Category Archives: country living

Spring in bloom

Several varieties of daffodils bloom throughout the spring. So easy to grow.

I wasn’t sure if spring would ever arrive this year.  We’ve had weather ranging from sleet and snow and ice, to upper 70s and 80s two days later.  Very unpredictable.

But I love the spring greens this time of year.  It only lasts a few weeks before the heavy greens roll in, but that bright yellow-green just perks me up. Didn’t we used to have a crayon called “spring green?”

The bluebell blossoms start out as pink, then turn sky blue when they open. They pair well with naturalized narcissus.
From one small patch, these blue bells have naturalized all over the yard. I have given starts away and even planted some along a wooded path last year. When they’re finished blooming, they totally die back and won’t be seen until next spring.

I have been driving around just gathering photos for future reference.  One day, I even had my husband drive the little country roads while I took pictures. Have to capture the scenery while it’s here.

However, the beauty just in my own yard has been refreshing also.  A cacophony of whites and yellows, blues and purples.  The really exciting thing about the spring flowers is that they’re so fugitive.  They don’t last for long and I know that I won’t see them for another year. And in most cases, they are pretty much maintenance-free.

Now the real work begins.  Planting the garden, preparing flower beds, trimming the lane, picking up winter debris.  It’s always something here on the farm.  But I love it.

The lilacs have been particularly spectacular this season. The scent is almost overwhelming but welcome for their few weeks of blooming.
Here are more naturalized flowers by the old well.
Wisteria on the arbor. This is the first year that our wisteria has bloomed. Such a beautiful flower but a little invasive. I have to trim it back from nearby trees and bushes.

Spring is coming

Male wood duck. (Photo courtesy The Spruce.)

This past Friday we were assaulted by Mother Nature with freezing rain, hail, sleet.  Just wave after wave, all day long.

But SPRING will arrive eventually.  Forsythias are in full bloom, the daffodils are nearly past, the crocuses that I planted last fall finally came up although I think the chipmunks and squirrels got most of them.  The yard is a carpet of spring beauties and the redbud is ready to pop.  The bluebells are out.  Blue and yellow. 

Even my largest crabapple is late.  This time a few years ago, it was in full bloom.  A week of warm weather will surely see it out.

Although we lament the weather as Mother Nature doesn’t always follow our wishes, we know spring will eventually get here.  The swift who makes a nest on the porch of my studio is already nesting.  The mourning doves are pairing up.  And I’d better get the rest of the birdhouses up real soon.  Like today, maybe.

As I drove down the driveway late Friday afternoon, I stopped at the creek (which our drive crosses), just to see what I could see.  And I saw this beautiful wood duck paddling around.  This is the first one that I’ve seen in over thirty-five years!  The plummage was beyond words.  So colorful and distinctive.  I hope that the wood duck family starts a family nearby but the creek with its after-storm gully washers is not the best place for a nest.  Maybe up the hill a bit.

Anyway, all this is a reminder that even if you live in the same place and don’t go anywhere, surprises can find you.  Keep your eyes open.

Spring is coming.

Brown eggs

Five Eggs, original painting on canvas, 12 x 12, Kit Miracle

If you happen to get to the post office or a farm supply store this time of year, you will hear the peeping  sound of baby chicks.  They are SO cute!  And it takes all kinds of willpower to NOT buy a bunch of each. 

There are many varieties, but I particularly like the speckled ones and the ones with feathered feet.  They look so fancy.  We’ve had many kinds over the years.  I also loved the bantams, the females, not the males which tend to be aggressive for their size.  One year, one of my favorite dun-colored females disappeared.  I was certain that she was the victim of a raccoon or hawk.  But after about three weeks, she reappeared with about eighteen little bantam peeps following her. They were so tiny and cute.  I don’t know where she hid but apparently it was a good hiding place.

This antique sponge bowl holds five fresh brown eggs.  Do they taste different?  That’s hard to tell but they sure are deep yellow when cracked open. Probably from all the extras that the hens get in their diet than those that are confined to chicken factory farms. 

We’ve also had blue and green eggs, too.  It is rumored that they are lower in cholesterol but I don’t know if that is true.  They’re just so beautiful to look at.

The sponge bowl, by the way, gets its name from the decoration.  The glaze was applied with a sea sponge.  I have only seen these in blue. These stoneware bowls are very heavy for their size. I bought this at auction many many years ago and still use it for fruit and whatnot. 

Spring paintings

Farmhouse in Spring. Acrylic, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

Although spring officially began a little over a week ago, the season has been sneaking up on us for a while.  The grass is greening with that lovely shade of spring green.  The trees are sporting a haze of pinky-red buds or some with more greenish buds.

