really looking forward to that but it’s time.

Picked up my granddaughter after school.  So sad that she’s moving out of state and I won’t see her for awhile. She’s such a sweet and creative child and I have had so much fun with her.  We will stay in touch via Skype and the phone.  And she’ll be back for the summer.

All the while, spring is sneaking up on us.  The daffodils and other flowers are coming out.  The grass is greening.  I manage to paint several hours a day.

So, that’s a week in my life in the country.  Random thoughts.  Be grateful for small things.  Enjoy.


Signs of spring

We are still several weeks away from the official beginning of spring, but the past few days have been unseasonably warm.  Mother Nature seems as eager as the gardeners to get on with the show.

First crocus. It seems as if it’s always the yellow ones which bloom first.

The first crocuses are blooming, always the yellow ones first.  They are sprinkled all over the property, courtesy of my kids and granddaughter.

Spring Beauties

Then the first spring beauties have made an appearance.  In a few more weeks, they will carpet the lawn with their dainty white and pink-striped blossoms.

Daffodils and other bulbs are poking up all over the place.  Fortunately, with so many varieties, their blooms are staggered over several weeks.

Finally, the rhododendron near the kitchen window is ready to pop.  These large blooms will be a joy to the eyes.

It is such a pleasure to walk around the property, spy on nature, and listen to the chorus of peepers down by the creek.  The warm days may not last but at least we’ve had a promise of spring coming soon.  The garlic is up.  The cold frame has been dug up and replanted with lettuce, spinach and kale.  I’m ready!

A yard full of spring beauties

Making do – old stuff

In this day of throwaway and disposables, sometimes I’m reminded of how precious the handmade and recycled objects of our lives can be.  This old house is over 135 years old.  The early homesteaders were very frugal and made the most of what they had.

Old sandstone stoop. See the chisel marks for the stone. The stoop was flipped over when it got worn so the bottom side shows more wear.

Here you can see the sandstone stoop for our back porch.  Although sandstone hardens with exposure to the air, eventually it will wear down.  In this area, worn out sandstone stoops are turned over to extend their lives.

Old sheet repair. Notice how finely this repair is made.

Here is a photo of an old sheet which received some very fine mending.  Would anyone do that today?  I doubt it.

Repaired window with old glazing.

This is a photo of a broken / cracked window.  Instead of having it replaced, a second sheet of glass, probably from another broken pane, was cemented to this one.

Handmade door closure on attic door.

The door to the upstairs attic of my studio has a hand-carved wooden lock and uses some kind of turned wood for a knob.

Sometimes living with the past makes one think more about the things we take for granted in our lives today. Next time you’re thinking of tossing something, give some consideration if it can be reused or recycled.


Lunar eclipse

Blue Moon, January 31, 2018 Early morning waiting for the eclipse.

The lunar eclipse begins in about an hour around here.  Check out this website which follows it live.  Also, you can enter your location to find out if/when it will begin in your area. 

Or just go outside and LOOK UP!  It’s a beautiful moon.


Jack Frost Visits

Jack Frost on my windowpane in the studio.

After a balmy winter holiday, the temperatures in the Midwest plummeted.  We recorded minus 4 degrees (F) this week.  Needless to say, I’m a wuss and am not spending much time outdoors.  However, even working in my studio has challenges.

As I have mentioned before, my studio is an old summer kitchen about 30 feet from the back door.  It was designed when cooking was done on wood-fired cook stoves (which it actually had when we moved here.)  This was to keep the heat out of the house in the summer.  You’ll find one of these buildings on many old farms in southern Indiana and throughout the Midwest and South.  I am lucky that ours is about 15 x 25’, which is pretty large for a summer kitchen.  In this case, the family and field hands actually ate in the building.  It is a perfect size for a studio.

Unfortunately, the whole purpose of the design was to keep the heat out of the house so they didn’t really care about insulating the building.  Thus, it’s very drafty.  Although I have a gas heater, unless I want to go broke, I keep it turned down.  This week I was wearing a hat, many layers of clothing, two pairs of socks (the cold comes up through the floor), and I was still chilly.

I snapped this photo of the beautiful patterns of the frost on the windowpanes.  It looks like giant feathers.  With all of our insulated windows and super-heated houses, window frost has become more and more uncommon.

The beauty of nature is all around us, even in the most unlikely places.

Since I was confined to studio painting, here are a couple of my recent works.  Plus, I tweaked the still life with red cabbage and artichokes that I posted on here a few weeks ago.  Artists are never quite satisfied with their finished work. Renoir was known to bring his paints to gallery exhibits even after his paintings were hung, just so he could make changes.  I’m not quite that bad but I might fiddle around with a painting which doesn’t quite suit me.

