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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s not quite the end of this dreadful year but we’re close enough that I thought I’d spend a little time reflecting. This is what I learned about myself.
I am happy to be a hermit.
I’m a sociable person and enjoy visiting with friends and family, but actually, I am happy spending time alone. Never lonely. Just alone. Quite a difference. I didn’t even notice this until my husband pointed out that I hadn’t left the property for over a week. And the problem with that is? Fortunately, he loves to do the grocery shopping (yes, really!) so I only have to venture out to the big box store about once a month for other supplies and necessities. And the post office and library.
I would rather eat Cheetos and drink wine than exercise.
I am not proud of this. I used to exercise every day and ride my bike about ten miles a day, in nearly any weather. This year, not so much. It’s just so easy to sit on the patio with a good book and some crunchy snacks and my favorite adult beverage. This will be remedied in 2021.
I love my libraries.
This is really not any news, but my local libraries have gone above and beyond the call in order to supply books to their patrons. I could order books online and they would be delivered to my tiny local library within a few days. This saved me about 50 miles round trip. Yes, books are this important in my life.
UPS delivers (and FedEx and USPS).
Except when they don’t. Isn’t it so nice to be able to order practically anything you want online and it will be delivered to your door? In this rural area, I see the same delivery people all the time. My mail carrier has a personal relationship with my “big scary dog.” These are really hardworking, conscientious people.
But…as an Etsy seller, I did have some trouble with deliveries this season. I would mail out the package – usually within a day – take it to the local post office. They would get it out the same day. And then….where did it go? Many of my shipments ended up in a great black hole. I was so embarrassed as I truly believe in providing good customer service. Fortunately, everyone was very understanding. All but two packages arrived before the holidays but it was still disappointing.
Where’s your mask?
Last spring when the pandemic started ramping up and masks were difficult to find, I dusted off the old old sewing machine and whipped up a few. Well, about 200. I sent them to friends and family. No charge, just be safe. I was even considering creating a fund raiser for local food banks but by that time everyone had jumped on the band wagon and masks were easy to find. That’s good. I decided that I didn’t want to spend all my time sewing. I mostly want to paint.
But…I can’t believe how mad I could get when I saw people who weren’t wearing masks. Either they flunked science or were sleeping in the back of health class. Didn’t they know that masks could prevent the spread of germs?! Grumble grumble grumble.
I’m really really tired of politics.
Not only did we have the challenge of the pandemic, job losses, no fun activities, no vacations, but we were inundated with political ads and pundits. It was totally crazy. But my husband and I decided to vote in person because it feels real. I even reregistered just so my signature would match the 35 year old signature on record when I first registered here.
I miss live performances.
After spending so many years as Director of a performing and multi-discipline arts center, I never realized just how much I would miss live performances. Where people are sitting shoulder to shoulder, enjoying some live music on stage. A real play or comedy routine. Even the Chinese acrobats! I can’t wait to get back to some live performance venues.
I miss my family and friends.
We’re used to hosting family and friends for major holidays or summer get togethers. Not this year. I haven’t seen my father who only lives about a hundred miles from me since 2019. And when I visit my son who just lives a few miles away, it’s usually outside and socially distanced. An elderly friend who’s been a guest at our table for over 35 years is staying home these days. But we have been taking meals to her when we can.
Living in the country is the best!
It has been such a bonus that we can get outdoors. We can go for a country drive. We can sit by the firepit and not see another soul. My heart aches for all the children who are stuck in apartments or in the city with no outdoor space. This is no way for humans to live.
I am so proud of all the people who are helping to make our lives better….or at least tolerable.
I am grateful for the food servers and grocery store workers. For the many medical field workers who put their lives on the line every day. For the public employees who still take care of the streets and water and sewers and the lights. I’m grateful for my postman and the people who are still driving trucks across the country to deliver the necessities to people in need.
I try to keep focusing on the good things in our lives. On the opportunities, not the troubles. On the smart people who are working so hard to make the vaccines and medicines which will help us all.
This has been a trying year. Yet, despite our differences, we are able to find common ground. To still remember that we are all humans who are just trying to get by. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
But I really must work on eliminating those Cheetos.
The photo above shows what happened when a tractor ran into the side of my car last week. Yes, driven by my husband, too. Bummer. I had run up to town to get a few books from the little library – none of them for me, by the way. I waved to my husband as I left. He was out on his old Allis Chalmers brush hogging the edges of the fields after the farmer had harvested earlier. He likes to get things tidied up before winter.
On my return, I saw him in the front field but he didn’t see me. As I was coming down the long drive, he took a sudden turn right into the side of my car. Ten seconds either way would have avoided the accident. I tried to turn out of the way but was blocked in by some trees and a telephone pole.
You know, it’s a pretty helpless feeling when you know what’s coming and you can’t do anything about it. But….I haven’t had an accident since I was sixteen the first time I drove on ice so I really can’t complain. It’s just the aggravation of taking care of everything that is so annoying.
