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?”
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.
Posted onJanuary 2, 2022|Comments Off on 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October has been so busy here on the homeplace. The temperature was in the 80s at the beginning of the month. Now it has dropped to 50s in the day with dips to the 30s at night. Might have had a light frost (which I didn’t actually see) but will definitely have one later this week.
The garden has been picked clean. All of the last peppers, beans, and tomatoes have been gathered. It’s been mowed, tilled, and a winter wheat cover crop has been planted. This will get tilled under in the spring and helps provide needed body to the soil. The flower pots are being emptied and cleaned out. The spiders have been chased from their homes on the porch and all the summer shoes, boots and gardening tools have been rounded up and put away.
We’ve had a bumper crop all summer with the fruit trees being loaded so much we couldn’t pick them all. This trend is continuing into the autumn with an abundance of walnuts and persimmons. You really don’t want to stand under a walnut tree on a windy day. It sounds like gunfire. I’ve picked a bucket of redbud seedpods and have scattered them in the woods. They’re an understory tree so wherever the dogwoods grow, they’ll do fine, too. And I picked another container of beebalm seed heads. I’ll scatter those along the drive and edges of the fields. There is a nice stand of this plant where I sowed the seeds a couple of years ago.
With the warmer weather, some of the plants and bushes have been a bit mixed up. I noticed that one of my lilacs was blooming. That was a nice surprise in…er…October. And the forsythia always seems to get a second autumn bloom.
Fall break meant the grandkids got to come out and spend some country time. A walk in the woods is always fun. We never see any wildlife (due to the dog running ahead) but we spotted a great variety of mushrooms and other fungi. I took the granddaughter to see an especially lovely exhibit of paintings by Louisville artist Joyce Garner.
And I was particularly busy doing arty things. Driving one way to drop off paintings for a show, and the other way to pick up some work. Often in the same day! Recorded books make the time go by quicker.
And finally, went to my class reunion. Who are all these old people?! It had been postponed from last year due to COVID, but it was nice to reconnect with some old friends. It’s a lot of hard work so kudos to the committee who tirelessly kept prodding everyone to sign up, and actually show up. Another long drive accompanied by recorded books. And some beautiful fall scenery.
On this last day of October, celebrate a little. Go out and beat the drums and howl at the moon. Or maybe snitch a piece or two of candy from any little people who may live with you. Or buy an extra bag for yourself. Happy Halloween!
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted onMay 16, 2021|Comments Off on Cicadas and more, spring 2021
All is not art. Spring on the ninety acres has arrived and so has the work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!