Tag Archives: country living

Fog

The east field. Frequently we see deer crossing here.

I am glad that I live in a climate that exhibits mercurial moods.  The past month has been some wild ride.  Record-setting heat for winter, up to the 70s.  And a blizzard which scrubbed the land with high winds, followed by bone-chilling freezes.  No two days were the same, it seemed.  I think I would get bored if every day was sunny and warm, say like Florida or Arizona. But ask me about that next month towards the end of February.

Out front looking back at the house.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that my own mood perks up on sunny days.  Thus, I seem to prefer painting outdoor scenes depicting sunshine.  So when I woke to a heavy fog a couple of weeks ago, I marched outside (yes, in my robe and rubber boots) to take some photos of the fog.  The air was soft and the neighborhood was very quiet.  It seemed shrouded in mystery if that isn’t too much of a cliché.  One could almost imagine some settlers emerging from the heavy air or some knights on horseback in days of old.  Yeah, too much reading with my granddaughter.

The front yard. I saw some deer go across the end earlier.

But as I was reviewing my photos, I got inspired to try some new subjects.  The misty landscapes will probably appear sometime in the next few months.  Just imagine the peace and soft footfalls.

The north field. The fog is beginning to lift but it’s just above the tree tops.

Oh, by the way, happy new year.  Or at least a better one if the past has been difficult for you.  Find a still place to reflect, maybe enjoy the peace of some foggy weather. 

A big maple in the side yard. The fog is already beginning to lift.

The Big Chill – Christmas

Blue sky and blue shadows. Beautiful but chilly.

Unless you were vacationing in some tropical paradise this past week, you probably are aware of the big arctic event that blasted through the center of the country this past week.  After a relatively balmy fall season leading up to the holidays, this is what my little corner of the Midwest experienced this week. 

The weather forecasters were urgently warning much of the nation to pay attention and take appropriate action.  Which we did.  The cellar was loaded with firewood in anticipation of the deep freeze.  The fridge was full of the usual supplies.  Our son and his girlfriend were rushed to Louisville on Thursday in anticipation of their very early flight back to the west coast on Friday.  (Fortunately, they experienced  only a small delay.)  We made it home by early afternoon before the big blast and battened down the hatches in preparation.

By early evening, the temperatures began to drop, the misty rain turned to driving snow, and the wind cranked up the volume.  It didn’t stop until today.  The high here yesterday was zero.  I didn’t even step foot outside the house until today when I went for a walk and to catch up on outdoor chores.

The sun was out and everything was sparkly.  The bird feeder has been popular.  We’ve gone through forty pounds of sunflower seeds in the past two weeks.  I saw plenty of tracks here and there, especially around the mulch pile.  I was looking for another visitor, too.  I spotted a mink skulking about last week which was the first that I’ve seen around here.  Haven’t seen any deer or turkeys but I’m sure they’re holed up somewhere.  Leo the cat has been taking marathon naps and very quick trips to check the weather.  The dog doesn’t care and is always ready to play with anyone who ventures outdoors.

We haven’t had a big freeze like this for many years so it’s been an adventure.

Anyway, I hope that wherever you are spending Christmas day that you’re warm and cozy and safe.  Enjoy your families if you’re near, or your friends if you’re not.  Or better yet, make your friends into a new family. 

Let the warmth of your hearts extend to those in need. Stay safe.

Best wishes for the season.

And then the cavalry arrived

The sticks ready to be processed.

As I have mentioned previously, we rely on wood heat to keep our house warm in the winter.  Yes, we have a gas furnace but that has a price.  The wood heat is free….mostly.  Oh, there’s your labor involved and the wood requires a lot of handling. A lot. 

The guys were experienced and jumped right into work.

Southern Indiana is hilly with plenty of hardwood forests. People often selectively timber their property.  That is when individual trees are cut.  The logger only takes the primary eight foot log (sometimes more than one per tree).  He leaves the limbs and tops for the landowner.  This is where our firewood mostly comes from.  Saturday mornings are spent in the woods, cutting, dragging, chopping, splitting, moving the wood from one place to another.  A lot of handling.

Last winter my husband bought some “sticks” from the neighboring logger.  The wood was good but maybe it was twisted, the wrong type, whatever.  They delivered it and it’s been sitting there awaiting attention.  Unfortunately, as mentioned in an earlier blog, he had a serious health issue this year and can’t handle the wood as he was used to.  Which led to plenty of fretting on his part.

So, as I was reading the paper a couple of weeks ago, I saw an article about the local seminary who was looking for families who heat with wood for their annual Project Warm.  This is where the seminarians acquire wood from people who donate it off their property, maybe previously timbered, chop and deliver it to families in need.  So I suggested to my husband that he give them a call and explain the situation.  That he had the wood but just needed some help processing it.