So, I picked up the pieces of the crushed mirror and came on up to the house. Then I decided that I needed to do a little contemplation with an adult beverage on the patio. It was a sunny, balmy day and my dog Mikey kept me company in his chair.
It’s only a car. No one was hurt. We have insurance. It could have been a whole lot worse. (There wasn’t a scratch on the tractor.) As I sat looking up at the trees, I decided to count my blessings. This always helps me to put things into perspective.
Thankfully, no one in my immediate family has been brought down by the COVID. (Although I have lost a friend and had some other acquaintances who have had the illness.) We live in a place where we have plenty of freedom to get outside, work to do, books to read. We’re not rich but the bills are paid and we can sleep at night.
Thanksgiving is coming up and we’re so fortunate that we have plenty of food. Others are not so lucky. I usually have a big spread for the holiday with lots of friends and family. That is not happening this year. I haven’t seen my father since last Christmas and he lives less than a hundred miles from me. But…I am still fixing a big meal. We will be delivering it to my son’s family nearby and a friend across the county. She’s in her nineties and still lives on her own. She’s been a guest at our table for over thirty years. I love to send people home with care packages of another meal or two.
So, a little annoyance this past week. But I still have much to be grateful for. I expect you do, too. I hope so anyway. Be careful out there and count your blessings.
With the extra warm weather this fall – it was 80 degrees here two weeks ago – we have been enjoying our time outdoors. But this is the time of year for fall cleanup. Battening down the hatches, so to speak. The farmer who rents some of our fields picked the beans this week. Amazing how quickly they can move. Sometimes they’ve been out there until one or two in the morning but this time it was daylight.
The garden is plowed and ready for spring. Although we don’t plow every year, often just tilling, this year we decided to do a deep plow. The autumn leaves have been ground up to mulch. Although I still enjoy the meditative quality of raking, I must admit that just grinding the leaves up with the mower is much the easier work.
All the flowerpots are emptied and stowed away. The greenhouse is cleaned, mostly. I’m going to see if the lemon tree can make it through in there. We no longer heat the greenhouse in the winter but on a sunny day, the temps can get to the 80s. The lemon tree was started from seed and, to our surprise, it has thorns! Getting too large and spikey to bring back into the house.
I’ve deadheaded many of the perennials and saved the seeds to sprinkle around in spring. I discovered a patch of beebalm that I’d tossed along the road several years ago. The bees can always use more forage. And I’ve already dug some perennials and replanted them. More to go if I feel like it.
The flowerbeds could use a little more attention but when can’t they? I’ll get to them. Or not. The shop needs cleaning and I never did finish the attic. Oh, well. There’s always something to do here on the old place.
I finally installed the new printer that I purchased a couple of months ago. I’ve been printing out some notecards on it and it does a fine job. Put some of these on one of my Etsy shops and have them in a couple of local shops. Doing some holiday paintings for the local shops, too. But I’m really ready to get back to the bigger work. I have a solo show coming up next spring and still need a few more paintings.
And the holidays are coming up. Well, as I said, it’s always something out here in the country. Hope you’re all staying safe and well. I always welcome your comments.
View of Madison, Indiana, from the inn. It’s a quaint, arty little town about forty minutes up the river from Louisville. I wanted to get a photo of the sunrise in the morning but the whole river valley was fogged in. Couldn’t see a foot in front of myself.
The soft days of autumn seem to be sneaking up on us. From temperatures in the 80s a week ago, to lows in the 50s and even 40s now. I love autumn with the smell of wood smoke and newly fallen leaves. The golden sunshine and the reds and yellows of the leaves. Everything seems to be winding down…but not quite yet.
This is the view from the Clifty Falls Inn. That is the Ohio River and Kentucky on the other side. Another week or two, and those hills will be ablaze with color.
My husband and I visited Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana. This 1400 acre park sits on the banks of the Ohio river and boasts some beautiful views of the river scenes, foliage, and the town of Madison. There is some great hiking here, too. Unfortunately, with the dry September, the falls weren’t running so we’ll have to plan a visit for another time.
The variety of pumpkins and gourds at the farm was amazing. I could have brought home three times as many. But they provide a little fall color for the season. And in the end, get tossed into the chicken pen. The ladies are very appreciative.
We just spent one night at the inn but it was a pleasant getaway. On our return, it seemed as if the leaves had begun changing colors overnight. We stopped to buy pumpkins at the Cornucopia Family Farm. This was our first visit but apparently they have many visitors from a wide area. Whole families were there for the hayrides and popcorn, children’s activities and, well, to buy pumpkins. I have never seen so many varieties. I wanted them all but had to restrain myself.
We discovered this beautiful little country church as we were looking for the pumpkin farm.
