Category Archives: garden

Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes!

It’s that time of year in the garden.  I have been picking tomatoes by the five-gallon bucket load.  The freezer is full and we have just about run out of room. 

We have been growing tomatoes for decades.  We try different varieties.  Some years we like this one, another year we might like another one. This year I decided to make a semi-scientific analysis of the different varieties that we usually gravitate to.

First of all, I don’t start any plants from seed anymore. Been there, done that.  I can usually find a good variety in the local stores and garden centers.  Also, we don’t use any sprays and rarely fertilizer (none this year.)  But I do rotate the crops in the garden so the same thing is not planted in the same place each year. 

This is my schematic for the tomato part of the garden.

This year I planted fifteen tomato plants (not counting the five that I planted in the spring garden).  I have planted as many as sixty-four plants in the past but that is ridiculous.  The varieties that I planted this year are:  Goliath, San Marzano, Roma, Better Boy, Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, and Park Whopper.  Not counting the cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear).  I did all the planting on May 15th because we had a very late freeze and SNOW earlier.  We had plenty of rain earlier but not too much since mid July.  Sometimes we’ll water, especially if the plants are little but usually not.  I planted the seedlings very far apart, about five feet, so they had plenty of room and we could get down the rows with the tiller.  We also put them up in cages with stakes and ties.

I have lost track of how many tomatoes that I’ve picked but in just one day last week, I picked three five-gallon buckets and gave one away.  I have to pick about every three or four days. Our freezer is full.

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

So let’s go down the list.

Goliath.  We’ve liked this tomato in the past and it started off well but slowed down.  I paid a lot for just one plant so will probably not plant it again next year. 

San Marzano.  This is supposedly the king of Italian tomatoes.  VERY prolific.  I can pull the tomatoes off the vine in handfuls, like grapes.  But they seem a little dry and have quite a bit of white/green core which is not tasty. 

Roma.  We’ve grown these before but they really produced this year.  Much larger than the San Marzanos which was a surprise.  Very meaty but sometimes a little black inside which is probably blossom end rot from uneven watering.

Better Boy.  Good but nothing to write home about.  Will probably pass next year.

Pink Brandywine.  These were a real surprise.  The tomatoes are huge, at least six or even seven inches across.  A beautiful pink color and low acid.  Really tasty and very meaty. One slice is enough for a sandwich. 

Red Beefsteak.  Very meaty but knobby. Difficult to use for a slicing tomato but pretty good for canning.  However, not worth the trouble even though they are so large and produce well.

Celebrity.  We’ve grown these before but for not for the past few years.  VERY good producers.  The tomatoes just keep coming.  Great for putting up or eating just plain.

Park Whopper.  We were told by a friend that this is his favorite tomato so we thought we’d give it a try.  Very consistent shape, good taste, but not very large.  And they’re petering out, even in mid-August. 

The final verdict?  We’ll definitely plant the Pink Brandywines, Romas and Celebrities next year.  But….depends upon what other options catch my attention.

Meanwhile, back to the salt mines…er ummm….the garden.  And don’t talk to me about beans and corn.  Ha!

August Garden

A beam of early morning light catches some potted plants, partly shaded, partly sunny.

The summer is speeding past and life has been busy here in Southern Indiana.  We’ve had lots of company this summer.  I think everyone was ready to get away, out of the house, just go somewhere.  Always enjoyable to reconnect with old friends and family.  Of course, the grandkids have kept us busy, too.  We didn’t get to do nearly as many activities as we had wished but we did have some fun.

August garden. The corn in the back right is done but the tomatoes are just coming in. And the Sunflowers are towering over everything.

The past few weeks we’ve been busy with the garden.  Plenty of rain earlier in the season so the produce is coming in.  The corn is past.  Peaches and cream variety, first planting late April.  Second planting a few weeks later after the late freeze.  This is a delicious variety, full ears with no bugs or flaws.  We ate what we could fresh, then put up the rest.  After picking and husking, we ended up with four five-gallon buckets of shucked corn.  I do the picking and husking; my husband does the rest of the processing. Plenty of corn in the freezer.