After a few phone calls, they agreed that this would be a relatively easy project for them and came out this week.  Wow, what a beehive of activity!

The crew. Such a wonderful bunch of guys and so hard working. (Husband is the guy in blue in the middle.)

Since the guys were experienced in the process, they were able to go right to work.  We have a log splitter and all the logs were staged in one area.  They just had to saw the logs into the right stove lengths, then split them.  Some used the splitter but most of the young men chopped the wood by hand with mauls.  It was like a well-oiled machine.  Some were sawyers cutting the wood, some were splitting the wood with mauls and one operated the machine splitter.  It is easy to spot someone who has been swinging a maul for years as there is a certain rhythm to it.  It’s not a chopping motion.  And this was hard wood, almost all hickory, one of the heaviest and densest woods, but which provides the most warmth. At least two of the young men grew up on farms in New England where they were accustomed to handling wood for home heating.

The final results. A whole lot of firewood to heat the house this winter.

The guys turned those logs into piles of wood ready to keep us toasty this winter.

Taking a well-deserved break after a couple of hours of real hard work

Of course, we fed them as is our custom in this part of the world.  Trays of homemade Italian pizza, pumpkin spice muffins, fruit, snacks and drinks.  It was a pleasant afternoon for us as I hope it was for them. We so enjoyed visiting with these young men and learning more about their backgrounds and fellowship.  What a wonderful day. The guys are from St. Meinrad Seminary, right down the road from us.  Project Warm has been one of their community missions for over forty years.  Although we just learned of the program this year, I can’t tell you how much we appreciated the help.

Our son came by the following morning to move the wood into piles. This makes it easy to tarp the piles, keeping it dry before it is moved into the house.

Learn more about Project Warm here. https://www.saintmeinrad.org/news?story=13467

He’s baaaaaack!

Brutus looks better than we hoped for.

Our thirty-seven year-old farm truck, affectionately known as Brutus, has a bigger following than I do. For those of you who have been keeping up with this saga, you know that Brutus caught fire back in August. We thought he was a gonner but he’s arisen from the dead, so to speak.

A replacement of many wires and manly internal truck parts, much massaging by our favorite local mechanic, and Brutus is ready for business again. Which this time of year involves stocking up on firewood. He has a little cosmetic damage to the hood where the fire scorched the paint but otherwise, he’s in pretty good shape. Knock wood.

And we definitely travel with a new fire extinguisher in the truck now. So glad that we had several around the house and outbuildings.

As for me, just in case you wondered where I was last week, I’ve been cleaning out several decades of detritus from the attic of my studio. Junk or burn pile. Summer is too hot with the heat and winter is too cold, so spring and fall are the best times to clean. I’ll make a posting about that when I finish the job. I did discover where my flying squirrel or mouse problem went. Might have something do to with the sizeable snake skin I found up there. Ha ha ha.

Hunter’s moon

Last night I sat outside with the chill falling, enjoying the flames in the firepit.  I think we had a frost but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. 

The Hunter Moon rising, October 9th.

Tonight I stood outside for awhile to wait for the rise of the Hunter’s moon over the ridge.  As dusk was falling and the dog and I were waiting, a soft shadow drifted into the bean field.  A deer.  One of many nearby.  The dog, of course, took off.  Just the love of the chase, I expect.  I don’t know what he would do if he caught one but there’s really no danger of that.  The deer glided across the field in leaping arcs.  He’ll be back.

Plein air painting with a friend down by the river earlier this week. It was so peaceful.
I’ve painted this scene several times, in many seasons. The tall maples and reddish dogwood set off the white house and the clear blue sky. So brilliant.
The dogwood backlit by the afternoon sun. My granddaughter says it looks like stained glass.

I try to get outdoors as much as I can this time of year.  Took the grandkids to paint pumpkins at the local art fair yesterday.  Went plein air painting down at the river with a friend earlier this week.  But even a walk through the woods with the dog are pure pleasure.  The squirrels sure aren’t leaving many hickory nuts and the walnut harvest is paltry compared to last year.  Never mind.  Plenty for all.

Purple ironweed looks brilliant and healthy this late in the season. It contrasts nicely with the beanfield in the background. It was actually covered with straggler butterflies a week ago.
Surrounded by fall colors which seem to have changed overnight, at least the past two weeks.

We had a bit of a drought earlier this summer but with some rain. Crops around here are abundant.  The farmers are scurrying to get it all in before the next big rain but I think they’ll be alright.  None predicted for awhile.

Anyway, I hope you can get outdoors to enjoy the crispy fall air.  I’ve painted nearly everything in the area throughout the seasons, particularly autumn.  But I guess that you’ll see more seasonal work as the months go by.  It never bores me. I find the rhythms of the seasons comforting.  I hope that you are able to enjoy some natural beauty in your area, too.

