Category Archives: country living

July flowers in the garden

One of the smaller sunflowers. I think it is Ring of Fire but am not positive.

The heat has arrived and the humidity has never left.  I’ve been occupied with painting in the studio but the yard and garden are never far from my mind.  A quick tour around this week reminded me that I need to get out there and weed again.  Didn’t I just weed that?  Well, time to go around again.

Zinnias which I use for casual arrangements.

The garden is going well and starting to produce.  Green beans, squash, peppers.  The snow peas are nearly past and the lettuce and asparagus are long gone.  We had to replant the corn as the first plantings weren’t doing too well.  I think probably due to some wascally wabbits.  Anyway, the next crops of corn are coming along nicely.

The hostas are almost over. These are actually light purple.

So far, only some cherry tomatoes but the other varieties are heavy with fruit.  Won’t be too long.  And the eggplant has survived the flea beetles and are looking healthy.

I love the shape of the budding sunflowers. They are such interesting flowers with lots of geometric shapes.

But I always have a passion for flowers.  They grow all over the yard.  Many perennials and some are very old as they were here when we moved here decades ago.  But the garden will always have zinnias and cosmos for cutting.  This year I have six kinds of sunflowers in two long rows.

The new sunflower patch. I’m so anxious to see the whole patch in bloom.

Plus!….I added a new 30 x 30 foot patch to plant sunflowers.  This is just below the spring garden.  And, I planted it with the birdseed sunflowers, probably oiled sunflower seeds, as I felt they probably didn’t have any chemicals on them since they were for the birds.  By the time I got to this area, I was flagging after all the other gardening work.  I just sowed the seeds, scratched them in with the rake and called it a day.  I thought the birds and the rabbits would have them all.  But, to my surprise, they took off and are now blooming.  Yes, there are some weeds in there but plenty of flowers. It’s always fun to experiment with new gardening ideas.

All the sunflowers feed the birds (or whomever).

Purple cone flowers.

The last of the lilies.

Mystery flower. These flowers started coming up in my peonies a few years ago. I let them stay as the butterflies seem to like them. But I really don’t know what they are? Any help out there would be appreciated.

Back to the River

It’s still too early to do much planting although I have onions, snow peas, lettuce and kale growing. The garden is tilled but we have to wait another couple of weeks before planting the whole thing.  We’ve done some trimming and tidying of the flowerbeds.  The spring flowering shrubs are next.

Plein air painting along the Blue River in Southern Indiana. As you can see, my easel is actually sitting in the water. What we artists won’t do for our work!

Monday was beautiful and balmy.  A perfect day to return to the Blue River for some more adventures.  This time my husband brought his fishing gear and I brought my painting kit.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  A week since our last visit but I noticed changes.  The redbuds are waning and the dogwoods are coming out.

Blue River, plein air painting. Acrylic, 11 x 14. That spring green will only last for a few weeks.

Bridge over the Blue River. Watercolor / pen and ink. Kit Miracle Created from photos taken on our previous visit last week.

As you can see, I had to set my easel in the water to get the view that I wanted.  I nearly tipped in myself but this is the price an artist pays for the adventure of plein air painting.  My husband got his line wet but not much luck until right at the end when he caught a nice bass.  (He returned it to the river, of course.)

Fishing on the Blue River. My husband actually caught a nice bass but he released it. We peeled off our sweatshirts as the temps warmed up quickly. Spring is here!

Another wandering drive on the way home took us past a little greenhouse.  Of course we stopped.  Although we have some tomatoes and peppers started, I had to buy a few more.  Hey, it’s that time of year.  All you gardeners understand what I mean.  (BTW, I was the only one at the greenhouse wearing a mask!) Later in the week the mice in the greenhouse started nibbling the plants.  Dirty rottens!  I wouldn’t have thought they would like nightshade plants but now I know they do.

So, that’s pretty much my week.  Finished the plein air painting in the studio and did a watercolor/pen and ink of the bridge over the Blue.  Some gardening.  Reading.  Oh, and cleaning the attic of my studio but that’s another story.

A drive through the country

Bridge over the Blue River. We crossed the river several times and followed it quite a way.

We opted for a change of scenery this week and went for a drive in the country, mostly in our own county.  I love the spring greens, you know, that yellow-green color in your box of Crayolas.  It doesn’t last for long so you have to catch it while you can.  The redbuds were out adding a bright touch of color but the dogwoods were a little behind.  It was an in and out spring day with sun and clouds.  Towards the end of the afternoon, rain showers moved in.

