Category Archives: old house

A spring tour of the yard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narcissus take over after the daffodils are done.

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

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

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

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

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

Putting things into perspective – not talking about art

Sunrise, a new day, a new beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signs of spring

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

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

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

Daffodils emerging with day lilies in the background.

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

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

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

Flowering quince, ready to pop.

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

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

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

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

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

Hazelnut bushes with catkins.

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

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

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

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

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

Way the Wind Blows – a quiet painting

Way the Wind Blows, acrylic on wood panel, 8 x 10, original painting, Kit Miracle

With the nasty weather screaming through the Midwest the past couple of weeks, I’ve been surfing through old photos and files for subjects to paint.  I came across some images taken on a visit to New England to visit family.

This is a painting of the cupola on the 200 year old barn at my brother’s home in New England.  Made of red oak, the original timbers inside were marked with Roman numerals for assembly at some time in the past. I was attracted to the late afternoon sun as it caught the weather vane on top.  One wonders at the history this barn has seen in its long existence.  These old buildings always make me reflect on life as it was back then.

Although the subject of the painting is not one of the more complex that I’ve painted, I just enjoy the peace and calm of the scene.  Very plain.  Which just demonstrates that a one doesn’t need a lot going on in a scene to make compelling painting.

Painted on wood panel in a contemporary impressionist style, this small painting will fit in many spaces.

Way the Wind Blows, framed. Sometimes framing a painting makes all the difference.

When the wind is in the east,
It’s good for neither man nor beast.
When the wind is in the north,
The old folk should not venture forth.
When the wind is in the south,
It blows the bait in the fishes’ mouth.
When the wind is in the west,
It is of all the winds the best.

Link to painting on Etsy.  

Jack Frost Visits

Jack Frost on my windowpane in the studio.

After a balmy winter holiday, the temperatures in the Midwest plummeted.  We recorded minus 4 degrees (F) this week.  Needless to say, I’m a wuss and am not spending much time outdoors.  However, even working in my studio has challenges.

As I have mentioned before, my studio is an old summer kitchen about 30 feet from the back door.  It was designed when cooking was done on wood-fired cook stoves (which it actually had when we moved here.)  This was to keep the heat out of the house in the summer.  You’ll find one of these buildings on many old farms in southern Indiana and throughout the Midwest and South.  I am lucky that ours is about 15 x 25’, which is pretty large for a summer kitchen.  In this case, the family and field hands actually ate in the building.  It is a perfect size for a studio.

Unfortunately, the whole purpose of the design was to keep the heat out of the house so they didn’t really care about insulating the building.  Thus, it’s very drafty.  Although I have a gas heater, unless I want to go broke, I keep it turned down.  This week I was wearing a hat, many layers of clothing, two pairs of socks (the cold comes up through the floor), and I was still chilly.

I snapped this photo of the beautiful patterns of the frost on the windowpanes.  It looks like giant feathers.  With all of our insulated windows and super-heated houses, window frost has become more and more uncommon.

The beauty of nature is all around us, even in the most unlikely places.

Since I was confined to studio painting, here are a couple of my recent works.  Plus, I tweaked the still life with red cabbage and artichokes that I posted on here a few weeks ago.  Artists are never quite satisfied with their finished work. Renoir was known to bring his paints to gallery exhibits even after his paintings were hung, just so he could make changes.  I’m not quite that bad but I might fiddle around with a painting which doesn’t quite suit me.

Here’s hoping that the weather is better where you are and that warmer days will be here soon.

Artist Still Life, oil on canvas board, 10 x 10, Kit Miracle

Down by the Creek, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Red Cabbage and Artichoke, 18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle. Still Life revised from previous version.

Surprises

A nest of baby mice found while splitting firewood.

Life in the country often means some hard physical labor, always trying to keep up with the garden and chores.  But sometimes there are surprises.  Yesterday morning we were splitting firewood and found this soft nest of sweet baby mice.  Look at their tiny toes and ears.  Unfortunately, mice are a constant problem in the country but today, we gently set the nest behind the woodpile.  Maybe mama will find them.

Felling a giant

Memory of a giant

Memory of a giant

Several years ago, I did a painting called “Saturday Morning.”  It basically depicted men working together on, yes, Saturday morning.  This is what people do here in the country.  You cannot do everything yourself so you pitch in and help the neighbor, or he you when you need it.

This morning we had to say goodbye to an old friend.  We have a giant elm which  was here since we bought the place over 25 years ago.  Everyone marveled at its beautiful shape and how it had magically escaped elm disease.  Unfortunately, it began dying last year and we had to take our old friend down today.  It was very close to the house and would have been a real danger during the next big storm.

Taking down the elm which was leaning one way while we wanted to fell it in another was challenging and not without risk.  Fortunately, these two guys have felled many trees but anything can happen.  I documented this not only for my old tree friend but to let you know of some of the dangers.  If you don’t know anything about taking down a tree, hire an expert.

Distractions

As an artist, I have many distractions.  Don’t we all?  With a large yard and garden, this time of year finds me outdoors most evenings and weekends.  Yes, I’d rather be painting but sometimes I have to do some other stuff.  Work for one.  Gardening.

