Tag Archives: country living

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.

A little color

Five Pears…testing some new colors, pastel.

Well, in this case, a lot of color.

I was trying out some new pastels this week and decided to really juice up the color. A little fauvism. It was fun. Not my usual style but that’s OK, sometimes it’s nice to try a new style or color scheme.

The past two weeks have been filled with activities and I’ve been a little under the weather. Some bug that I probably caught from my husband. Feel great sometimes, then a few hours later, totally exhausted. So…I just take a nap. But that isn’t helping me make much headway for spring tasks.

A couple of weeks ago, temps were definitely chilly with snow and freezing rain. Then suddenly….the sun is out, so are the daffodils. My favorite thing to do every day is to take a walk and see what is new around the property. Buds swelling, new bulbs emerging, birds starting to stake out their spring homes.

I picked up my show from the Harrison County Arts in Corydon. A couple of commission pieces. And am working on some classes for spring break, AND…have company coming! Yay. But that means a little (a lot) of extra care for cleaning and tidying.

Oh, well, it will either get done or it won’t. But I fully intend to take time to enjoy the spring emergence.

Hope your spring is blossoming, too.

Snowmageddon

I love this view of the ice-covered branches, sparkling in the sunlight.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or on a remote island this week, you’ve heard about the huge snowstorm that swept the nation.  News stories abounded, showing endless reels of people who were worse off than you.  Ice, snow, trees crashing, roads impassable.

Well, this was our reality this week. 

The ice was the first to arrive, coating this rhododendron right outside the window.

Fortunately we had plenty of warning as we watched the storm roll up from Texas through the Ohio River Valley.  Watching hours of local weather predictors guess whether the front would stay upstate or come down our way. Where is the snow line?  Who will see sleet and ice?  It’s tiresome after awhile.

But we were a little nervous.  Ice on trees, add some wind, pop, there goes your electric for a few days.

My husband gets in pioneer mode.  Park the newer car in the garage.  Park the other vehicles away from the trees.  Make sure we have supplies in – milk, bread (I live with a guy who bakes), wine.  Check the oil lamps, the kerosene heater, the electronics are charged up as is the backup.  I spoke about this before in a previous blog.  We have a gas (propane) stove and hot water so no problem.  Can’t use the gas furnace or the wood furnace because there would be no electric to run the blowers.  But we do keep the wood fired up low to keep the pipes from freezing.

We were lucky this time.  First the ice, then some sleet, then some snow.  No wind.  No loss of power.  Just enjoy the peace inside with some books and the TV. 

View down the drive, with the late afternoon shadows. We didn’t really have any trouble getting out, especially after grading the driveway.

My husband and the neighbor got outside to grade the drive with their tractors.  I took a few walks with the dog.  The glittering ice on the trees was so beautiful, tinkling a bit with a little breeze.  Kept the birdfeeder filled.  We buy sunflower seeds in forty-pound bags. Now we’re listening to the giant thumps as the ice melts and slides off the roof.  The grandkids are over, taking more cooking lessons and playing with the toys that they don’t see every day.  Stomping and sliding outside with the dog. 

I hope you were able to find some good in the storm, even if it was just a little peaceful time to count your blessings. 

The birdfeed has been popular this week, normally with dozens of birds at a time. Cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, titmice, juncos, and more. We go through forty pounds of sunflower seeds pretty quickly.

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!