A beautiful sunrise over Lake Patoka. Photo courtesy of my friend Joan M. who lives nearby.

The oldest house

Farmhouse with Red Maple

I have mentioned several times over the history of this blog how rural and sparsely populated this area is.  In fact, until just last year, we were the only county in the state that didn’t even have a stoplight…and we were proud of it.

But times change. 

This was brought home to me last week as I pulled out of our driveway and drove down our short road.  I noticed a new house being built.  Well, I knew it was being built; it’s a former neighbor who is moving back to the area.  We’re happy as they were good neighbors. 

This set me to thinking about all the new houses that have cropped up since we moved here over 35 years ago.  At that time there were only six houses on the whole two and a half mile road.  Now there are twelve.  Yeah, I know, not many but still doubled. 

This led me to reflect upon which house was the oldest house.  And…it’s OURS! 

When we bought this house at auction (that is a lot of money to spend at the drop of a hammer), it was in the position where it could have been rented out and run into the ground in about ten years, or someone could put some money into it and fix it up.  We chose to do the latter.  We had been looking for a place such as this for over a year.  We could either find a house in the country with no property, or property with no house.  Despite what the Hallmark channel would have you believe, it’s difficult to find a nice old home in the country.  Still a desirable goal but increasingly scarce.

The road out front was gravel (since paved).  We do have city water but it had only been in for about three months which is probably why there wasn’t too much competition for the home (few people knew about the city water which would have made the property more valuable.)  It’s also only a few miles from the state’s largest natural recreation area, a desirable place.  But it’s the setting that everyone always comments on as they drive up.  The house sits in the middle of the property.  We found a cornerstone that dates it to 1883 but I think it’s probably about forty years older.  Probably an original land grant, several of which we saw when we were in the market. 

The front of the house is log with layers of clapboard, insulation, and siding on the outside, and lath and plaster, new drywall inside.  The walls are about a foot thick which makes for a very quiet home.  I’ll regale you with all our adventures in remodeling a house this old some other time.

I’ve often reflected on why someone would build a house in the middle of the property rather than on the road with easier access.  The road used to kick up lots of dust but this was before automobiles.  Probably because the house site is flat with several close water sources – creeks, dug wells, springs, etc.  I have also noticed over the years that we found many pottery shards and Indian artifacts, chips, etc.  This may have been a dwelling site long before the country was settled.  The attraction of water sources, abundant wildlife, a large river a few miles away would have been the same for native Americans as they were for settlers.

This also led me to reflect on the house numbering system.  (I had a lot of time to think on the drive that morning.)  There are some places in Japan where the house numbering system is based on the age of the dwelling.  The first house on the block is number 1, the second house on the block is number 2, etc.  That is totally confusing for a person who was raised in the Midwest where roads are laid out in grids, usually of a mile.  How does anyone find a house in the Japanese system?  Do people go around and around the block until they spot the desired number? 

I am not an historian but I do enjoy learning how a community or area got settled.  It reminds me of Pete Hammill’s book Downtown: My Manhattan, Harriette Simpson Arnow’s Flowering of the Cumberland, and other similar stories.  Who came first?  What was it like then?  Why was this area selected? I’m sure that your local library, county museum, or historical society can direct you to information on the settling of your own locale.

Anyway, these are some random thoughts I had on a little trip to town the other day.    

Be prepared

Brutus, the old farm truck. A family member for over three decades.

I have been working all week on a couple of ideas for my Sunday blog post.  Although I don’t usually write it until the end of the week, I give some thought as to subject matter, finding or taking photos, etc.  This week’s post was going to be about books. 

However, life had other plans.

I was in my studio early this morning, packing a painting to ship today.  My husband and son were outside installing a new battery into old Brutus.  (See former posting here.)  It was a sunny and blessedly cool morning so I had the door to my studio open while I was working. 

Suddenly, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  I glanced outside and saw a fire beneath old Brutus.  AAAAaaaggggghhhhh!  (And my car was parked right next to the truck.)

I shouted to my son who came running, handed him the fire extinguisher that I keep handy in the studio, and he ran off with it.  Well, two more extinguishers later, the fire was out. The outdoor faucets and hydrants are too far from where the truck was parked to have been any help.

We’re not sure yet what started the fire – maybe an electrical short, maybe a fuel leak, or even a mouse nest in the air cleaner.  We’ll have a mechanic friend stop by next week to give us an assessment. Fortunately we were prepared or it might have been a very different story. 

Although we live in a remote area which is our reasoning for having some home fire protection, I would urge everyone to have a few fire extinguishers on hand.  You just never know what kind of emergency you might encounter. 

I’m not qualified to advise what types of extinguishers to get but there are several varieties for the many kinds of possible fires – paper, wood, chemical, oil, grease, etc.   Check online or with your local dealer or hardware store to see what they advise. 

You don’t know when you will need one.  Or wish you had been prepared. 

