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?”
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.
Posted onJanuary 2, 2022|Comments Off on 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve had some pretty warm days this past week so I thought it would be a great opportunity to plant some seeds that I’ve collected this past autumn. I had the kids help me collect a five gallon bucket of black walnuts, and I harvested all my bee balm and redbud seeds.
I took a walk up to the big woods to sow some redbud a couple of weeks ago. This is a beautiful understory tree with pinkish-purple flowers in the spring and heart-shaped leaves the rest of the year. You barely even notice the tree when it is not in bloom. It seems to grow well wherever dogwood will grow. We have lots of dogwood but no redbud except in the yard. I collected all the seed pods that I could (a two gallon bucket) and sowed half of them up in the big woods.
This week I sowed the remainder in the second-growth timber on the west side of the property. I crushed the pods by hand and just scattered them as I walked through the trees. I’m sure some will take eventually.
Also, this past fall, I collected all the bee balm seed heads that I could find. I got a coffee can full. I had noticed earlier this summer that the bee balm that I scattered along the road frontage few years ago had made a nice stand of flowers. Our pollinators always need some more help so I thought this would be a good thing. These seeds I scattered in the west second growth timber, along the lane and more road frontage. We’ll see.
The walnuts are a different matter. These are black walnuts and, as I reported earlier this fall, they can make quite a mess in the yard. Highly desired by cooks and very expensive to buy in the store, the trees can be very prolific as they were this year. We had walnuts everywhere. The trees also emit a chemical called juglone which is often poisonous to other plants nearby. Not counting the mess. I thought if I could get some to grow elsewhere on the property, then we might remove the trees close to the house. In past years, local youth groups would come and pick up the nuts and take them to the mill for money. We were happy; it helped them and they helped us.
So earlier this week I took a walk carting a heavy bucket of black walnuts and a shovel. I planted some and others I just tossed out. The squirrels do a great job of planting the nuts. An arborist friend said they do just as well to be scattered as actually planted.
So later this week, I took the remainder of the big bucket of nuts and scattered them in the woods to the north of our house. We have some oak growing there but plenty of room for more trees. We’ll see.
Looks like some cold weather moving in again so I won’t be planting any more bulbs or nuts or seeds this fall. I would be happy if even ten percent of what I sowed this fall comes up. That will make a difference. And help in my fight against the invaders of honeysuckle, multi-flora roses, Russian olives and privet.
It was nice to see that the Virginia pine trees that we planted over thirty years ago are now tall trees. But most of the white pine were eaten by the deer. Well, somebody benefits in the long run.
If you’d like to learn more about planting trees, I highly recommend the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohleben. I asked my local library to order this book last year. They were a bit skeptical and thought it would have limited interest. However, I was recently told that the book has been off the shelf ever since they got it in. Now it is in audio format, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the extra warm weather this fall – it was 80 degrees here two weeks ago – we have been enjoying our time outdoors. But this is the time of year for fall cleanup. Battening down the hatches, so to speak. The farmer who rents some of our fields picked the beans this week. Amazing how quickly they can move. Sometimes they’ve been out there until one or two in the morning but this time it was daylight.
The garden is plowed and ready for spring. Although we don’t plow every year, often just tilling, this year we decided to do a deep plow. The autumn leaves have been ground up to mulch. Although I still enjoy the meditative quality of raking, I must admit that just grinding the leaves up with the mower is much the easier work.
All the flowerpots are emptied and stowed away. The greenhouse is cleaned, mostly. I’m going to see if the lemon tree can make it through in there. We no longer heat the greenhouse in the winter but on a sunny day, the temps can get to the 80s. The lemon tree was started from seed and, to our surprise, it has thorns! Getting too large and spikey to bring back into the house.
I’ve deadheaded many of the perennials and saved the seeds to sprinkle around in spring. I discovered a patch of beebalm that I’d tossed along the road several years ago. The bees can always use more forage. And I’ve already dug some perennials and replanted them. More to go if I feel like it.
