Tag Archives: gardening

Spring has finally arrived

I haven’t always had luck with tulips. They’re like candy to the deer. I planted these last fall right next to my studio. Mikey the dog will keep the critters at bay.

Spring has finally arrived in this part of Southern Indiana.  It’s so beautiful that it takes my breath away.  Remember that crayon you used to have in your box called Spring Green?  Well, it’s all over the place now. At this old homestead (over 130 years), there are many established flowers and trees.  Plus we’ve added many more in the three decades that we’ve lived here.

So I thought you’d just enjoy a walk in the country.  Some of these flowers and trees are already on the wain while others have yet to bloom, the redbuds and dogwoods are just coming out now.  Maybe another post about them later.

An in and out day with the scudding clouds chasing the sunshine. I love the spring greens.

Little pansies are so cheerful. These came from an early foray to the local garden center about a week ago. I couldn’t help myself.

A cheerful crab apple next to the garden. This is a start from the original which was a Mother’s Day present to me many years ago.

More tulips basking in the sunshine.

A friendly little toady emerging from the leftover leaves. He looks a little ragged. I expect he’d like a nice breakfast of some juicy bugs.

The east fields, still soggy from the night’s rain. More clouds and sun shadows.

Bluebells and narcissus. These have become naturalized in several spots of the yard and I have more plans to move some starts elsewhere this spring.

I love violets. They come in so many variations but these deep purple ones seem to be dominant.

Mixed Bouquet

Mixed Bouquet, original painting, 20 x 16, impressionistic style, Kit Miracle

Spring is finally ready to pop here in Southern Indiana.  The early daffodils and crocuses are out in force.  The tulips are up but not yet blooming.  I’m not sure if the narcissus will make it after the deep freeze  a week ago but the forsythias are ready to pop.

Meanwhile I’m still in the mood to paint flowers which finds me scouring my old photos.  This painting was based on a small bouquet of mixed zinnias from my garden.  I think the greens are sprigs of coriander with added bits of phlox and sweet peas.

Painting flowers is much more challenging than most people realize.  Some artists are so talented in painting every pistol and stamen but that is not my style. I prefer to capture the feel of the flower.  This is called impressionism.

As you can see if you view the detail photos, brush strokes are a mix of bold and soft.  It takes some practice to achieve this effect but all I can advise is to keep at it.  Or, wipe it off or paint over any less than desirable areas.

Mixed Bouquet, detail 1. Another closeup of the flowers. Loosely painted in impressionistic style.

Mixed Bouquet, detail 2. Notice the loose strokes and variegated painting.

Mixed Bouquet, original painting, Kit Miracle

This painting can be viewed on my Etsy shop here.

When you take a flower into your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.  Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower.  I want them to see it, whether they want to or not. 

      Georgia O’Keeffe

Spring cleanup

These cheery yellow crocuses are the first to bloom this year. They get extra warmth and shelter near this rock wall.

After what seems like weeks of rain, wind and generally yucky weather (yes, that is an actual meteorological description in the Midwest), we finally had a beautiful sunny and relatively warm day with temps in the 50s.  I couldn’t wait to get outside for a bit.  This is the time of year to clean up all the winter debris.  I know I raked those flower beds so where did all these leaves come from?

This is just a small portion of the area still covered by the chestnut seed hulls. I raked four wheelbarrow loads today and have as much again to rake tomorrow. They didn’t decompose much over the winter.

A big mess in the yard was our last chestnut which we cut down a week ago.  We had already cut down two companions previously.  The Chinese chestnut is a beautifully shaped tree with an umbrella-shaped top, large leaves, beautiful grayish bark and, of course, lots of chestnuts.  These trees were very prolific.  This would not normally be a problem as we have plenty of room – ninety acres, remember – and we have loads of other nut-bearing trees.  Oaks, walnuts, hickory, plus fruit trees.

Chestnut seed hulls remind me of spiny sea urchins. They are very painful to handle or step on. I only use leather gloves to work with them.

However, chestnuts have a seed hull which is very prickly, like a spiny sea urchin.  You can only handle them with leather gloves and they are very painful to step on.  They are also very prolific. When we cut down the first two chestnuts, we thought that we wouldn’t get any more seed pods without the pollinators.  That was a mistaken idea.  As you can see by the debris on the ground, there was still plenty to clean up.

I spent a couple of hours raking and gathered four wheelbarrow loads of hulls.  There is still as much again to do tomorrow.  What I couldn’t rake will eventually decompose but it will probably be a few years before anyone can go barefoot in that part of the yard.

Chestnut woodpile. All of this wood came from one tree.

