Tag Archives: country living

Wildflower perfumes in spring

Spring in southern Indiana is a cacophony of overload for the senses.  As an artist, I’m naturally attracted to the visual of the changing season.  From the pale greens of new shoots and leaves to the endless variety of flowers.  Something new is blooming every week.  And sounds add to the wallpaper of the experience as I presented the cheerful house wren in a recent post.

One thing that I haven’t touched on are the beautiful scents that waft through the air.  Yes, there are plenty of floral perfumes from cultivated plants, but today I want to show you three wildflowers with really strong scents.

Multi-flora roses, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

The first is the multi flora rose.  First introduced from Asia as a soil erosion remedy, it quickly got out of hand and is truly a noxious weed.  So difficult to get rid of.  However, for a few short weeks in spring, the scent of this flower is almost overpowering in the woods and ravines. It’s only redeeming quality in my opinion.

Honeysuckle vine in bloom, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Blooming right on the heels of the multi flora rose is the wild honeysuckle vine.  I’m not sure if this species was introduced but is is definitely invasive.  Around here we have the variety with white blossoms which fade to a creamy yellow as they die.  Great food for hummingbirds, they unfortunately tend to strangle many trees and bushes.  If you’ve ever seen a walking stick with a spiral design, it was naturally created by the honeysuckle vine.  Its perfume is so strong as to be almost nauseating.

Common boxwood in flower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Following on the heels of the honeysuckle vine is the common boxwood.  This shrubby bush is semi-evergreen in this area.  It is an under story plant and likes the shade of larger trees.  There are many varieties of this plant but around here it has smallish white flowers in little groups which look a lot like a small honeysuckle blossom.  Again, the perfume is pleasant and not as overpowering as the first two plants.

For people with allergies, the Ohio River Valley is probably not the most pleasant place to live, but the wildflowers certainly put on a show, both in blooms and scents.

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A visit to the garden in late spring

One of my blog readers recently asked to see more of the garden than just my flower paintings.  So I thought I’d take you on a little tour.

The immediate yard around the house is about two acres and it sits in the middle of the whole property.  Much of that is in woods, fields, streams and some fields.  Very private.  Love it.

The Big Chicken standing in a bed of Lilies of the Valley

As visitors drive up the long lane which turns at the end, they’re greeted with my giant chicken.  His head bobs on a spring in the wind. Children and silly grownups like to beat on it with a stick so it sounds like a metal drum.  It stands in a patch of lilies of the valley which acts as a ground cover of sorts.

The main garden, about 40 x 60.

To the left and south of the house is the main garden which is about 40 x 60.  We have this plowed each spring and then I plant it in thirds, rotating crops each year.  Here you can see two crops of sweet corn, many varieties of tomatoes and peppers, some eggplant, squash, beans, herbs, and always always flowers, including a whole row of sunflowers.  I do all the planting and hoeing between plants.  My husband rototills between rows.  However, by late July, most of the garden takes care of itself.

The spring garden. Onions, garlic, pea pods, kale, asparagus patch, with spinach and lettuce bolting in the cold frame.

This is the spring garden which is pretty messy this time of year.  Three kinds of onions, garlic, kale, lettuce and spinach bolting in the cold frame, asparagus, and to the far left two more kinds of squash.

Some patio pots. These are usually in direct sunlight.

I have several flowerbeds and an herb bed, but I found it easier to maintain flowers in pots.  So, there is an eclectic collection of about 40.  Some flowers for sun, some for shade.

More pots, this time with shade plants.

A little pot on my studio porch. Just because I had extra flowers.

At the far east side of the yard is an old perennial bed.  This time of year you can find weigela, yellow garden loosetrife, lilies, lambs ear, coreopsis and much more.  It’s always something. The columbine is past.  Yet to bloom will be yucca, gladiolas, purple cone flower, and I have forgotten what else. And, I love my favorite flying pig garden sculpture made from old farm implements.  It bounces in the wind, too.

East perennial bed with flying pig.

There is always something new to see in the garden.  I tidy it up once or twice a year but am not obsessed with having every weed pulled and tamed.  There are successes and failures.  Some plants readily reseed themselves.  Some even seem to move! The raspberries will be coming soon.  The day lilies are blooming.  It’s just a pleasure to walk around nearly any time of year.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine,  food and medicine for the soul.   –  Luther Burbank

Flowers, flowers and more flowers

Pile of paintings. This a a stack of recent flower paintings, usually four to a sheet. Watercolor, pen and ink. Kit Miracle

May has been the hottest month on record in these parts. I’ve been trying to capture local flowers in watercolor with pen and ink but the heat has pushed everything into high gear.  The flowers are blooming faster than I can paint them.

