Tag Archives: country living

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.

The new Thyen Clark Cultural Center is completed. It opened in January and is always hosting some activity or function, from classes, to weddings, to Santa’s reindeer.

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!

Bread and Miriam. My friend is delighted to display her new painting. We had such a fun morning visiting, talking about books and life.

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. 

About 35 students attended my presentation. Great questions, too!

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.

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.

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.

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

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. 

I really love the variety of mini pumpkins and squashes.

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.

Night Reaper

It is not unusual here in the Midwest to see farmers harvesting late into the night during the season.  Last year our renter harvested past one in the morning.  Only fatigue drives them inside.

Night Reaper. Acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14. Kit Miracle

Earlier this week, the farmer was rushing to get the corn in before the rain predicted the following day.  The giant combine looks like some eerie monster gobbling up the stalks, spitting the debris out the back.  The grain trucks meet the combine in the field to be filled and cart away the gold. 

I have always been fascinated by night activities such as these and I sneaked out to take a bunch of reference photos.  I don’t know why I have to sneak on my own property but I felt compelled to do so, hiding in the shadows and behind the trees.  With the low light conditions and the movement of the equipment, most of the photos were blurred but I managed to get some good shots, too.  I was just using my phone camera, not my good camera.

The clouds were scudding across the night sky, alternating blotting out the nearly full moon and then darkening everything.  The lights on the equipment were dazzling.  The dust kicked up by the harvest hung in the air like smoke, sometimes caught in the blue light of the moon.

I find night subjects to be interesting and compelling in a totally different way than daytime subjects.  I’ve sketched leaning up against buildings in Times Square and have painted the buildings of the city seen at night. Watching diners through the window of a restaurant can be fascinating.

What is going on in your neighborhood in the dark that is worth capturing in art?

October roundup

The pumpkins on the porch are still making a nice display. They’ll end up as food for the chickens next month.

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.

Persimmons. The animals love these fruits but I don’t particularly care for them. They’re a bit tart until after the first frost. Persimmon pulp is used in many recipes for cakes, muffins and puddings.
Walnuts. Walnuts. Walnuts. All the trees are bearing heavy crops this year.

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.

Lilacs blooming in October. Yes, here is proof.

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.

Doing a little plein air painting up in the woods. The fall colors are just approaching peak.

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.

Visiting the Joyce Garner exhibit at the Thyen-Clark cultural center.

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!

Autumn has arrived

The day started out gloomy and rainy. But after a couple of hours the sun was out and we were ready to make our annual visit to the pumpkin patch. It turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive with the grandkids, plus, it was my husband’s birthday. The kids didn’t know where we were taking them, just that it was somewhere special.

A giant hay bale pumpkin greeted us. Along with a giant spider and a pig.

It is a little drive in the country, about 60 miles, but it was a beautiful day for an outing. We saw some Amish people putting up corn in shocks, the old fashioned way. I remember my grandfather doing it that way. And passed a lake with many water lilies and swans. Farms with donkeys, goats, cows and some big, big fields. Some farmers were already harvesting. The leaves are just starting to turn colors.

These pumpkins have been picked for guests already. A variety of sizes.

We arrived at the pumpkin patch before the big weekend crowds. I expect many people were a bit put off by the weather, or maybe we were visiting earlier than we have in the past. Cornucopia Farms is so well-organized. In addition to their large offerings of pumpkins and squash of every variety, they offer mums, fresh flowers, good things to eat, lots of activities, such as, hay rides, a corn maze, and so much more.

I really love the variety of mini pumpkins and squashes.

But we were on the hunt for that special pumpkin. Of course, we found many, many. They mostly charge by the pound for the special varieties, but flat fees for others. It doesn’t matter. I seem to lose all sense when it comes to this seasonal decoration.

Such a variety of pumpkins and squashes. I can hardly contain myself.

After pulling our wagon (provided) around, it was full within a short time. We got the gnarly ones with warts, the large orange ones, the little white ones, striped, speckled. You name it. Plus some yummy things to eat later.

More varieties inside the sales room.

Last year I painted several paintings from my pumpkin patch adventures but I’m not sure I can do so this year. I’m just so busy with other projects right now. But I’ll try to post some more photos later of our day’s adventure.

Let’s see. What shall we choose?

If you’re looking for a fun fall activity for the family, I highly recommend a drive through the country and a visit to your local pumpkin patch. Enjoyable for all.

Oh, yeah. Loads more things besides pumpkins to get us in the mood. Apple cinnamon donuts, cider, candy apples, and lots of decorating items.

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!

Bread and Miriam

Bread and Miriam. My friend is delighted to display her new painting. We had such a fun morning visiting, talking about books and life.

I had the great pleasure of hand delivering my painting Bread to my friend Miriam.  She was so delighted to be able to buy this.  “Making this bread was the best experience of my time during the COVID pandemic.”  Miriam used my bread recipe for no-touch sourdough bread.  I heard back from so many friends and blog followers that they loved this recipe. 

Still need some bread?  Check out this post from last year. https://my90acres.com/2018/03/28/crusty-artisan-bread/ https://my90acres.com/2020/08/02/bread-a-new-painting/

Summer Super Sale still going on.  40 to 70% off.  Adding more every day.  Check here to see what is currently on sale.  Or contact me personally if you’re nearby and I’ll deliver. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KitMiracleArt?ref=l2-shop-info-name&section_id=1

Independence Day

Flag Day, Milltown, Indiana Kit Miracle

July Fourth has always had a special meaning for me.  Far beyond the picnics and bands, the fireworks and family gatherings.  There is just something about the holiday here in the United States which makes me proud and excites my sensibilities.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a marching band in person or even a fireworks display, although I love both of those things.  The big booms reverberate in my chest all the way to my toes. 

And I love the family gatherings.  In our case, not quite reunions but a group of friends and relatives who show up to spend a pleasant day in the country.  This year is especially poignant since we haven’t seen many of these folks for over a year.

The kids will run around, sneak blackberries from the bushes, and whine about when they’re going to eat.  The adults will swap tales and events.  And the young men will regale everyone with some awesome fireworks.  (Fortunately, we’re not in the super dry western states where fireworks are banned these days.)

But I often reflect on the meaning of the day.  Independence Day.  The declaration of our split from our English heritage and ruler, King George.  What a chance our founding fathers took!  What moxy!  What great beginnings, too.  I wonder what they’d think of the form of government they started nearly two and a half centuries ago.  Would they be proud? Astonished?  Perplexed? Maybe all three.

I hope that you have a great day, an enjoyable day, and perhaps can reflect on the meaning of this special day here in the United States.  Be kind. Be safe.

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.

Ten things I learned about myself in 2020

Afternoon Shadows, acrylic, original painting, 14 x 18, contemporary impressionism, Kit Miracle

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.