Tag Archives: gardening

A Year of Change and Adventure

The Midwest has been locked in a deep freeze for the past few days and will continue to be for the next several.  This is a good time to snuggle in the warmth of the house with a hot cup of tea and reflect on the changes and adventures of the past year.

Leaving the office on the last day. Walls empty. Bulletin board empty. Most of the paperwork gone. Lots of memories.

The most dramatic change for me this year was my decision to retire last spring.  Leaving a job that I loved, my wonderful work family, and in the middle of an exciting new building project which had been on my wish list for a decade was difficult.  The hardest part was making the decision.  However, City Council approved the funding for our part of the building, the Library referendum passed, donors made huge commitments, and an energetic and intelligent young replacement was found.  I was able to walk out the door with a light heart knowing that Jasper Arts would be in good hands.

This left more time to pursue my own interests or get back to them.

First and foremost was my painting.  Although I’ve been a professional artist for over thirty years, job demands and time constraints meant there was less time for creative pursuits.  I never gave up my art but now I am able to devote as much time as I want to it, which is generally several hours every day.

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

My schedule is pretty much my own.  I can get up when I want but that’s usually pretty early. Hard to break that 5:30 a.m. habit.  Now I can linger over that second cup of tea and my commute is only 30 feet from the back door.

I have been catching up on ten years of projects (how often does one really need to clean out the attic?)  Satisfying but not usually on top of the To Do list.

Gardening is another passion.  This year I was able to get outside before the heat of the day instead of dealing with chores at the end of the day.  Very nice.

My bike is tuned up.  I used to ride 100 miles a week and hope to get up there again this coming year.

Reading, of course, is always high on my agenda and I have eclectic tastes.  No more business or fundraising books!  Yay!

A short nap after lunch is always a nice thing to insert into the middle of the day.  (Apologies to those of you who can’t take advantage of this.)

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

My husband and I took our first winter vacation in thirty years this year. Couldn’t do that when the kids were young and in school, then later when I was working because winter is the busy season for the performing arts.

The Huntress I – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

Our charming granddaughter was also able to spend much of the summer with us.  She loves the beach (of beautiful Lake Patoka nearby), anything to do with nature or bugs or animals, painting and crafting with grandma, and is game for just about any adventure.

At the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh

We traveled back to Pennsylvania to visit relatives.  While there I took her to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh where she could see real dinosaur bones up close.  She was elated.

And my husband and I took a fall trip back to Massachusetts to visit relatives. We visited the iconic Rockport sea town and stopped off at Stockbridge on our way back.  We also took a detour to Niagara on our return.  It’s big…and loud!

Rockport, Massachusetts

Niagara Falls

There were family barbecues, day trips to interesting places, some plein air painting, and just time to kick back next to the fire pit and enjoy the day.  What could be better?

So, goodbye to 2017.  It was a good year.  Now I’m making plans for 2018.

Stay tuned.

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Cedar bench for the garden

Cedar bench featuring Southern Indiana cedar boards

Cedar trees are indigenous to southern Indiana and many parts of the Midwest.  An evergreen, they add color to the winter landscape.  They often grow on soil where other trees can’t seem to get a foothold, limestone, sandstone, and rocky.

This year my family surprised me with refinishing two cedar benches in the garden.  Although the benches were still serviceable, after 25 years, they needed an update.  This locally cut cedar was selected due to its resistance to insect damage and other wear.  I was told by the guys that even the old cedar boards were still in pretty good shape beneath the surface of lichen and weathered materials.

The iron bench supports were repainted and new boards were planed and sanded for this lovely look.  If you are not familiar with cedar, it has a wonderful smell which will fade in time as will the bright coloring to a silvery grey.

I’m looking forward to spending some time on these benches this coming year (whenever a gardener has time to rest).  They also are a reminder of my mother who owned the original benches so I guess they’re about 40 years old now. I remember many conversations we had on those benches over the years.

Autumn in the country

Most people think of autumn as the time to slow down, but here in the country, we have work to do before we can take it easy.  We’ve had a couple of hard frosts but the weather has actually been pretty balmy in the 50s and 60s.  This really helps extend the growing season here in southern Indiana.

Fall view in the country, looking down to the creek.