Here’s hoping that the weather is better where you are and that warmer days will be here soon.

Artist Still Life, oil on canvas board, 10 x 10, Kit Miracle

Down by the Creek, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Red Cabbage and Artichoke, 18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle. Still Life revised from previous version.


A Year of Change and Adventure

The Midwest has been locked in a deep freeze for the past few days and will continue to be for the next several.  This is a good time to snuggle in the warmth of the house with a hot cup of tea and reflect on the changes and adventures of the past year.

Leaving the office on the last day. Walls empty. Bulletin board empty. Most of the paperwork gone. Lots of memories.

The most dramatic change for me this year was my decision to retire last spring.  Leaving a job that I loved, my wonderful work family, and in the middle of an exciting new building project which had been on my wish list for a decade was difficult.  The hardest part was making the decision.  However, City Council approved the funding for our part of the building, the Library referendum passed, donors made huge commitments, and an energetic and intelligent young replacement was found.  I was able to walk out the door with a light heart knowing that Jasper Arts would be in good hands.

This left more time to pursue my own interests or get back to them.

First and foremost was my painting.  Although I’ve been a professional artist for over thirty years, job demands and time constraints meant there was less time for creative pursuits.  I never gave up my art but now I am able to devote as much time as I want to it, which is generally several hours every day.

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

My schedule is pretty much my own.  I can get up when I want but that’s usually pretty early. Hard to break that 5:30 a.m. habit.  Now I can linger over that second cup of tea and my commute is only 30 feet from the back door.

I have been catching up on ten years of projects (how often does one really need to clean out the attic?)  Satisfying but not usually on top of the To Do list.

Gardening is another passion.  This year I was able to get outside before the heat of the day instead of dealing with chores at the end of the day.  Very nice.

My bike is tuned up.  I used to ride 100 miles a week and hope to get up there again this coming year.

Reading, of course, is always high on my agenda and I have eclectic tastes.  No more business or fundraising books!  Yay!

A short nap after lunch is always a nice thing to insert into the middle of the day.  (Apologies to those of you who can’t take advantage of this.)

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

My husband and I took our first winter vacation in thirty years this year. Couldn’t do that when the kids were young and in school, then later when I was working because winter is the busy season for the performing arts.

The Huntress I – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

Our charming granddaughter was also able to spend much of the summer with us.  She loves the beach (of beautiful Lake Patoka nearby), anything to do with nature or bugs or animals, painting and crafting with grandma, and is game for just about any adventure.

At the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh

We traveled back to Pennsylvania to visit relatives.  While there I took her to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh where she could see real dinosaur bones up close.  She was elated.

And my husband and I took a fall trip back to Massachusetts to visit relatives. We visited the iconic Rockport sea town and stopped off at Stockbridge on our way back.  We also took a detour to Niagara on our return.  It’s big…and loud!

Rockport, Massachusetts

Niagara Falls

There were family barbecues, day trips to interesting places, some plein air painting, and just time to kick back next to the fire pit and enjoy the day.  What could be better?

So, goodbye to 2017.  It was a good year.  Now I’m making plans for 2018.

Stay tuned.


Cedar bench for the garden

Cedar bench featuring Southern Indiana cedar boards

Cedar trees are indigenous to southern Indiana and many parts of the Midwest.  An evergreen, they add color to the winter landscape.  They often grow on soil where other trees can’t seem to get a foothold, limestone, sandstone, and rocky.

This year my family surprised me with refinishing two cedar benches in the garden.  Although the benches were still serviceable, after 25 years, they needed an update.  This locally cut cedar was selected due to its resistance to insect damage and other wear.  I was told by the guys that even the old cedar boards were still in pretty good shape beneath the surface of lichen and weathered materials.

The iron bench supports were repainted and new boards were planed and sanded for this lovely look.  If you are not familiar with cedar, it has a wonderful smell which will fade in time as will the bright coloring to a silvery grey.

I’m looking forward to spending some time on these benches this coming year (whenever a gardener has time to rest).  They also are a reminder of my mother who owned the original benches so I guess they’re about 40 years old now. I remember many conversations we had on those benches over the years.


Deer Cam – Spying on Nature

This is a large male bobcat. A really spectacular picture. Although the males are only about 30 pounds, I wouldn’t want to run into one. And my granddaughter and I had just walked down the drive earlier that morning! Yikes!

One of my favorite gadgets is our deer cam or trail cam.  Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure…and surprise of catching many critters on camera.  I’ve moved the camera around the property several times but it seems that the most active spot is a place on our driveway where it crosses a creek.  There are woods on either side with some fields nearby.  Although much of the animal traffic seems to be at night, I’ve captured some pretty spectacular daytime shots, too.