Chestnut wood is beautiful with a grayish-green color and kind of stripey. It is also very dense and heavy.

It was a beautiful day.  The first crocuses were finally brave enough to pop out.  I even spotted a few spring beauties in bloom.  In about a month, they will carpet the lawn so it looks like snow.

One of my favorite wildflowers and early harbinger of spring. Spring beauties have a delicate pink stripe which can’t be seen in this photo. I’ll try for another shot later.

I sure was ready for lunch and a rest.  And our dog Mikey was ready, too.  Keeping me company and following me around was hard work.

You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside, but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel, if one can only get at it.  Love will make you show your heart someday, and then the rough burr will fall off.

Louisa May Alcott

Baby it’s cold outside. Let’s make soup!

Homemade beef vegetable soup and homemade bread slathered with butter. Perfect meal for a chilly day.

A nasty weather front barreled down on us yesterday.  Rain for several hours.  Then a drastic drop in temperatures, the winds picked up and came at us from the northeast, and all that rain turned to ice and snow.  What to do?

Let’s make soup!

It should be no great secret that in this house with two cooks, we make a lot of soup.  It was my turn today and I decided to make a hearty beef vegetable soup.  There is a big difference between soups and stews.  Stews are thicker with larger pieces and fewer vegetable varieties.  Minestrone soup is a whole different thing; usually two kinds of meats, different vegetables, and cooked in a different manner.

Today’s beef vegetable soup started with a shopping trip to the freezer,  We plant a large garden and put up a quantity of vegetables.  This trip netted diced tomatoes, green beans, ground beef and homemade beef broth.

Shopping basket from the freezer. Ground beef, homemade beef broth, diced tomatoes, green beans.

Homemade vegetable soup can have many varieties and even mine are not exactly the same each time.; it depends upon what I have on hand. I usually chop the vegetables pretty small so they are similar in size and will cook the same.  I used a six quart pot but we often use a very large soup pot, 10 -12 quarts. This is what I put in today’s special.

  • Ground beef, 1 ½ pounds
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped carrots (five)
  • Beef broth
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • A couple handfuls each of quinoa, lentils, and orzo pasta. I would have used alphabet pasta but was out.  Any kind of tiny pasta or even broken spaghetti or noodles will work.
  • Corn, one can
  • Potatoes, three
  • Finely chopped kale (I was out of cabbage)
  • Spices and seasonings – salt, coarse ground pepper, garlic powder, beef cubes

Step 1:  Brown the beef in a couple of tablespoons of oil, breaking it up as you go.  Then drain any fat off.

Step 1:  Add the chopped onions and carrots.  Carrots take a long time to cook so they get added near the beginning.  Stir until softened.

Step two. (Step one is just browning the beef in a couple of tablespoons of oil. Drain any fat off after the beef is cooked.) Carrots and onions are added at the beginning as they take longer to cook.

Step 3:  Add the beef broth and beef cubes.  Add diced tomatoes, bring to simmer.

Step 4:  Add a few handfuls of lentils, quinoa, and tiny pasta.  Don’t use larger beans unless they’re canned or pre-cooked.  They won’t cook in time and no one likes crunchy beans.

Step 5:  Simmer and stir.

Step 6:  Add green beans and corn.  Cabbage or in this case, kale.  Bring back to simmer.

Step three. After the diced tomatoes and handsful of dried goods (lentils, quinoa, tiny pasta) have come to a boil and simmered, then add the chopped green beans, corn and finally the potatoes. Let it all simmer until done.

Step 7:  Add chopped potatoes and then let simmer until all the vegetables are done.

Serve with some homemade bread.  Yummm!

Beef vegetable soup, final. It is thick but not thickened like stew. Very hearty!

This freezes well but I don’t think we’ll have much left over.  And I’ll have to keep my husband from giving it all away as he is apt to do. He’s a very generous person.

We’re hunkered down and holding our own against the storm.

What’s on your menu these days?

Gardening news, odds and ends

Fresh picked basil, destemmed, washed and ready to be made into pesto.

We use a lot of basil in our cooking so I always plant plenty.  Instead of planting it in pots, I just sow the tiny seeds directly into the garden.  They’re about as big a specks of pepper but are very easy to grow.  If you’re diligent about weeding them when they’re just emerging, then you’ll have a big healthy crop.

Today was a drizzly, rainy overcast day.  Perfect for indoor work so I decided to make pesto.  I picked a huge bunch (overly ambitious) and set to work.  This is the pile of basil leaves after destemming and culling.  I ended up making six batches of pesto and then froze the rest of the leaves for other use.  I froze the pesto in my silicon muffin pan (they slipped out nicely when frozen) and an ice cube tray (not so much.) This will be so yummy in winter in a sauce or directly on pasta.  Yummm.

