Yay! Spring is here!

Blue Bells and Narcissus

I think that people who live close to nature are generally more attuned to the seasons.  Every little bulb that pokes its nose up, the buds on the trees and bushes, and even the wrens making their nest on my front porch.

Hostas and bluebells in early spring

Here are just a few of this spring’s observations on My 90 Acres.  Missed posting the daffodils and forsythias but that is what happens.  Time and nature keep moving on.

A yard full of spring beauties

Close up of spring beauties and violets

Probably won’t be burning too much more wood in the wood stove.  It’s been a mild winter but we always feel like squirrels hoarding nuts when we have big piles of firewood.  It will keep until next winter.

End of winter firewood pile

Spring planting

One of the nicest things about living in the country is being able to grow our own food.  We like the fresh from garden to table taste as well as knowing what is (and isn’t) in our produce.  We’re not fanatics about it (at least I don’t think we are) as there are many things we’ve tried over the years but which just aren’t worth the trouble.  For instance, carrots and potatoes are cheaper to buy in the store or farmer’s market than grow ourselves.  Too labor intensive.

But one of the things we enjoy doing most is pushing the seasons.  We have a spring/fall garden area, separate from the main garden, with a cold frame and some area to plant cooler weather crops.  Here we grow kale, lettuce, asparagus, snow peas and onions.

Lettuce in cold frame – black seeded simpson, bibb, siberian kale, and mixed kale. Planted mid February.

What you see here are two kinds of lettuce and Siberian kale that we planted back in mid-February.  We should be eating this next week.  The cold frame is covered with screen, and in colder weather, a top with plastic, and sometime if we get a late snow or freeze, a blanket.  The lettuce and kale will keep coming until June.  Then we replant it in September to eat in November and early December.  No pesticides or sprays at all.

Sweet onions, planted early March

We’ve planted onions sporadically over the years but always had trouble keeping them.  We dried them on screens or put them in the shop refrigerator, but they still spoiled.  So last year I pointed out to my husband that since we mostly cook with them, why not just chop them all up and freeze them.  So that is what we did.  With the aid of the food processor, it didn’t take any time at all process them all.  It was so easy to just grab a few handfuls whenever we were making soups, stews, or other recipes which called for chopped onion.  This year we’re experimenting with several varieties but we really like the large sweet onions.

Starting seeds in greenhouse. The mousetraps are because the mice kept digging up the seeds!

The garlic has been another challenge.  We planted two kinds last fall.  One made it and one totally died.  My husband did the planting and didn’t mark which was which, pointing out the necessity of keeping good records.  We all have faulty memories and it’s often difficult to recall when and what we planted after the passage of several months.

Sure am looking forward to that lettuce, though!

Winter vacation in the Florida Keys

My husband and I were able to take our first winter vacation in a very long time.  We chose the Florida Keys which we hadn’t visited for over 30 years.  Oh, it was so nice to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

One of the nicest parts about the Keys is that there are so many places that visitors can pull over to fish…or in my case…paint.  The Pentalic Aqua Journal (5 x 8) is perfect for painting broad landscapes. In the first painting, I was sitting in the shade while trying to capture the feel of being tucked away in the mangroves.  The photos don’t do justice to the amazing aqua waters but it’s a nice memory.

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

The second painting was from a small park in the heart of Marathon.  I liked the way the house across the inlet was framed by the pine tree.  I took liberties to emphasize the house, actually more than I could really see it.  Oh, well, that’s what artists do.  Enjoy

Studio Work

Like many artists in winter, I don’t have much time to get outdoors to paint. By the time I get home from work, it’s usually dark. However, I paint every week, often several evenings. These are some recent paintings from photos that I took this autumn.  One is from a trip to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.

As a contemporary impressionist, I try to capture the “feel” of the scene rather than every little detail.  It is often difficult to restrain myself.  I think in this day and age, with the benefit of photos, many artists often fall prey to the tendency of painting every detail which has been captured by the camera.  But that is not actually the way we see.  We see what is directly in front of us but the peripheral edges are often lost. The advent of modern photography continues to tempt us.  But that is not why we are artists. Anyone can take a photo but only the few can interpret their feelings in an artistic medium.

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Indiana Dunes, 2015, oil on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

This first painting is from a trip that we made to the Indiana Dunes in 2015.  Surprising enough, this national park is set on the shore of Lake Michigan in northern Indiana.  It seems to have been carved from an industrial landscape but if you spend some quiet time here, you can imagine what the shore was like 100 years ago.  I wish I had painted this with a little warmer tones but that is in hindsight.  Love the sketchiness of the trees and the ever-moving sand.