One of my favorite things to do is look for the hardy flowers that are still blooming, even after the frost.  I still have some geraniums, alyssum, Sweet William, and even one tiny confused violet.  There is almost always some flower which manages to make an appearance except in deepest winter.

Hardy flowers that survived a hard frost. Alyssum, geranium, sweet William and a tiny violet.

We also like to plant a fall garden.  As you can see by the photos, the frost killed the weeds but the kale is still happily growing.  The cold frame will protect some more kale and lettuce until probably early December.  We’ve got fall peas growing but ….no blooms.  And probably no pollinators if we did have blooms.  The asparagus and garlic have been put to bed under straw.

Garlic bed under the straw and some happy kale. See how well it survived the frost which killed the weeds.

Fall peas look great but no blooms, and probably no pollinators. Note to self: plant earlier next year.

Cold frame with kale and lettuce. Asparagus bed behind under the straw. We will cover the cold frame as the weather gets colder.

My husband has a deer blind in a small grove of locust trees overlooking the bottom field and creek where we often see deer.  I’m not really worried that he’s going to get a deer as he’s only gotten ONE in thirty years.  But….you never know.  And the toll the deer population takes on cars in this area is steep.  Our family alone has hit seven deer over the years.

Deer blind overlooking the creek and lower field.

Our wood pile is growing. Today the guys dragged several logs out of the woods as it’s easier to cut and split them all in one place, plus they handle the wood less than when they cut and split it in the woods. Thanks also to our son who came home for the weekend to help out.  This is hard work!

Cutting firewood on a Saturday morning in November.

The walnuts have been picked up by the boy scouts who turned them in for money at the mill.  What they missed, the squirrels are tucking away.

Fall at the creek. We have several creeks but pass this one every day as we go over it on the drive.

This giant oak tree has history and is one of my favorite trees on the property. I call it The Sentinel as it “guards” the driveway.

And, it’s just a beautiful time to take a walk and enjoy the season while I can.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to our country place.  Feedback is always welcome.

Painting wildflowers

Swamp Mallow – wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

After almost four months into retirement, I’ve been able to devote a lot more time to my creative side.  This means time spent in the studio as well as venturing out for plein air painting.

One thing that I’ve been having fun with this summer is painting wildflowers.  With 90 acres, plus the many streams, country roads, fields and forests in the area, there is plenty of subject matter. In a ten minute walk in almost any direction I can snag a handful of different wildflowers.  And the variety keeps changing throughout the season.

Joe Pye Weed – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

My love for wildflowers was born in college when I took a couple of terms of field botany.  (Please don’t ask me to categorize any plant through Gray’s Botany; I have totally forgotten how.)  But I spent one summer doing an independent study of wildflowers with my amazing professor, Lucky Ward.  We would travel together on dusty back roads, collecting samples for the college museum and to press.  What an experience!

Goldenrod – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Wildflowers have always remained beloved friends even though they are often overlooked by many, or just considered “weeds.”  Too bad.

Trumpet vine – wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

So this summer I’ve tackled identifying and painting a lot of local flowers.  These are not botanical drawings but merely simple watercolor with pen and ink sketches.  My aim is to capture the beauty that surrounds us in the small bits of color that we pass so blythely by.

Evening Primrose – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

So, what to do with all these little paintings?  I decided to start an Etsy shop called, of course, My90Acres to sell them.  No sales so far but I’m hopeful.

Queen Ann’s Lace, wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Meanwhile, I’ll still be hiking through the weeds, chiggers and all, to see what is blooming this week.

Red clover or purple clover, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Jewel Weed – wildflower, watercolor pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Toadflax – wildflower, watercolor, pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Studio visit – where the magic happens!

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

I love to visit the studios of other artists, to nose around and see how they work, what materials they use, how they store materials and artwork.  Sometimes I get great ideas but it’s just wonderful to see what the other artists do.

So I’m inviting you to visit my studio.

Over thirty years ago, my husband and I decided to leave the corporate world and purchased a small farm in Southern Indiana.  This was always a dream of mine so he mostly came along for the ride.  If you are not familiar with this part of the country, it is totally beautiful with woods and fields, gently rolling hills, lakes and streams. And not too many people.  I like to say it’s like New England without the crowds.

We live in a 150 year old farm house with a large garden, a couple of orchards, and plenty of the aforementioned woods and fields and streams.  We raised two sons here and have enjoyed living in a county that doesn’t even have one stoplight…and we’re proud of it.