If you’re not familiar with Southern Indiana, I should tell you that it’s quite hilly and beautiful.  Our county borders the Ohio River and has several other rivers.  Especially notable are the Blue River and the Little Blue River.  They get their names from the color of the water which is a bluey-green.  They’re also very popular with kayakers and canoeists in warmer weather. It was a perfect spring day for a picnic beside the river.

So taking 62 west out of Corydon, we just followed our noses.  This is what we saw. It was refreshing to get out of the house and turn our thoughts to more pleasant things. I’m sure I’ll be back soon for some painting adventures.

The road follows along the river for many miles. It is lined with redbuds this time of year. The dogwoods were just coming out.

Blue River with bluebells. The hole in that sycamore goes all the way through.

Looking north from the canoe ramp. I love the overhanging sycamores. They’re just as striking in the autumn with the fall colors.

Blue River looking south from the canoe ramp.

Blue River Chapel right on the Blue River.

This is Artists’ Point overlooking the Ohio River. Not exactly on the way to anywhere, it’s worth the trip to find it. I have actually seen eagles riding the thermals up from the river right in front of me. That is Kentucky across the river.

A spring tour of the yard

One of my favorite views is of the front yard and the old woodshed. The white patches are swaths of spring beauties, a delicate tiny white flower with faint pink stripes. The forsythia are past but the lilies of the valley are coming in as are the day lilies.

After an unseasonably warm early spring with temperatures in the 70s and even up to 80, the flowers and other signs of spring are nearly overwhelming.  I love spring!

This old house had an abundance of established trees and flowers when we moved here but we have added many ourselves over the years.  Plus, I’m a great one for digging things up and moving them.  I’ve also shared many plants over the years with friends and family.  Did I mention how much I love spring?

Come take a little walk around the yard with me to see what is happening.

The east field is a study in various shades of green. The yellow flowers are actually weeds but they’re pretty this time of year.

Crabapple from a start from another tree in the yard. Before is a white magnolia (not in bloom yet) with shiny leaves.

Columbine. No work at all except that they spread everywhere. Such a beautiful, delicate flower.

These bluebells are so easy to grow and require no maintenance at all. They totally die back to come up again next year. I love the way they start out as pink and then the blossoms turn a beautiful sky blue. I’ve moved them all over the yard. The little white flowers are spring beauties, along with grape hyacinths, and some spent daffodils.

The lilacs were here when we bought the place. You can smell their perfume all across the yard.

Not a flower but the martin nest built on the porch of my studio. Yes, we have a martin house but the bluebirds live there. The martins usually build on top of their previous nest but it finally fell down last year. It took them about two weeks of bringing mud, weeds and moss to make this new home.

Narcissus take over after the daffodils are done.

Violets are wildflowers that some people think are weeds. But I love their beauty and variety of colors from blues to deep purples to variegated to cream.

The redbud is a delicate under-story tree which grows from central Indiana and south, throughout the Midwest and southern mountains. The flowers are directly on the branches. The heart-shaped leaves don’t come out until later. They pair well with dogwoods which are just starting to come out and the woods are loaded with them.

I love tulips but they’re difficult to grow around here. The deer think they’re candy and they often don’t make it to bloom.

We call this a tulip tree around here but it really is a variety of magnolia. It’s a new addition to the yard so we were surprised to see it bloom this year.

Azaleas. This color pairs great with the orangey/peach azalea next to it.

A week of new and old

A typical country road with a little stream, one of many that we saw on our drive.

Well, how has your week been going?  Have you been a dynamo, rushing about getting all those long put off projects done or tackling spring cleaning?  (I hate you.)  Or have you been sitting around in your pajamas all day watching game shows and reruns of golf?

I’ll admit, I’m somewhere in the middle.  Certainly not accomplishing all I had laid out a week ago. (I always make a weekly plan.) Spending way too much time on social media and watching official news conferences.  But I find they just make me anxious and there really isn’t much I can do about the current crisis but what I’m doing already. I have enjoyed, however, the many creative ways that friends are entertaining their children at home.  One guy created a Hogwarts School, complete with costumes and characters, and posted daily videos.  (He was exhausted by the end of the week.)  Others are tackling nature in the backyard or nearby parks.  Wonderfully creative art projects abound with photos to prove all the fun people are having.  Some moms may be hitting the wine bottle a little earlier than normal but, hey, wine is a food, is it not?

St. Patrick’s day was celebrated by my little leprechaun friends going outside to see the spring flowers.