Coyote with pear. Taken in back orchard this summer. About 40 feet from the house.

Check out the photos and enjoy a brief visit to my part of the world.  I’m not including all the neighborhood cats, multiple pix of my dog (and some other dogs), the delivery people and other vehicles and tractors.

By the way, a trail cam makes a great present to the outdoor lover in your life.  We have two cameras but I’d love to have more.

Buck in velvet this summer

Heron strutting down the driveway.

A very large rooster strutting down the drive. Probably an escapee from my neighbor’s chicken house.

Mystery critter. I had moved the camera nearer the house and it was also near our security light. I kept seeing this creature pass in front of the lens. I finally concluded that it is a photo of a bat in action. What do you think?

Is this my best side? I get so many photos of deer (deer cam, right?). The light is infrared so they can’t see it, but I think they hear it click when it takes a picture.

Two raccoons heading up the drive for a midnight snack. Probably the culprits for the losses in my neighbor’s chicken house. They are NOT cute. They are mean and vicious and can destroy a garden in a night.

A large coyote with a bite mark. I’d hate to see what gave it to him.

Coyotes often travel in packs. While usually shy, they were nightly visitors to our orchards this year.

Wild turkeys are very crafty and great survivors in the woods. They actually can fly and manage to raise a brood every year.

Many possums in the area. I don’t particularly like them but they are reported to eat thousands of ticks each day. That is good. They will also break into a chicken house and eat the eggs and baby chicks. Not good.

Groundhog. Not a desirable creature as they tend to dig out building foundations and otherwise become pests.

A standoff between a crow and a squirrel. It appears that the crow is holding something in his beak.

Night visitor. This is the scariest of all of the photos I’ve captured. The intruder is coming up the drive in the very early morning on Easter Sunday. (And, no, it’s not the Easter bunny!) With his knapsack and large knife, I hope that he was planning to do some mushroom hunting in the woods. But, also, the neighbor’s house was broken into that morning. Kinda creepy. Our dog was locked up unfortunately.


Autumn in the country

Most people think of autumn as the time to slow down, but here in the country, we have work to do before we can take it easy.  We’ve had a couple of hard frosts but the weather has actually been pretty balmy in the 50s and 60s.  This really helps extend the growing season here in southern Indiana.

Fall view in the country, looking down to the creek.

One of my favorite things to do is look for the hardy flowers that are still blooming, even after the frost.  I still have some geraniums, alyssum, Sweet William, and even one tiny confused violet.  There is almost always some flower which manages to make an appearance except in deepest winter.

Hardy flowers that survived a hard frost. Alyssum, geranium, sweet William and a tiny violet.

We also like to plant a fall garden.  As you can see by the photos, the frost killed the weeds but the kale is still happily growing.  The cold frame will protect some more kale and lettuce until probably early December.  We’ve got fall peas growing but ….no blooms.  And probably no pollinators if we did have blooms.  The asparagus and garlic have been put to bed under straw.

Garlic bed under the straw and some happy kale. See how well it survived the frost which killed the weeds.

Fall peas look great but no blooms, and probably no pollinators. Note to self: plant earlier next year.

Cold frame with kale and lettuce. Asparagus bed behind under the straw. We will cover the cold frame as the weather gets colder.

My husband has a deer blind in a small grove of locust trees overlooking the bottom field and creek where we often see deer.  I’m not really worried that he’s going to get a deer as he’s only gotten ONE in thirty years.  But….you never know.  And the toll the deer population takes on cars in this area is steep.  Our family alone has hit seven deer over the years.

Deer blind overlooking the creek and lower field.

Our wood pile is growing. Today the guys dragged several logs out of the woods as it’s easier to cut and split them all in one place, plus they handle the wood less than when they cut and split it in the woods. Thanks also to our son who came home for the weekend to help out.  This is hard work!

Cutting firewood on a Saturday morning in November.

The walnuts have been picked up by the boy scouts who turned them in for money at the mill.  What they missed, the squirrels are tucking away.

Fall at the creek. We have several creeks but pass this one every day as we go over it on the drive.

This giant oak tree has history and is one of my favorite trees on the property. I call it The Sentinel as it “guards” the driveway.

And, it’s just a beautiful time to take a walk and enjoy the season while I can.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to our country place.  Feedback is always welcome.



A nest of baby mice found while splitting firewood.

Life in the country often means some hard physical labor, always trying to keep up with the garden and chores.  But sometimes there are surprises.  Yesterday morning we were splitting firewood and found this soft nest of sweet baby mice.  Look at their tiny toes and ears.  Unfortunately, mice are a constant problem in the country but today, we gently set the nest behind the woodpile.  Maybe mama will find them.