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Fall Walk, 16 x 20, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

This next painting is from a photo I took on a walk along my country road this autumn.  It is difficult to not go overboard with the bright colors which could lean to garishness.  I had to make a great effort to push back the far trees to add some atmosphere which enhanced the foreground trees and the lovely green of the cattle pasture to the right.

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

Frosty Field in Autumn, 12 x 16, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle

The final painting is just a glance out my bathroom window one frosty morning.  Love the early morning light catching the pine tree with the colorful woods behind.  Not so successful capturing the feeling of frost.  It looks more like a river or lake but there you have it.  As any experienced artist knows, not every painting turns out as we wish.  But we always learn something, even from our failures.

November sunset

November sunset

November sunset

Beautiful November sunset.  Just turning out of my drive when I caught this one.  It looks like November, doesn’t it?

Interior with Desk

Interior with Desk, Final, oil on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

Interior with Desk, Final, oil on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

This is a recent painting of an interior.  I’ve got step-by-step images on this page.

Interior with Desk Step by step

Clouds

A.J.'s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

A.J.’s Clouds, oil on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

Occasionally here in the Midwest we get some pretty fabulous cloud formations.  They’re probably not any different than anywhere else, it’s just that we actually have the space to see them.  This painting is from a photo that my son shared with me of some dramatic cumulonimbus clouds in August. Interestingly enough, I was taking photos of the same clouds from two miles away as was another friend who lives about 30 miles away.  That’s how impressive the formations were.  I decided to turn it into a painting for my son for Christmas. I don’t think he follows my blog or otherwise, this won’t be a surprise for him.

Monet’s Field

Monet's Fields, oil on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

Monet’s Fields, oil on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

This is the field next to my studio.  In the early fall, it is a riot of colors of  wild flowers.  This time of year it’s mostly purples, blues and yellows.  Of  course, as the artist, I emphasized the colors but they were pretty bright anyway.  The field was hayed earlier in the year so you’re mostly looking at goldenrod, ageratum, iron weed and Queen Ann’s lace.

Monet's Fields, original photograph

Monet’s Fields, original photograph

What’s with that?

Since this blog is about art, books, and country living, today’s post is about books.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an Amazon Vine reviewer.  They offer me a limited number of books and merchandise to choose from which continuously changes.  I get to keep the items and all I have to do is write an honest review of the product.  No where does Amazon require that I write a good review if I don’t think the product is any good.  I do try to justify my review with specifics thinking of the readers who rely on reviews.  In fact, I often find the negative reviews to be more enlightening but that is just me.

I’m not quite sure how Amazon selected me for this program.  Probably because I buy a lot of books and other merchandise through them.  I also write reviews even on the non-free items that I order, some of which have received high ratings.

But a few months ago I wrote a negative review on a book that I’d ordered several months ago.  It was an art book and I felt the author was a fraud and didn’t have any skills except self-promotion.  I realize that anyone can write a book and publish it.  That is not the point.  The point is that other people rely on the reviews when they make their purchases and would be wasting their money if they purchased the book thinking it was one thing when it wasn’t (in my opinion).  So I wrote the review and even had several photos that I’d scanned from the book to prove my point.  However, for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to upload the photos.  But the review received several positive votes.

The surprise was when I recently revisited the review to see if I would be able to upload the photos now, the review wasn’t there anymore.  Hummm….  A little internet research revealed that Amazon is now taking down some reviews.  There’s some internet chat about the reasoning behind their decision, but the fact that they do makes me pretty skeptical about the entire review process.

The point here is, you ought to be wary of the review system, too.  How do we know we’re getting honest opinions?  I don’t know the answer to that question but I do know that I’m going to go back and re-review that book.  Hopefully I’ll be able to upload the photos now.

Sage Cottage

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA  Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

We were in Georgia last month for a wedding at the Barnsley Estate. We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast a few miles away called the Sage Cottage.  Owners, Jim and Sharon Southerland, were such gracious hosts and made us feel welcome in every way.  The house is actually quite large with really beautiful grounds. Another wedding party had taken over most of the remainder of the rooms.  There was plenty of space to roam so I decided to use my time to make this watercolor / pen and ink sketch of the main house.  It was difficult to choose a view as the grounds were laid out so well, with hidden nooks, statuary, and gardens.

This was painted in a Pentalic Aqua Journal which has really thick pages, almost like cardboard.  I use a couple of clips to hold the pages open but otherwise, there is no buckling from watermedia.  I only wished later that I had used a larger sheet of paper, maybe an 11 x 14.  This is 5 x 16 (5 x 8 landscape notebook).