I did get some spring yard work done.  Being outdoors improves my spirits.  And spent some time in the studio but not as much as I should have or usually do.  I’ve talked by phone to my family and friends more than normally.  It just feels right to keep in touch, especially since so many people are isolated right now.

I’ve got several books started but only finished one.  Well, there’s always next week.

We discovered this quaint little foot bridge over a small stream. I am sure I’ll have to go back to paint this scene.

After a few days of rain, my husband and I took a nice drive on country roads to look at spring emerging in little corners here and there.  Then we went over to the lake; he fished and I sketched.  And then picked up take-out dinner at a nearby restaurant.  Nice to eat someone else’s cooking for a change.

A quiet cove at the lake. This was a good place to sit out of the wind while I sketched.

Since the stores in this area seem to be out of bread, I reposted the link to the Crusty Artisan Bread recipe that I posted on my blog a couple of years ago.  Several people have tried it and found it surprisingly easy and yummy.

Anyway, whatever your situation is, I hope you are safe and healthy.  I’d love to hear what you’re doing with your days.  May we all look back on this trying time in years to come and say, “remember when….”

Pine tree. One of several sketches I made while at the lake.

Putting things into perspective – not talking about art

Sunrise, a new day, a new beginning.

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.  Helen Keller

I don’t usually comment on current events or situations, but I thought I’d do a little reflecting on the current situation that is occupying everyone’s minds these days.  With the craziness of people hoarding toilet paper or buying twenty pound bags of rice and beans, I’d like to add a few of my own thoughts on the matter

We live in a 140 year old house.  I often think about how many chicken dinners were cooked in the kitchen.  How many people have passed through the doors over the years.  That the former owners lived without electricity or central heat or running water and some of that wasn’t really that long ago.  They boiled their clothes in a tub outside.  When we first moved here, there was an outhouse in the backyard.  Although we removed it, it sure would have been handy when the kids were little so they didn’t have to come in the house to use the bathroom.

Our place is about twenty-five miles from the nearest real grocery, not counting the local dollar store for bread and milk.  This means we keep the cupboards stocked a little better than most.  But we also grow a pretty good sized garden which helps.

The power goes out once in a while when a storm has knocked a tree onto the lines.  We’re prepared with oil lamps (yes, you can still buy those at farm supply stores), or kerosene heaters, or a camp stove.  We don’t have to use those items often, but they’re handy.  When Hurricane Ike rolled through the Midwest in 2008, the power was out for five days.  Fortunately it was summer so we just opened the windows and “pioneered” it.  Our teenagers took off to stay with friends when the batteries in their devices ran down.  My husband and I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Although we’re both retired now and don’t have to go anywhere, we’ve got plenty to occupy our time.  Clean up after-winter debris and prepare the garden for planting.  Finally get around to cleaning those attics.  Painting, of course.  Plenty of reading material.  Go fishing or biking or hiking.

We still have electricity and running water.  Really, folks, I don’t think those things are going away during this crisis.  The factories are still making toilet paper and food deliveries will still arrive from the warehouses.  Be patient and put things into perspective.

I have people from all over the world who follow this blog.  Many are not so fortunate as we are regarding supplies and medical resources.  Let us be grateful for what we do have.  Many of you are working from home or have restricted activities.  Why not take this time to enjoy your families?  Try a new recipe or two or ten.  Pretend you’re on Chopped and see what you can concoct just from your cupboards.  Spend some time with your kids or significant other.  Write your memoirs or plant some seeds.  Call your parents.  When was the last time you talked to an old friend?  Now might be a good time to catch up.  Try a new hobby, particularly if you already have the equipment sitting in the closet or basement.

Maybe we can all view this time of uncertainty and turmoil as an opportunity to reset.  Turn your faces towards the sun and feel the warmth.

Signs of spring

We’ve had an unusually warm winter down here in Southern Indiana.  The warmest recorded in 140 years!  Very little snow but plenty of rain.  The past week saw temperatures in the 50s and 60s.  All of this warm weather has given a real push to spring.  Today I took a little walk around the yard and this is what I saw.

Crocuses all over the yard, appearing in the most unusual places, courtesy of children planting them where they wish.

First, several different kinds of crocuses.  Over the years I’ve purchased bags of these in the fall and let the kids and now grand kids plant them.  It is always a surprise to see where they come up.  And some of them seem to travel from where I planted them many years ago.  I really don’t know how they do that.

Daffodils emerging with day lilies in the background.

The early daffodils are always a welcome harbinger of spring.  It seems the singles come out earliest, especially the ones that were already naturalized in this old homestead.  We have doubles and other colors but they come out a bit later.  Another “walking” plant as they seem to come up in the strangest places, not where I have planted them at all.