The daffodils and crocuses are out.  The yard if full of spring beauties, a tiny white flower with a pink stripe.  It looks like snow in some areas.  And the forsythias in the yard and out by the road where I had my son transplant shoots over fifteen years ago.  I think it adds a little colorful surprise for passersby.

I’ve been so busy with other activities but have been able to sneak out to catch a painting or two.  These are some of my favorite recent ones.  One depicts our house sitting on the little hill with the morning sunlight catching the fronts of the buildings. The middle building behind the big house is my studio.

The second larger painting is of our North field looking west.  You can see the farm rows from last year’s crops.  The white dogwood, some redbud, and the various spring colors on the big trees.  Such a pretty time of year.

North Field in Spring. Acrylic on canvas 16 x 20. Kit Miracle

A little color

Five Pears…testing some new colors, pastel.

Well, in this case, a lot of color.

I was trying out some new pastels this week and decided to really juice up the color. A little fauvism. It was fun. Not my usual style but that’s OK, sometimes it’s nice to try a new style or color scheme.

The past two weeks have been filled with activities and I’ve been a little under the weather. Some bug that I probably caught from my husband. Feel great sometimes, then a few hours later, totally exhausted. So…I just take a nap. But that isn’t helping me make much headway for spring tasks.

A couple of weeks ago, temps were definitely chilly with snow and freezing rain. Then suddenly….the sun is out, so are the daffodils. My favorite thing to do every day is to take a walk and see what is new around the property. Buds swelling, new bulbs emerging, birds starting to stake out their spring homes.

I picked up my show from the Harrison County Arts in Corydon. A couple of commission pieces. And am working on some classes for spring break, AND…have company coming! Yay. But that means a little (a lot) of extra care for cleaning and tidying.

Oh, well, it will either get done or it won’t. But I fully intend to take time to enjoy the spring emergence.

Hope your spring is blossoming, too.

Snowmageddon

I love this view of the ice-covered branches, sparkling in the sunlight.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or on a remote island this week, you’ve heard about the huge snowstorm that swept the nation.  News stories abounded, showing endless reels of people who were worse off than you.  Ice, snow, trees crashing, roads impassable.

Well, this was our reality this week. 

The ice was the first to arrive, coating this rhododendron right outside the window.

Fortunately we had plenty of warning as we watched the storm roll up from Texas through the Ohio River Valley.  Watching hours of local weather predictors guess whether the front would stay upstate or come down our way. Where is the snow line?  Who will see sleet and ice?  It’s tiresome after awhile.

But we were a little nervous.  Ice on trees, add some wind, pop, there goes your electric for a few days.

My husband gets in pioneer mode.  Park the newer car in the garage.  Park the other vehicles away from the trees.  Make sure we have supplies in – milk, bread (I live with a guy who bakes), wine.  Check the oil lamps, the kerosene heater, the electronics are charged up as is the backup.  I spoke about this before in a previous blog.  We have a gas (propane) stove and hot water so no problem.  Can’t use the gas furnace or the wood furnace because there would be no electric to run the blowers.  But we do keep the wood fired up low to keep the pipes from freezing.

We were lucky this time.  First the ice, then some sleet, then some snow.  No wind.  No loss of power.  Just enjoy the peace inside with some books and the TV. 

View down the drive, with the late afternoon shadows. We didn’t really have any trouble getting out, especially after grading the driveway.

My husband and the neighbor got outside to grade the drive with their tractors.  I took a few walks with the dog.  The glittering ice on the trees was so beautiful, tinkling a bit with a little breeze.  Kept the birdfeeder filled.  We buy sunflower seeds in forty-pound bags. Now we’re listening to the giant thumps as the ice melts and slides off the roof.  The grandkids are over, taking more cooking lessons and playing with the toys that they don’t see every day.  Stomping and sliding outside with the dog. 

I hope you were able to find some good in the storm, even if it was just a little peaceful time to count your blessings. 

The birdfeed has been popular this week, normally with dozens of birds at a time. Cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, titmice, juncos, and more. We go through forty pounds of sunflower seeds pretty quickly.

Hello 2022, good bye 2021.  A year in review.

I don’t know about you but the past year has certainly been a roller coaster ride, one of ups and downs, good and bad.  It seems as if we’re all in a bit of a daze and ready to say good riddance to 2021.

Way back in January, we were all just beginning to fall off the cliff into the realization of the seriousness of the pandemic.  Confusion reigned. Many countries were still locked down or were thinking about it. We were getting tired of being confined homebodies. But hope reigned with the news that a vaccine was on the horizon. Some of us were scrambling to make sure we could sign up as soon as possible.

On top of this, the nation looked on with alarm at the mess in the capitol before the inauguration.  Most of us had never lived through anything like this but there were some memories of the demonstrations back in the 60s and 70s.  Life repeats itself.