Swifts in corner of my studio porch

Swifts in corner of my studio porch

But this spring, as the past three springs, a family of swifts have taken up residence on the porch of my summer-kitchen studio.  I don’t know why they choose this particular corner as there are plenty of other good spots – woodshed, shop, eves, …yes, even birdhouses.  So they get touchy as I go in and out of my studio which puts a bit of a damper on my painting activities, especially at night.  I even covered the window with a black drape so I wouldn’t scare them.  Sometimes I go into the studio by the side entrance although mostly I forget to unlock that door.

Also, I love to garden.  Well, I love the results of gardening…not particularly the labor that goes into making it happen.  But it beats my hours at a desk so who should complain?  My husband plants a little spring garden – lettuces, kale, onions, asparagus, tomatoes, basil.  And I plant the big garden, about a quarter of an acre.  Tomatoes, peppers, beans (those durn rabbits), peas, squashes, corn, sweet potatoes, more basil…and loads of sunflowers.  In the winter when I’m having a nice vegetable soup or some homemade salsa, I think of all the sunshine that has been captured in my vegetables.  Maybe monetarily it isn’t worth the work, but it is to the spirit and soul.

View from the patio towards the big garden

View from the patio towards the big garden

House in springtime, plein air

House in spring, final, oil on canvas 18 x 24

House in spring, final, oil on canvas 18 x 24

Plein air painting in the spring sunshine is one of my favorite things to do.  I love the fresh colors.  Check out my step-by-step page for a how to demonstration.  https://my90acres.com/artwork/plein-air-painting-in-spring-time/

Country living, the good and the bad

If you’ve been following my blog then you know that I live in a 130+ year old

Seckle Pears, also called sugar pears

farmhouse in a county that doesn’t even have a single stoplight (and they’re proud of it.)  This is a big change from the megalopolis that I lived in 25 years ago where I had to fight three and a half million people to work every day.  Yippee for rush hour!  Now my drive is about 25 minutes of beautiful rolling countryside.  Yeah, the weather can affect that which is why I have 4 wheel drive.  It’s a necessity out here.

I often have people say to me, How can you stand to be so far away from everything?  Don’t you miss the services in the big city?  What about shopping?  I just give them one of those are you kidding me? looks.  So…I have satellite TV.  I have satellite internet which is faster than my high speed internet at work.  And, well, UPS delivers.  I’m only about an hour from an international airport but I live in the middle of my 90 acres.  Taxes are low.  I can’t see even a single neighbor from my house.  And those neighbors that I have, I actually know.  As an aside, did you ever realize that when you are packed in like sardines in the city, that you often don’t even know your next door neighbor?  How sad is that? 

My mailman will actually bring a package to my door and, if I’m not home, just stick it in my studio.  My husband exchanges recipes with the UPS guy.  If you need help, you just call someone.  People actually show up!  And much of the payment for services might be a basket of pears or some fresh eggs.  Or an I’ll catch you later

In case you’re looking for your own place in the country, I can tell you that property is usually much cheaper.  My 90 acres isn’t in the heart of NYC or LA.  It’s not actually enough to make a living on unless you’re doing some intensive farming, but it’s a nice place.  In Texas this would just be a big back yard.

So, what are the disadvantages of country life?  Well, you know those friendly neighbors?  They really do want to know all your business, or at least seem to.  I’ve always contended that it would be easier to hide in a city with a million people than it would to be in a place with a million acres.  People out here notice things.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but if your cow is out, they’ll stop and tell you.  Or bring you a pie when you are sick. 

There is also that shopping thing.  When I run out of that essential ingredient for a recipe, it’s a long way to town if the local mom and pop store doesn’t carry it. (You learn to improvise a lot.)  And restaurants tend to be a little more countryfied.  You probably won’t find that goat cheese pizza at Sally’s Truck Stop.  The wine offerings at Wal-Mart are certainly limited and the clothes down at the J.C.Penny….well, let’s just stick to basics.  On the other hand, think of how much money I can save from impulse buys! 

A trip to the city usually involves a good part of a day and lots of stops.  I find myself saving up all my shopping for a single trip.  Also, there is a constant list on the fridge of what I need to buy next time I go to the big city.  But art supplies, books, even tractor parts can now be purchased on line at often cheaper prices than at the stores so what is wrong with that? I’m saving money on two fronts, i.e., not shopping as much and doing more internet shopping.

One really big advantage of living in the country is the stars!  I just love to stand out in the dark gaze at all that magnificence.  And just wait for a meteor shower!  Wow!  There are also the critters, for better or worse.  Possums and skunks, rabbits (there go my new expensive perennials), squirrels, and chipmunks.  Deer are pretty but very dangerous to vehicular traffic.  We’ve had run-ins with seven of those rats with antlers, one resulting in totalling a brand new car.  Coyotes running the creek beds on a frosty night will send shivers up your spine and make you snuggle deeper under the covers with their howls and yips.  Whipoorwills are nocturnal and blasted persistent if one happens to take up residence in a tree outside the bedroom window.  And very occasionally a bobcat which sounds like a woman screaming.  OOOOooooooo.  

But overall, the country life is the life for me.  I love the peace.  The decompression on the way home at night.  I love the change of the seasons which seem so intense. I love picking fresh vegetables from the garden or fruit from my orchards.  Yep, green acres is the place for me.  (I can’t believe I just said that.)