Forsythia jungle. This will be a golden mountain in another week or two.

The forsythia jungle has grown from the three small plants that I bought end of season at the tractor supply center many years ago.  About fifteen years ago, I had one of my sons dig up the resets and plant them along the road.  The past few years they have made quite a showing.  I hope the travelers enjoy them.  He replanted some lilac starts, too, but they’re a bit slower.

Flowering quince, ready to pop.

This is a flowering quince bush ready to pop.  I’m sure the sun and 60 degree temps will lead to an explosion of blooms real soon.  The start came from my mother’s garden so I always think of her when I pass by.

Twenty tons of rock delivered this week to repair the winter damage.

After all the rain and mud this winter, we just had twenty tons of rock delivered for the drive.  It seems that we’re always trying to keep up here on the farm, man against nature…and nature is winning.

Down at the creek. The peepers are creating a cacophony of noise!

The peepers are going to town down at the creek.  I love this early sound of spring.  Sometimes the beaver have dammed the stream so I can see a one acre pond through the trees.  Fortunately, not this year.

Hazelnut bushes with catkins.

I also spotted a lot of hazelnut bushes coming into bloom.  They’re not real showy but they make a nice addition to a spring bouquet.  I cut some forsythia branches last week and forced them into bloom.  It only took about three days for them to come out and brings a needed touch of spring indoors.  Check out this previous post for how to do this.

Runaway daffodils. I really don’t know how they got here.

Some call this vinca an invasive species but I really like their periwinkle flowers. Yes, I have to pull out tons of vines in the spring, but I think they’re worth it.

Tulips and flowering trees will be out soon as will the spring beauties and violets. And my husband prepped the cold frame for sowing some lettuce soon.  Can’t wait.

Anyway, that’s the spring update from this part of my world.  I hope you are seeing signs of spring in your neck of the woods, too.

A walk through the yard

After weeks of oppressive heat and no rain, we finally had a few storms blow through here earlier this week.  Not only did the yard and garden receive a beneficial watering, but the temperatures have dropped to actually pleasant for late August.  The windows are flung open and I can’t help but want to play outside.

Chicken in the Woods fungi. Such a beautiful color and shape. This is supposed to be edible but I’m not too fond of wild mushrooms.

This evening the dog and I took a walk around the yard to see what was going on.  The first thing to catch my eye was a spectacular Chicken of the Woods mushroom.  It grows in about the same place every year.  It’s supposed to be edible and is highly sought after, but I’m not much for wild fungi.

Garden sunflowers about a week ago. Some of these beauties were over twelve feet tall!

Sunflowers down after the big storm blew through here earlier this week.

This sunflower seed head is already being harvested by the little critters.

And here are two photos of my giant sunflowers.  One from a week ago.  And the other from a few days ago, after the storm knocked them down. Well, all is not wasted.  Apparently the critters are already feasting on the seeds.  Enough flowers are still standing for the hummingbirds and finches, too.

Wild Joe Pye weed is a perennial which grows throughout the Midwest. The butterflies love it and it’s supposed to have been valued for its medicinal properties by the pioneers.

Our yard is surrounded by fields and woods.  There are banks of Joe Pye weed and Jewel-weed.  So pretty for summer bouquets.

We planted this peach tree over thirty years ago. It blew over many years ago but has managed to survive and even provide some of the sweetest peaches I’ve ever eaten….if I can get to them before the animals do.

And here is an old survivor, a thirty year old peach tree which still produces.

Damage to cedar bench from wood bees (Carpenter bees), and the wood peckers who went after their larvae.

As a little sidebar, I am showing you the damage to the cedar benches we refinished a couple of years ago.  The wood bees (Carpenter bee), digs a hole into the wood and lays her eggs.  This only causes a little round hole but the inside is eaten out like a honeycomb which weakens the wood.  The real damage you see are from the pileated woodpeckers who are going after the larvae.  Gggggggggggrrrrrr.

The last lily of the season. I’ve drawn and painted this one many times.

Here is a photo of the last lily of the summer.  It is a beautiful peach color with a yellow interior.  I’m not sure what variety this is but I have painted it several times over the years.

Beautiful large hosta blooming in late August. Variety Plantaginea Aphrodite.

Finally, these large white hostas (Plantaginea Aphrodite) are just coming out.  They’re the last of my hostas to bloom in the garden.  They have large white bell-shaped flowers and a heavenly perfume.  I especially like the whorls of flowers.  They’re very hardy and need little care.