Hurricane Alberto dumped some rain on us but it wasn’t too bad.  Unfortunately, accompanying winds broke off a large limb of a maple tree in the back yard.  More clean up and some firewood.

Persimmon flowers. These waxy, bell-shaped flowers on the persimmon tree will yield wonderful fruit in late summer. Watercolor, pen and ink, 10.5 x 14. Kit Miracle

And the vegetable garden, about 60 x 40 for the main garden, plus the additional spring garden which includes the cold frames, asparagus area, onions and garlic, peas and the squash patch.  I planted this entirely. Yippee.  And it needs hoeing as soon as I can get in there after the mud.

This doesn’t count the nearly forty flower pots, plus flower beds, plus general spring tidying.

And, of course, trimming bushes coming up this week.

Sheesh.

Four flowers. A typical quarter sheet of watercolor paper has been divided into four sections. Here you can see lamb’s ear, weigela, Venus looking glass, and lavender.

I really want to paint something besides flowers.  I keep telling myself, OK, they’re all done.  Then a walk through the yard reveals some more.  Stop, already!  Ok, humpf, I’m over it.

Anyway, here is a whole pile of recent paintings.  It’s been fun if hectic.  I’ve spent some time roaming through my plant books and guides to identify each one but if you see some errors, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by.

Homage to a dead bird

Dead bird, wood thrush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

There’s something about birds.

When I’m sitting on the patio in the evening, watching the night fall, listening to the sounds of life wind down, or in some cases, just change from day to night, I love to try to identify the birdsong.  Watch the various birds – robins, blue jays, wrens, the lovely mourning doves.  I love how the birds have adopted our territory as their territory.  We have so many kinds of birds.  Cardinals, goldfinches, bluebirds, owls,  even the dratted starlings in the gutters.

So the other night we found this lovely brown thrush on the ground.  Apparently he’d broken his neck on a window on the greenhouse.  So sad.  Although the cycles of life and death are a given here in the country, each little animal has a pull for me.

I decided to capture this bird in a memorial drawing, watercolor with pen and ink.  Taking the time to capture his tiny but strong feet.  Thinking of them clinging to a twig in the winter.  And admiring the bib of spotted feathers.  His long black beak.

Although his heart beats no more, he shall live on in this small painting.

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, lest you should think he never could recapture the first fine careless rapture!

Robert Browning

Racing spring

About a month ago, here in southern Indiana, we had a white out blizzard.  The snow was coming down sideways, windy, and it stuck to everything.  Very beautiful but frankly, everyone I know around here was pretty darn tired of winter.

White Iris, dark blue background, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Then the past six weeks, we’ve had spring shoving in on us with summer not far behind.  Record high temperatures.  This pushes and squeezes all the flowers in the garden.  I have been hurriedly trying to capture my favorite flowers before they’re gone!

Purple and yellow iris, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 6.5, Kit Miracle

I have several varieties of irises which are always so beautiful to me, from the tall, stately white iris, to the delicate light purple iris.  Some were here when we bought the property.  Some I traded with friends.  They all smell delicious.

Light purple iris, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 6.5, Kit Miracle

The problem with painting in the heat, even in the speedy medium of watercolor and pen and ink, is that the flowers change so rapidly.  I’ll do a painting in the afternoon, then go back to the studio after dinner to discover the elegant iris I painted earlier has crumpled in upon itself.  This is speed painting at its most challenging.

White Iris, light blue background, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

These will be on my Etsy shop in a day or two, if you’re interested.

More spring flowers

Spring bouquet of azaleas and bridal veil bush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

The flowers keep coming and I just can’t seem to paint them quickly enough.  The past week I’ve been working exclusively in watercolor with pen and ink. This allows me to loosely capture the beauty of the flowers but add detail with the pen and ink.

Red Azaleas, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

I always sketch the flower arrangement first, then add the watercolor.  When that is completely dried, I add the details with a Platinum pen and carbon ink cartridge.  Sometimes I still use the dip quill with India ink. I can even use a plastic eraser to remove some of the pencil lines without disturbing the painting.

Lavender Azaleas with Ruffled Edges, watercolor, pen and ink, 6.5 x 4.5, matted to 10 x 8, Kit Miracle

These paintings are usually done on quarter sheet watercolor paper, 140 pound, Arches or another quality paper.  They are 10 x 14 inches with a ½ inch border or I divide the paper into four sections.  The smaller paintings are matted in museum grade soft white mats of 8 x 10 inches with a foam core backing.

Blue Phlox, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Flowers this week include a branch of dogwood, an arrangement of some lovely salmon-color azaleas with fronds of bridal veil.  Smaller paintings include Greek Valerian, Blue Phlox, more varieties of azaleas and whatever else I find blooming.  The season is often so short that I can’t capture everything I want to paint but I give it a good try.