My studio is the old summer kitchen so my commute is about 30 feet from the back door.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term, summer kitchens were popular in the days of wood-fired stoves to keep the heat out of the house…in the summer!  They are very common on old homesteads in the midwest and south.  And it’s very nice for me to have an area to keep my art separate both physically and mentally from the rest of the house.

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Don’t forget to visit my art website at kgmiracle.com  or my Etsy shop.

My Blue Door Studio,the old summer kitchen is about 30 feet from my back door. The blue is Electric Blue, a lucky southwest color. Hey, why not?

View from the front door through the studio. It is a two-room space.

View from my artist chair to the front door of the studio.

A broader view of the front room of the studio. This used to be the dining room for the field hands during the summer.

It may looks a bit haphazard but I know where everything is…usually.

Broader view from the back room into the front room.

This large pantry in the back room of the studio is where I store many objects for still lifes. The old wood cook stove was back here, too. I can’t imagine how many meals were fixed here, as well as all the canning that was done.

Storage is always a premium for artists. Where does one PUT all this art?

This is where the magic happens. The easel for oil painting. The flat table for watercolor and some drawing. Everything I need within a hand’s reach.

Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting Event at Jasper, Indiana

I have only been into retirement about three weeks but, frankly, I have been sooooo busy!  I know, all retirees say that.  But it’s true.  It rained nearly the entire first week with some epic flooding in this area.  I spent much of that week just organizing the stuff I brought home from my office (too much after 17 years).  And making lists.  I’m a list maker and have always been one.  Just love checking off those items.

After awhile, however, I reminded myself that I didn’t want my entire retirement to be one big To Do list.  I want to have some fun!

So I signed up for the Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting event sponsored by Jasper Community Arts.  I have never been able to participate before since I am an employee so I was grateful for the opportunity this year.  It is also co-sponsored by another organization I belong to, RunawayArtists.com.

This two-day event was on the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Friday predictions were for more rain so I tried to think of somewhere sheltered to paint.  I asked my friends at Green Thumb Nursery if they would mind if I painted there and they were delighted so that is where I began.  It was a very pleasant morning with the rain pattering on the roof and painting among all the flowers.  The most difficult part was to find the right corner where I wouldn’t be in the way of all the Mother’s Day shoppers. The angle wasn’t the most desirable as I couldn’t back up enough to gauge the proper perspective, but a lovely morning, all in all.

Plein Air Painting at Green Thumb on a rainy day. Kit Miracle

Plein Air Painting at the garden center. Oil on canvas, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

Watching all the shoppers come in for holiday, I thought that I might stick with the flowers theme and went to the other side of town to paint in the Walmart garden center.  It was an awesome display of flowers!  Again, I found an out of the way spot to paint.  I was particularly enamored with the bright colors of the kayaks propped against the building contrasting with all the flowers.  You have to develop a pretty thick skin to paint in such a public and well-trafficked space but it didn’t bother me at all.  No one from the store came up and asked what I was doing but I did have a few customers asked if I worked there.  It must have been my painting apron.  Ha ha.

Painting at the garden center at Walmart on the day before Mother’s Day. Kit Miracle

The Garden Center at Walmart. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12, Kit Miracle

Finally, at the end of the afternoon, I participated in the Quick  Draw event at the Schaeffer Barn in downtown Jasper.  This old log barn was moved here and restored and has a beautiful garden space.  Always something interesting to paint.  This is a timed event and the artists only have two hours to complete a painting.  I came in third.  Yay!

Painting at the Schaeffer Barn, Quick Draw event.

Schaeffer Barn Quick Draw event. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12. Kit Miracle Third place winner!

The second day of the event I worked in the morning as a volunteer.  Later in the day I did some more plein air painting at a different garden center but nothing came of it.  Sometimes it works that way. I must have used all my creative juices the day before.  But that is alright.  I met some very nice artists and had a good time in the fresh air.

Yay! Spring is here!

Blue Bells and Narcissus

I think that people who live close to nature are generally more attuned to the seasons.  Every little bulb that pokes its nose up, the buds on the trees and bushes, and even the wrens making their nest on my front porch.