The green beans (variety Jade Bush) have been very prolific.  I keep up with the picking and the beans keep coming.  Of course, I planted some more which I don’t know why. 

We planted several varieties of tomatoes this year just to remind ourselves why we like some better than others.  With the freeze that we had in early May, they’re just now coming in.  The Goliath, Celebrity, Beefsteak, and German Pink are great eating tomatoes.  Lovely on a sandwich or just with supper.  For putting up in the freezer, we have San Marzanos and Romas, and the Park Whoppers are very prolific.  We use a lot of tomatoes so these will keep us busy for the next several weeks.  The cherry tomatoes are Sweet 100 and a cute little yellow pear, both of which are very prolific.  The kids just graze on them as they pass by.

These tall, colorful sunflowers will probably end up in a painting or two. The finches are already prying the unripe seeds from the heads.

I’ve got some herbs in the food dehydrator out in the shop.  Best to remove the machine from the house so the whole place doesn’t smell like basil.  Will probably do another batch or two this season.  I’ll miss fresh herbs when they’re gone.

So, you might ask, why go to all this work just for some vegetables? It certainly doesn’t save any money when you consider all the time, labor and expense that goes into planting, picking and processing.  I guess the real reason is that we like fresh.  We know what’s in the plants and what isn’t.  We use no pesticides.  Not everything turns out perfect and beautiful.  We’re willing to live with losses.  The zucchini and squashes have been beset by squash vine borers the past few years.  I may give them a pass next year.  And as the joke around here goes, you lock your car doors in Indiana in the summer as you’re likely to find someone has filled it with zucchini. 

Lots more stuff going on around here.  The flowers are beautiful – several varieties of sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias not counting the potted plants.  I sold a lot of artwork with my Super Summer Sale last month, both online and locally.  Still need to make more room in the studio.  Still paint nearly every day.  Lots of visits to the library and arts center. And spending some evening time on the patio with a cool drink and a book. 

So how has your summer been going?  I love reading your posts and comments.  Keep cool!

Garden update, home on the farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring follow-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cicadas and more, spring 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peppers, tomatoes, herbs and more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll pass.

Waiting for spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall roundup

Picking the beans before the rain.

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 ploughed. Just resting until spring.

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. 

The big pots are emptied and tidied away. Will fill them with flowers next spring, six months away.

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.

The poor lemon tree. With thorns. It will make or it won’t this winter. Will keep you updated.

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.

Soft days of autumn

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.

Something a little different

I’ve been taking a break for the past several weeks from working on my current series of paintings Intimate Spaces: Breaking Bread.  Although I tend to be pretty disciplined when I’m working on a big project, sometimes I need a respite.  Recently I’ve returned to some old themes, particularly western scenes and my travels.  Culling through a couple of decades’ worth of old photos, scenes that I may have skipped previously, now draw me in.  It doesn’t always have to be the entire picture, just a small portion of it.  And I always feel free to change things around.

Atrium at Longwood Gardens, du Pont estate, Pennsylvania. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle

Here are a couple of my most recent paintings from my travels.  The first one is of the Atrium at Longwood Gardens on the du Pont estate in Pennsylvania.  Although I visited in March of that year, it was still beautiful.  The gardens under glass were particularly impressive. Touted as the most beautiful garden in America, I couldn’t disagree.

Garden Cherub, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16. Pittsburgh, PA Kit Miracle

The second painting is from a different trip to Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh to be exact.  One of our favorite places to visit is The Strip District, a multi-block area of food shops and restaurants, fish markets and collectibles.  This particular shop had some very enticing items in the front of the shop, but as I walked through the store to the back, they had a garden shop with rusty gates and ironwork, birdbaths and outdoor trellises.  I loved this little garden cherub.  Now I wish I had purchased him but at least I could capture him in paint.

Both of these paintings are painted on red-toned canvases which peeks through, adding another layer of liveliness to the scenes.

In case you are interested, these are both available in my Etsy shop KitMiracleArt.  AND….I’m having a 20% off Labor Day sale through Monday.  Free shipping, too.

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.