Branch of Dogwood, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

Branch of dogwood flowers for painting

Spring flowers. This is a selection of flowers that I painted recently. I’ve picked up the little vases over the years at resale shops, and even our farm dump. Everything is useful.

View the details of these paintings on either of my Etsy shops.  KitMiracleArt or My90Acres.

Low carb pizza

Low carb pizza

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, then you saw the recipe for the crusty artisan bread that I posted earlier.  My husband loves to make bread of all types, white, whole grain and multigrain.  Unfortunately, all this bread has consequences.  His doctor advised him last year to cut back on the carbs.  Drat!  No bread. No pizza.  Bah!

So I came up with this low carb version of pizza last year which is made from, yes, cauliflower.  Let me just preface this by saying, although we LOVE vegetables in this house, I doubt that a cauliflower has ever crossed our threshold since we’ve lived here…30+ years.  Blech.  A white vegetable that isn’t potatoes?  No way.

However, we are open-minded people so I did some research and this is what I came up with.  No, it does not taste like cauliflower…at all!  Yes, it does taste like yummy pizza.  If you’re watching your carbs, give this recipe a try.  You might like to make two crusts if you’re going to the trouble.  You’ll want to repeat this again.

Ingredients:

  • One large head of cauliflower
  • One egg
  • Goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Decorations for the actual pizza, your choice– your favorite sauce, herbs and spices, peppers, onions, olives, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, veggie crumbles, cheeses (Romano, mozzarella, etc.)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees
  2. Cut up cauliflower into same size flourettes

    Cauliflower flourettes

  3. Add ½ c water, cover with plastic wrap with one side open to let out steam, and steam in microwave until medium soft, about 15 minutes. You may need to stir these every five minutes or so.  It shouldn’t be mushy but just al dente.
  4. Run through food processor until just riced, (not mashed). You may have to do this in batches.

    Steamed flourettes after ricing in food processor, about 20 seconds

  5. Place riced cauliflower in clean, dry kitchen towel, stir a bit to let cool, then squeeze ALL the water out that you can. The more you squeeze, the crustier your pizza crust will be.

    Riced, steamed cauliflower in clean, dry towel before squeezing

    Squeezing out moisture from the steamed, riced cauliflowe

    Riced, steamed cauliflower after squeezing moisture out.

  6. Add egg, goat cheese, salt and pepper and stir.
  7. Press onto parchment-lined pan. You want about ¼ inch with a little higher crust on the edges.

    Cauliflower Pizza crust, baked

  8. Bake 20-25 minutes or until browned on the edges.
  9. Decorate pizza as usual with your favorite toppings.
  10. Lower temp of oven to 375 and bake for another 20-25 minutes until it looks like a pizza.
  11. Cauliflower Pizza, final, baked.

There you go! You’ll be surprised that you can actually hold this like a piece of regular pizza. It does NOT taste like cauliflower.  Manga!

Crusty Artisan Bread

Crusty Artisan Bread

It’s been a raw and unpredictable March with rain, wind, snow, what have you.  If you’re still stuck indoors, here is a VERY EASY and VERY GOOD bread recipe. My husband is the bread maker around here and has many favorites, but this one seems to be a hit with everyone.

Don’t be afraid.  Just do it!  You don’t even have to touch the dough or knead it.  Perfect crusty artisan bread.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of dry yeast

Day 1

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to incorporate.  Cover well with plastic wrap.  Let sit out on the counter overnight (12-18 hours).

Bread in enamel pan

Day 2

You will need an enamel roaster pan with lid.  This should be small size.  The old speckled kind that your grandma used to have will be fine. (Our pan is elongated but a round one works fine, too.)

  • Put the roaster pan and lid into a cold oven.
  • Turn on the heat to 450 degrees
  • When the oven reaches 450 degrees, take out the pan (carefully) and sprinkle with corn meal. (No grease or oil.)
  • Pour the bread mixture into the hot pan, replace lid and bake for 30 minutes
  • Remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes
  • The bread should tip out of the pan easily. It will be crusty on the outside and moist on the inside.

You may add other ingredients when assembling on day 1, such as, dried herbs.

That’s it!  Serve with a pot of homemade soup.  Your friends and family will think you’re a genius.

Original art makes your house a home

Or…ten tips on decorating with art

I am astounded when I walk into someone’s house and they have nothing on their walls! What?!?  It’s like watching one of those home improvement shows and the final reveal shows nothing personal at all; just “wall art” that can be picked up at any decorating store.