The rest of the story

Here are some photos of poor Brutus after the fire incident. As I said, we don’t know what type of fire it was. This is the damage.

To outward appearances, Brutus still looks pretty good….for a 37 y/o truck.
On closer look, the hood is scorched. That white powder is from one of the fire extinguishers.
Ah, here’s the damage. What was burned and melted? We’ll find out this week.
One of the small fire extinguishers. This one is a C rating, meaning it will handle three kinds of fire/flames.

Painting local

The Little Cottage, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14, KitMiracle I was driving down a side street of nearby Birdseye, Indiana, when this scene captured my attention. One of the smallest houses in town with the largest tree in town. The front path and gate are framed by beautiful lavender and blue irises. Painted in heavy impasto, a very impressionist-style painting.

One of my favorite parts about traveling is seeing new vistas.  Visiting the mountains, the parks, the ocean, historical sites.  It’s all good.  I always take my art equipment and capture the areas on canvas.  Parking my easel on the edge of the Grand Canyon and painting for a couple of hours is my bliss. 

But one of the best parts about traveling is returning home and seeing your own world through new eyes.  Noticing that which you may pass every day but in a new way.  You can look at your own home town as a tourist.

At the Crossroads, Schnellville, Indiana. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14. KitMiracle It was a spring morning and the sun was playing in and out of the clouds. This little road has many twists and curves, the beautiful hills catching the sunlight. This little crossroads only has about six houses and reminds me of many villages in Germany or France.
Seven Cedars in Spring, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12, KitMiracle. Along the same Schnellville Road, these cedar trees were silhouetted against the spring sky.

Spring here in Southern Indiana was so beautiful this year.  Often we’ll receive a late frost or freeze which pretty much ruins everything, but this year was spectacular.  The wild flowers in the forests and fields put on a show to remember.  I captured the spring greens of the fields and byways for several weeks, and even had my husband drive while I was shouting, stop here! to take photographs.

The Old Lady’s House, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14, KitMiracle. I used to drive past this house frequently on my way to work. A very old lady lived there who always mowed her lawn by hand, and she always wore a kerchief. I think her grandson lives there now. Located in central Dubois County, this is a very typical spring view in these parts.

The results have been paintings of spring fields and crossroads, little villages, gentle vistas of all types.  Not my usual big, bold colors but a much more gentle palette.  Often painted in the style of Pissarro or Monet but not actually deliberately.  I just want to bring to the viewer’s attention and appreciation the overlooked landscapes of our everyday world.

Take a look around your own world, your home town, the back allies.  I’m sure you can find some wonderful vistas, too, which you may have overlooked a hundred times.  They’re out there, I promise.

View more about these paintings online at this link.

Spring in bloom

Several varieties of daffodils bloom throughout the spring. So easy to grow.

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?”

The bluebell blossoms start out as pink, then turn sky blue when they open. They pair well with naturalized narcissus.
From one small patch, these blue bells have naturalized all over the yard. I have given starts away and even planted some along a wooded path last year. When they’re finished blooming, they totally die back and won’t be seen until next spring.

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.

The lilacs have been particularly spectacular this season. The scent is almost overwhelming but welcome for their few weeks of blooming.
Here are more naturalized flowers by the old well.
Wisteria on the arbor. This is the first year that our wisteria has bloomed. Such a beautiful flower but a little invasive. I have to trim it back from nearby trees and bushes.

Spring is coming

Male wood duck. (Photo courtesy The Spruce.)

This past Friday we were assaulted by Mother Nature with freezing rain, hail, sleet.  Just wave after wave, all day long.

But SPRING will arrive eventually.  Forsythias are in full bloom, the daffodils are nearly past, the crocuses that I planted last fall finally came up although I think the chipmunks and squirrels got most of them.  The yard is a carpet of spring beauties and the redbud is ready to pop.  The bluebells are out.  Blue and yellow. 

Even my largest crabapple is late.  This time a few years ago, it was in full bloom.  A week of warm weather will surely see it out.

Although we lament the weather as Mother Nature doesn’t always follow our wishes, we know spring will eventually get here.  The swift who makes a nest on the porch of my studio is already nesting.  The mourning doves are pairing up.  And I’d better get the rest of the birdhouses up real soon.  Like today, maybe.

As I drove down the driveway late Friday afternoon, I stopped at the creek (which our drive crosses), just to see what I could see.  And I saw this beautiful wood duck paddling around.  This is the first one that I’ve seen in over thirty-five years!  The plummage was beyond words.  So colorful and distinctive.  I hope that the wood duck family starts a family nearby but the creek with its after-storm gully washers is not the best place for a nest.  Maybe up the hill a bit.

Anyway, all this is a reminder that even if you live in the same place and don’t go anywhere, surprises can find you.  Keep your eyes open.

Spring is coming.