So, this is just a walk though my little corner of the world.  I hope that you have someplace where you can enjoy a bit of the outdoors, to reflect and just admire.

In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

  John Muir

Thick Kale Soup with Smoked Sausage

Thick Kale Soup served with crusty multi-grain bread. Great any time of year.

We often think of soup as being a cold weather food but actually soup is great any time of year.  You can just go “shopping” in your fridge or garden and come up with a variety of tasty and healthy options.  After my recent post of my Corn Chowder recipe, I had a request for the Kale soup recipe.  So here goes.

This soup has been a family favorite for years and we’re likely to make it any time of year.  It is often a little thicker than soup (stewp?) but it is hardy any way you make it.

Ingredients:

·         3 tablespoons olive oil ·         1 large bunch of kale, deveined, chopped
·         1 pound smoked sausage, cut up ·         2 quarts chicken broth
·         1 large onion, chopped ·         2 cans white beans (northern, cannelloni )
·         4-8 cloves of garlic,diced ·         Cracked pepper
·         4 large potatoes, cubed ·         Salt to taste

 

Heat the olive oil in a 6 – 8 quart soup pot.  Add the chopped smoked sausage.  You can use any kind of smoked sausage – regular, light, turkey, or even Polish kielbasa. Stir and brown.

Add the chopped onion and stir until clear.  Add the minced garlic.  Keep stirring so they don’t burn.

Kale soup – Step 1. Brown the cut up sausage, add the onions and garlic.

Meanwhile, wash and strip the tough veins out of the kale.  Rough chop and add to the mixture, stirring until wilted.  Add the chicken broth and cover. Bring to simmer.

Step 2. Add the chopped kale and wilt in pan.

Wash and dice the potatoes.  Sometimes I leave the peel on just for added texture. Add to the pot after it comes to a slow boil.  Cover and bring back to simmer.

Step 3. Add the chicken broth, bring to simmer. Add the cubed potatoes and cover. Cook for 20 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked (about 15-20 minutes), use an old fashioned potato masher and rough mash them in the pot.  This just helps the soup to thicken.

Then add the two cans of beans (drained).  Frankly, I just use whatever white beans I have available.  I’ve even added butter beans and it works fine.

Add the cracked pepper to taste.  You probably won’t need any salt as the sausage is pretty salty, but suit yourself.

Serve with crusty bread for a filling lunch or dinner.

Corn chowder

Sweet corn, bi-color. Peaches and cream variety.

It’s that time of year for those of us who grow gardens.  The produce is coming in and we have to scurry like squirrels to put it all away.  Fresh green beans and new potatoes.  Juicy sliced tomatoes or sweet cherry tomatoes popping in your mouth.  With the vagaries of the weather this summer – buckets of rain in June and the beginnings of a drought now – I feel lucky to be able to pluck anything at all from the garden.  But we always say that.  Some years it’s too many zucchinis.  This year, none.  I even had to replant the green beans. We can never quite predict what the bounty will be.

With all of these fresh veggies, we’re making soups -vegetable, minestrone, and fresh tomato.  Sometimes Thick Kale soup with smoked sausage. But this morning I picked the first batch of sweet corn.  I think this variety is peaches and cream and it’s so so good.  We’ll put most in the freezer but I made a triple batch of one of our favorite soups, Corn Chowder. I thought I’d share this family favorite recipe with you.  You can use canned corn but fresh is better.

Ingredients

·         ½ pound bacon cut up fine ·         2 cups milk
·         1 small onion, cut fine ·         3 tablespoons cornstarch
·         1 – 2 potatoes, cubed ·         1 ½ teaspoons salt
·         1 cup water or chicken broth (or both) ·         ¼ teaspoon fresh grated black pepper
·         1 ½ cups corn cut fresh off the cob (or canned) ·         Couple of dashes of garlic powder

In a large soup pot (6 -8 quarts or larger if you increase the recipe), saute bacon until soft and half cooked.  Drain the fat. Add chopped onion and stir. Cook until soft.  Add cubed potatoes and stir.  Partially cook (about 5 minutes).  Add water or broth, corn, spices and bring to low boil. Stir in milk.  Bring back to simmer.  Make a slurry of the cornstarch (mix it with a little water), then slowly pour in while stirring.  This will thicken the soup.  Simmer until potatoes are done, adding additional milk or broth to thin. Serves 6 -8.

That’s pretty much it.  You will want to double or triple this recipe because it is sooooo good.  Serve with fresh hearty bread or cornbread.

Mangia!