The new Thyen Clark Cultural Center is completed. It opened in January and is always hosting some activity or function, from classes, to weddings, to Santa’s reindeer.

Many good things also happened this past year.  For one thing, the new Thyen-Clark Cultural Center in Jasper opened.  I had a small part in working on that project for ten years before I retired.  Others picked up the ball and saw it to fruition.  So proud of the town and citizens. What a showplace!

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

Remember when people were stockpiling toilet paper and bread was hard to get?  I reposted my Artesian Bread recipe.  My friend Miriam said that making bread was the highlight of her spring.  But I was also forced to buy 25 pounds of rye flour when I couldn’t find it in smaller packages.  My husband is a great bread maker.  Lucky me.

After months of playing hermit, my husband and I sneaked off for a quick trip to Florida.  We rented a house so we were still hermits, just with better weather. 

About 35 students attended my presentation. Great questions, too!

My big solo exhibit in May / June at the cultural center went off without a hitch.  It was so satisfying to see two years’ of work on the new gallery walls.  Loads of visitors, including friends from all over the state.  Thank you!

Spring threw some surprises at us.  We had some beautiful flowers but I held off planting.  Good thing as we had a very late snow on May 10th!  I covered up the things that I did plant and everything turned out well.

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.

Then there was the cicada invasion.  Thousands of the little bugs, all singing their mating calls at 90 decibels.  Very annoying but it passed eventually.  The birds and toads were really happy.

Tomatoes, tops. L-R bottom: Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, San Marzano. Top: Celebrity, Better Boy, Park Whopper, Goliath, Roma.

Our garden produce was heavy and bug-free this year.  We couldn’t even put up all that we grew and tried to give much of it away.  All this despite the late planting, and planting fewer plants.

We were very grateful to be living in the country where we could get outside, go for a drive, eat lunch by the river. 

I really love the variety of mini pumpkins and squashes.

September saw the requisite visit to the pumpkin farm.  Paintings in three shows.  And winding up for the holidays. Overall art sales tripled.  Time to set bigger goals.

I hope that as you take time to look back over the past year, that you have some good memories, too.  Let us all hope the coming year is much improved.

Introspection

I have an exhibit coming up in January and was recently asked by the gallery director what the title of my exhibit will be.  Duh?  You would think that a person who has spent most of her life in the creative field would be more imaginative in this respect.  Uh, my name?  The types of paintings I’ll exhibit?  I finally landed on the title:  Introspection. 

Alone. Intimate Spaces – Breaking Bread series. Acrylic on canvas. 30 x 24. Kit Miracle

Introspection seems to represent what we do at the end of the year and the beginning of the new year.  How were things?  What did we learn?  What do we hope for the new year? 

Let’s face it.  It’s been a difficult year.  Most of us did not expect to still be dealing with a world pandemic.  Wild weather and climate change.  Economic and world political disputes. 

This led me to contemplate my Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread series of paintings.  I plan to include several of these pieces in the upcoming exhibit.  Many of them represent the theme of being alone. Eating alone or limited to a close group of friends and family. 

Sunday Dinner has taken a new meaning these days. A small family gathering at a restaurant.

Some people seem to have handled being alone better than others.  For an artist, this is a normal state to reach down deep to access my thoughts and determine how best to express them.  I enjoy the time with my thoughts and am not lonely, just alone. 

Other creative people – dancers, musicians, those who work in large studio groups – thrive on the lively input of many minds. What looks to me like chaos is their life blood.  With theaters shuttered and musical venues closed, I can only sympathize.

Dinner at Octave. One of our favorite restaurants. Very eclectic with all kinds of people.

For me, being alone whether spending time in the studio, reading, taking a walk in the woods, or even attending a movie or performance alone is an enjoyable experience.  It doesn’t really matter who I’m with or how many people are around me.

But being lonely is no fun for anyone.  And, yes, I’ve been there, too.  This is a much more nobody likes me emotional state.  You can be surrounded by  people and yet still feel hollow and disconnected.

Alone II, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30. I saw this old guy having breakfast at a fast food place. I don’t know if he was widowed or, perhaps, an old veteran.

This has been a difficult couple of years for everyone and the holiday season is an especially emotional time.  Maybe you’ve been separated from your family and friends.  You’ve been working from home and don’t have any work buddies to pal around with.  Maybe you’ve moved and don’t have any friends in your new city.  I’m not a psychologist but I do know that people are not going to knock on your door.  As a friend told me a long time ago; there are always people like you (in the area); you just have to go out and find them. 

Even if you live in as unpopulated an area as I do (and it would be difficult to find many counties in the Eastern part of the United States with a more sparse population than mine), there are still some people like you out there.  Go to the library, join a club, start your own club.  What special interests do you have?  Hiking, biking, fishing, playing ball?  Maybe you like to volunteer at the animal shelter or help others.  Young people who are new to a city or area often reach out through online groups to plan activities.