The flowerbeds could use a little more attention but when can’t they? I’ll get to them. Or not. The shop needs cleaning and I never did finish the attic. Oh, well. There’s always something to do here on the old place.
I finally installed the new printer that I purchased a couple of months ago. I’ve been printing out some notecards on it and it does a fine job. Put some of these on one of my Etsy shops and have them in a couple of local shops. Doing some holiday paintings for the local shops, too. But I’m really ready to get back to the bigger work. I have a solo show coming up next spring and still need a few more paintings.
And the holidays are coming up. Well, as I said, it’s always something out here in the country. Hope you’re all staying safe and well. I always welcome your comments.
View of Madison, Indiana, from the inn. It’s a quaint, arty little town about forty minutes up the river from Louisville. I wanted to get a photo of the sunrise in the morning but the whole river valley was fogged in. Couldn’t see a foot in front of myself.
The soft days of autumn seem to be sneaking up on us. From temperatures in the 80s a week ago, to lows in the 50s and even 40s now. I love autumn with the smell of wood smoke and newly fallen leaves. The golden sunshine and the reds and yellows of the leaves. Everything seems to be winding down…but not quite yet.
This is the view from the Clifty Falls Inn. That is the Ohio River and Kentucky on the other side. Another week or two, and those hills will be ablaze with color.
My husband and I visited Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana. This 1400 acre park sits on the banks of the Ohio river and boasts some beautiful views of the river scenes, foliage, and the town of Madison. There is some great hiking here, too. Unfortunately, with the dry September, the falls weren’t running so we’ll have to plan a visit for another time.
The variety of pumpkins and gourds at the farm was amazing. I could have brought home three times as many. But they provide a little fall color for the season. And in the end, get tossed into the chicken pen. The ladies are very appreciative.
We just spent one night at the inn but it was a pleasant getaway. On our return, it seemed as if the leaves had begun changing colors overnight. We stopped to buy pumpkins at the Cornucopia Family Farm. This was our first visit but apparently they have many visitors from a wide area. Whole families were there for the hayrides and popcorn, children’s activities and, well, to buy pumpkins. I have never seen so many varieties. I wanted them all but had to restrain myself.
We discovered this beautiful little country church as we were looking for the pumpkin farm.
As we drove home on the country backroads, we saw little churches and just enjoyed the day. There were several Amish buggies on the roads. It was Saturday, after all. Just so relaxing to be out and about.
Late garden harvest of loads of peppers and a few tomatoes. Plenty more peppers to pick, too!
Summer tasks are winding down here on the farm. The garden has about had it but I’m a hold out for the last green bean. Still have plenty of peppers to pick as well as the sweet potatoes. And the zinnias which I grow for cutting are still vibrant. Some of them are taller than me!
Firewood. This is nice, dry and seasoned firewood and splits easily. The basement is already stacked but there’s plenty more wood to split.
It’s time to put away the fishing gear. Although, really, does the season ever end? The impatiens and coleus are getting a little leggy.
The leaves are starting to turn and drop. We usually just grind them up with the mower for mulch. And our stack of winter firewood is growing. We share a log splitter with the neighbor which is great for gnarly old pieces of wood. But the boys actually like to split the wood by hand with a maul. There is a lot more skill to this than it looks, requiring just the right swinging rhythm and twist of the wrist. It’s nice of them to come out and help the old man out once in awhile.
The zinnias that I use for cutting are still going strong. Some of them are taller than me! In the background are the desiccated stalks of the sunflowers that the goldfinches have stripped. And those poles on the left hold motion sensitive lights which help scare away the night critters. Sometimes.
The next month will find me out tidying up the place before it gets too cold. Maybe sitting by the firepit with a hot beverage and a book. I hope you have a quite place to retreat, too. Enjoy the season.
The last rose. Well maybe, maybe not. Sometimes I bring this little beauty inside in the winter just to enjoy the beautiful perfume on a cold day.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!