Your home is your sanctuary.  It’s where you go to be you.  To be with your family.  If it doesn’t reflect who you are, then who are you?

Are you bohemian or modern?  Are you zen or kitschy?  Maybe you feel most comfortable with Swedish Modern or French Provencial.  Who are you?

Art adds so much to our lives but so many people are afraid to make a choice.  They’re afraid to make a mistake.  Afraid to put a hole in the wall to hang a painting.

So here are a few tips I suggest for choosing art for your home.  Some but not all will ring a bell with you.

  1. Choose the largest piece you can afford and make it a focal point.  Make the colors of your decorating scheme around the painting if you wish.  (But it does not have to match the sofa!)
  2. Do you have a theme in mind? Maybe you collect bird or flower-related items? Landscapes of Nova Scotia?  All pink or red or orange works? Perhaps you just enjoy modern abstract.  Whatever floats your boat, do it.
  3. Group items. Maybe you don’t have that large focal painting, but you can make a focal area by grouping artwork.  They don’t have to be framed all alike, or maybe framed at all.  That’s okay.
  4. Don’t forget bookshelves and sideboards. You can tuck small paintings or artwork into unexpected corners.
  5. Change out your artwork. You don’t have to keep the same pieces up all the time. You can switch them around or change them out as your mood or the seasons dictate.
  6. Avoid too much matchy matchy. Maybe you like Norman Rockwell prints but do you need twelve of them?  Just saying.
  7. How is your family and love for them represented? Do you have a framed painting of a child’s masterpiece?  Try it.  You’ll like it.
  8. Buy what you love. So what if the art you love isn’t currently in vogue.  It’s your living space.  You can have what you want.
  9. Let your art collection grow and go with you. When you move to a new place, hanging your own personal touches will make it feel like home very quickly.
  10. Make your home a retreat. This is the place you can come to kick back and be yourself.

Art makes a house a home.

Random Thoughts on Saturday Night

Fire pit on Saturday Night

Random thoughts on Saturday Night

So I’m sitting outside by the fire pit on Saturday night thinking about this and that.  Cedar wood smells great in general but I smell like a smoked weenie.  Lovely.

I love listening to the sounds at night.  Earlier it was the yipping of coyotes in the big woods.  Then the hounds at the farm over the hill.  Then another hound chimed in.  And the sound of a distant train. My dog decided to add to the chorus. The temperature has dropped so the peepers have stopped.

Watching the kazillions of stars welcome the big moon. And then two planes crossing paths high in the sky.  I could just barely hear them go past.  This is a very rural county.  It boasts not having a single stop light so when it is dark out here, it is dark! I wish I had that app on my phone that identifies all the stars and constellations and satellites.

My thoughts drifted back to last weekend when we were being deluged with eight inches of rain.  The rivers here in southern Indiana are still swollen.

But Monday was sunny and warm.  I volunteered to help out with a school program at the arts center.  As I sat there enjoying the show, I thought how great it is that performers can perform and children can enjoy such programs.  What a wonderful world.

Tuesday was an even more gorgeous day.  My husband and I drove over to Huber winery for a tour, tasting and lunch, courtesy of our youngest son for an anniversary present.  It was a lovely day.  Can’t say much for Google Maps whose directions were sketchy at best. Oh, well, tour the countryside.

Wednesday was a bit rainy.  Indoor activities, shopping in town, and a meeting. Oh, and planted peas.  Ever hopeful for spring.

Thursday, gusty winds and some rain squalls.  I tore down some fencing from the old chicken coop.  It was rusted and entwined with vines.  My eldest son is building a new coop on his place.  At first I was just planning to cut the rusty wire but then I decided to see if I could pull the metal posts.  These are damn heavy!  But with all the rain the ground was soft. I started to rock them back and forth, then pulled one.  Then another.  Constantly checking the trees above me to see if the gusty wind was going to drop a branch on me. The more I worked on the posts, the madder I got.  Finally, I got all the posts pulled out.  And the sun came out.  A feeling of accomplishment; man (or woman) against nature.

Friday I spent preparing for my son and his girlfriend who were visiting for the weekend.  Then lunch with friends.  And some time at the library using the free wifi and researching.  I’m planning on redesigning my website.  Not really looking forward to that but it’s time.

Picked up my granddaughter after school.  So sad that she’s moving out of state and I won’t see her for awhile. She’s such a sweet and creative child and I have had so much fun with her.  We will stay in touch via Skype and the phone.  And she’ll be back for the summer.

All the while, spring is sneaking up on us.  The daffodils and other flowers are coming out.  The grass is greening.  I manage to paint several hours a day.

So, that’s a week in my life in the country.  Random thoughts.  Be grateful for small things.  Enjoy.