Hostas and bluebells in early spring

Here are just a few of this spring’s observations on My 90 Acres.  Missed posting the daffodils and forsythias but that is what happens.  Time and nature keep moving on.

A yard full of spring beauties

Close up of spring beauties and violets

Probably won’t be burning too much more wood in the wood stove.  It’s been a mild winter but we always feel like squirrels hoarding nuts when we have big piles of firewood.  It will keep until next winter.

End of winter firewood pile

Spring planting

One of the nicest things about living in the country is being able to grow our own food.  We like the fresh from garden to table taste as well as knowing what is (and isn’t) in our produce.  We’re not fanatics about it (at least I don’t think we are) as there are many things we’ve tried over the years but which just aren’t worth the trouble.  For instance, carrots and potatoes are cheaper to buy in the store or farmer’s market than grow ourselves.  Too labor intensive.

But one of the things we enjoy doing most is pushing the seasons.  We have a spring/fall garden area, separate from the main garden, with a cold frame and some area to plant cooler weather crops.  Here we grow kale, lettuce, asparagus, snow peas and onions.

Lettuce in cold frame – black seeded simpson, bibb, siberian kale, and mixed kale. Planted mid February.

What you see here are two kinds of lettuce and Siberian kale that we planted back in mid-February.  We should be eating this next week.  The cold frame is covered with screen, and in colder weather, a top with plastic, and sometime if we get a late snow or freeze, a blanket.  The lettuce and kale will keep coming until June.  Then we replant it in September to eat in November and early December.  No pesticides or sprays at all.

Sweet onions, planted early March

We’ve planted onions sporadically over the years but always had trouble keeping them.  We dried them on screens or put them in the shop refrigerator, but they still spoiled.  So last year I pointed out to my husband that since we mostly cook with them, why not just chop them all up and freeze them.  So that is what we did.  With the aid of the food processor, it didn’t take any time at all process them all.  It was so easy to just grab a few handfuls whenever we were making soups, stews, or other recipes which called for chopped onion.  This year we’re experimenting with several varieties but we really like the large sweet onions.

Starting seeds in greenhouse. The mousetraps are because the mice kept digging up the seeds!

The garlic has been another challenge.  We planted two kinds last fall.  One made it and one totally died.  My husband did the planting and didn’t mark which was which, pointing out the necessity of keeping good records.  We all have faulty memories and it’s often difficult to recall when and what we planted after the passage of several months.

Sure am looking forward to that lettuce, though!

Sometimes you’ve just got to paint

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

We’ve all heard the  admonishment that you need to create art every day.  But…life gets in the way.  Jobs, family, gardening, etc.  Sometimes I find all my  have-t0′s overwhelming my urge to create.  This weekend I just had to paint.

Yesterday, before I could get overly involved in the rest of the home tasks, I trucked my painting gear out to the front yard and painted this flowerbed which has been calling me for weeks.  It seems to be a symphony of purples, mauves, and yellows this time of year.  The heat was oppressive.  The humidity was drenching.  But I had a great time.

For you gardeners out there, you’re looking at purple cone flower, bee balm, weigela, daylilies, lambs ear, and a giant yucca.  The flying pig is a bit difficult to make out but he’s one of my favorite yard statues, as he bounces on his spring in a strong breeze.  Symbol of not-quite-lost causes.

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Then, this morning I decided to capture this weed, Giant Moth Mullen.  It is already 5 feet tall and will probably top 6 or 7 feet.  It has fuzzy leaves, similar to lambs ear and the most interesting curly-type leaves and stalk.  It will eventually have a tall spike of yellow flowers which in turn, will produce seeds that the goldfinches love.  Probably how it came to be growing near my cellar door.  Majestic!

BTW, I was inspired by a blog challenge by James Gurney, who held a recent competition of people who paint weeds.  This painting is not entered as it is past date, but I thought it was a perfect subject.

Peonies en Plein Air

PeoniesattheEndoftheSeason

Peonies at the end of the season. Watercolor / pen and ink. Plein air. Kit Miracle

I had a little time today after doing the heavy gardening to do this watercolor / pen and ink of our peonies.  I love them in the spring but it seems their season is always too short.  They’re gone before I really get to enjoy them.  The weather was warm but breezy with a few spritzes of rain.  I tried to capture the blowseyness of the blossoms but I’m afraid that this painting makes them look better than they are.