As we drove home on the country backroads, we saw little churches and just enjoyed the day. There were several Amish buggies on the roads. It was Saturday, after all. Just so relaxing to be out and about.
Late garden harvest of loads of peppers and a few tomatoes. Plenty more peppers to pick, too!
Summer tasks are winding down here on the farm. The garden has about had it but I’m a hold out for the last green bean. Still have plenty of peppers to pick as well as the sweet potatoes. And the zinnias which I grow for cutting are still vibrant. Some of them are taller than me!
Firewood. This is nice, dry and seasoned firewood and splits easily. The basement is already stacked but there’s plenty more wood to split.
It’s time to put away the fishing gear. Although, really, does the season ever end? The impatiens and coleus are getting a little leggy.
The leaves are starting to turn and drop. We usually just grind them up with the mower for mulch. And our stack of winter firewood is growing. We share a log splitter with the neighbor which is great for gnarly old pieces of wood. But the boys actually like to split the wood by hand with a maul. There is a lot more skill to this than it looks, requiring just the right swinging rhythm and twist of the wrist. It’s nice of them to come out and help the old man out once in awhile.
The zinnias that I use for cutting are still going strong. Some of them are taller than me! In the background are the desiccated stalks of the sunflowers that the goldfinches have stripped. And those poles on the left hold motion sensitive lights which help scare away the night critters. Sometimes.
The next month will find me out tidying up the place before it gets too cold. Maybe sitting by the firepit with a hot beverage and a book. I hope you have a quite place to retreat, too. Enjoy the season.
The last rose. Well maybe, maybe not. Sometimes I bring this little beauty inside in the winter just to enjoy the beautiful perfume on a cold day.
This post is about our menagerie of pets currently residing on the home place. We’ve had several dogs, a few cats, and now a feathered friend. Two of the pets arrived this year.
Cheeky the parakeet loves to have his cage rolled outdoors on nice days. In the shade, of course.
First there was the addition of Cheeky the parakeet. This is the first time that we’ve had an indoor bird so a bit different from the flocks of chickens we’ve had. Cheeky loves to have his cage rolled out onto the back porch where he can survey the yard. He gets excited when he sees other birds but otherwise seems happy. He particularly likes to have some grass and clover added to his feed. And when he gets going, he gives the most interesting concert of warbles and chirps.
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!
Leo taking a cat nap in my studio, right under my easel.
Leo the cat is our newest addition in June. I wasn’t prepared to have another cat after our old one died at the ripe old age of twenty-two. But, well, he was really cute. Leo has become a “mom” cat as he follows me wherever I go. He particularly likes hanging around in my studio. We initially had some disagreements on what he could climb on and what was off limits. Some firm scolding and a squirt bottle seems to have solved that problem.
Mikey the border collie. I can hardly take a picture outdoors without him photo bombing it. At least a tail or head or something.
Mikey in his favorite chair on the patio. Doesn’t look comfortable to me but he likes it.
Finally, there is Mikey the dog. Border collie to be more precise. This is our second border collie. They are very smart dogs but have really strong personalities. They like to herd everything, including when I push the wheelbarrow around the yard. He also photo bombs nearly every single outdoor photo that I take. How does he know? Mikey is a great guard dog. His job this time of year is keeping the raccoons out of the corn patch.
So, that’s our pet family. Not about art although I predict they will appear in some future paintings. Mikey already has.
Bread, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20. The Food We Eat Series. Kit Miracle This series is all about food. We’re all a little bit obsessed, I think. But what is better than fresh made bread, still warm from the oven? Ah, the aroma. The crunch of the crust when it is cut.
Who doesn’t love the aroma of fresh bread? The crunch of the crust and soft texture of the body?
This week as I was waiting for more canvases to be delivered for my latest series, I spent some time doing some smaller paintings. This is another painting for The Food We Eat series. I guess since we’re all isolated at present, my thoughts return to food. Must be an animal thing.
My husband makes this lovely, crusty bread. I’ve posted the recipe in a previous post. It is very easy and so so delicious. It makes great toast and bruschettas. I think he’s making French toast for breakfast this morning with the last of this loaf. https://my90acres.com/2018/03/28/crusty-artisan-bread/
Bread, detail. It is often difficult to convey in the pictures that I post the brushwork and the texture of the paint. Just click on the picture and expand it to see. You will notice that I actually use very loose brush strokes for much of the painting. Again, as mentioned in my last post, the viewer’s eye fills in many details.
As I was waiting for a frame to arrive for a painting which needed to be delivered this week, I painted this and three other smaller pieces. One plein air and two landscapes. The frame never arrived, due to delays at the factory due to COVID. So I had a good friend make a frame but that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, if you’re not doing anything today and you’d like to surprise your family, or just yourself, try your hand at some homemade bread. You won’t be sorry.
Posted onJuly 12, 2020|Comments Off on 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.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!