Whoever you are out there, I hope that you can enjoy the holidays. That you’re not alone or lonely. Let us all hold higher aspirations for a new year. 

Arbor day in December

We’ve had some pretty warm days this past week so I thought it would be a great opportunity to plant some seeds that I’ve collected this past autumn.  I had the kids help me collect a five gallon bucket of black walnuts, and I harvested all my bee balm and redbud seeds.

Three containers to plant. The blue bucket holds redbud seedpods, the coffee can holds bee balm seed heads, and the large white bucket is filled with black walnuts which are already losing their husks. I recommend wearing disposable gloves when handling them.

I took a walk up to the big woods to sow some redbud a couple of weeks ago.  This is a beautiful understory tree with pinkish-purple flowers in the spring and heart-shaped leaves the rest of the year.  You barely even notice the tree when it is not in bloom. It seems to grow well wherever dogwood will grow.  We have lots of dogwood but no redbud except in the yard.  I collected all the seed pods that I could (a two gallon bucket) and sowed half of them up in the big woods.

The beautiful redbud is an understory tree, totally hidden most of the year but adding a brilliant touch to the woods in the spring.

This week I sowed the remainder in the second-growth timber on the west side of the property.  I crushed the pods by hand and just scattered them as I walked through the trees.  I’m sure some will take eventually.

Also, this past fall, I collected all the bee balm seed heads that I could find.  I got a coffee can full.  I had noticed earlier this summer that the bee balm that I scattered along the road frontage few years ago had made a nice stand of flowers.  Our pollinators always need some more help so I thought this would be a good thing.  These seeds I scattered in the west second growth timber, along the lane and more road frontage.  We’ll see. 

Bee balm is in the mint family and is a favorite of pollinators. Easy to grow.

The walnuts are a different matter.  These are black walnuts and, as I reported earlier this fall, they can make quite a mess in the yard.  Highly desired by cooks and very expensive to buy in the store, the trees can be very prolific as they were this year.  We had walnuts everywhere.  The trees also emit a chemical called juglone which is often poisonous to other plants nearby.  Not counting the mess.  I thought if I could get some to grow elsewhere on the property, then we might remove the trees close to the house.  In past years, local youth groups would come and pick up the nuts and take them to the mill for money.  We were happy; it helped them and they helped us.

So earlier this week I took a walk carting a heavy bucket of black walnuts and a shovel.  I planted some and others I just tossed out.  The squirrels do a great job of planting the nuts.  An arborist friend said they do just as well to be scattered as actually planted.

So later this week, I took the remainder of the big bucket of nuts and scattered them in the woods to the north of our house.  We have some oak growing there but plenty of room for more trees.  We’ll see.

Looks like some cold weather moving in again so I won’t be planting any more bulbs or nuts or seeds this fall.  I would be happy if even ten percent of what I sowed this fall comes up.  That will make a difference.  And help in my fight against the invaders of honeysuckle, multi-flora roses, Russian olives and privet. 

It was nice to see that the Virginia pine trees that we planted over thirty years ago are now tall trees.  But most of the white pine were eaten by the deer.  Well, somebody benefits in the long run.

If you’d like to learn more about planting trees, I highly recommend the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohleben.  I asked my local library to order this book last year.  They were a bit skeptical and thought it would have limited interest.  However, I was recently told that the book has been off the shelf ever since they got it in.  Now it is in audio format, too. 

Night Reaper

It is not unusual here in the Midwest to see farmers harvesting late into the night during the season.  Last year our renter harvested past one in the morning.  Only fatigue drives them inside.

Night Reaper. Acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14. Kit Miracle

Earlier this week, the farmer was rushing to get the corn in before the rain predicted the following day.  The giant combine looks like some eerie monster gobbling up the stalks, spitting the debris out the back.  The grain trucks meet the combine in the field to be filled and cart away the gold. 

I have always been fascinated by night activities such as these and I sneaked out to take a bunch of reference photos.  I don’t know why I have to sneak on my own property but I felt compelled to do so, hiding in the shadows and behind the trees.  With the low light conditions and the movement of the equipment, most of the photos were blurred but I managed to get some good shots, too.  I was just using my phone camera, not my good camera.

The clouds were scudding across the night sky, alternating blotting out the nearly full moon and then darkening everything.  The lights on the equipment were dazzling.  The dust kicked up by the harvest hung in the air like smoke, sometimes caught in the blue light of the moon.

I find night subjects to be interesting and compelling in a totally different way than daytime subjects.  I’ve sketched leaning up against buildings in Times Square and have painted the buildings of the city seen at night. Watching diners through the window of a restaurant can be fascinating.

What is going on in your neighborhood in the dark that is worth capturing in art?