Squash plants with rag mulch. Still going strong.

The second item I want to report is an experiment I tried this year with my summer squash and zucchini.  I always plant a good row of these vegetables but it seems they die off halfway through the summer, mostly due to squash vine borer I’m guessing.  This year I decided to mulch the vines with some rags (old sheets and jeans).  I did this primarily to keep the squash from coming into contact with the soil as they tend to rot quickly.  But I had heard that there’s some connection between the squash vine borer bug and the soil so, why not?

The row of squash and zucchini. Notice the difference in growth. The zucchini (nearest) is nearly gone while the summer squash (rear) is still thriving.

One of two zucchini plants with a rag mulch. Still thriving, also.

Well, I’ll let you be the judge.  Most of the rags were placed under the summer squash plants which are still producing heavily.  I only had enough rags to place under two zucchini plants.  Result:  All of the summer squash plants are still blooming and producing, as are the two zucchini plants.  The rest of the zucchini plants have died.  So, this will definitely be on the list of experiments to try again next year.

The rags allow the soil to breathe and lets the water in while keeping down weeds.  I might try this with cardboard next year, too.  And I do rotate the crops in the garden every year.  Certainly worth trying again.

Finally, as Facebook is changing its rules, where I used to have my blog posts automatically repost to my personal Facebook profile, it will now be directed to my Facebook page KitMiracleArt.  You can follow me there.  Otherwise, I’ll try to remember to repost this to my personal profile.  I usually post on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Thanks again for stopping by.  I always love to hear from you.

Mid-July garden update

A pretty little sunflower playing peek-a-boo. I love the patterns of the seeds.

Outdoor activities have been limited lately due to the extreme heat and humidity. Plus ozone alerts.  Who would think that in a county which is heavily forested and has such low population that we don’t even have a traffic light, we would have trouble with air quality?  It’s the Ohio River Valley influence again.

Any work that must be done outdoors is usually in the early morning.  However, some relief is in sight with cooler weather predicted for the next few weeks.

Garden in July. Still looking pretty good. The corn in the far right of the photo has been harvested. We’ll take the used stalks to the neighbor for his cattle. Squash vines dying. Plenty of basil and cilantro which should be harvested soon. Now is when the real work begins.

The garden is still looking pretty good but doesn’t seem to be producing as much as most years.  We are usually overwhelmed with zucchini and summer squash this time of year but not this year.  Also, green beans that we generally pick by the bucket seem sparse.  The first crop of corn has been harvested and put up.  Thanks to Mikey the guard dog for keeping the raccoons out of the corn patch. And it looks as if the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will be plentiful.  Just not yet.

Garden in July. Flowers for cutting. Peppers coming on. Squash vines dying.

One of my great pleasures is planting flowers for cutting in the garden.  I love to bring in big bouquets for the house.  The varieties change from year to year but I always have a row or two of sunflowers, especially the mammoth and the multi-stemmed varieties.  Zinnias, cosmos, nasturtiums, are usually sown, but I add other varieties, such as baby’s breath.

The many containers with flowers seem to be holding up well, probably due to better watering and care.  This is one reason to plant in pots.  The flower beds could use a good weeding and some more mulch but that will have to wait until the cooler weather next week.

Living in the country makes one cognizant of the cycles of nature, whether it’s the heat of summer or the cold of winter. I think it’s easy to lose sight of man’s connection to his environment if you don’t experience some contact with nature every day.  Just my humble opinion.

I hope that you get some time outdoors this summer.

In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.  John Muir

Calla Lilies and Other Garden Musings

Happy Independence day, everyone!  Celebrating here in the United States. Family, friends, plenty of good things to eat.  And maybe a beautiful tour through the garden.

Calla Lily, Picasso variety, watercolor, pen and ink, 14.5 x 10.5, Kit Miracle

The calla lily is in bloom.  This is the standard Picasso variety. It seems to require no care at all except to weed around it once in awhile. Unfortunately, Japanese beetles, slugs and snails love to munch on these lovely blossoms.

I love these tall, elegant blooms. They’re somewhat waxy in texture and will last a few days.

Calla lilies seemed to be a common motif in the art deco period, maybe for their simple lines and shapes.  I also like their speckled leaves.

Calla Lily plant in the garden

Fair as a lily, and not only the pride of life, but the desire of his eyes.

Charlotte Bronte

Trusty Guard Dog, Mikey

On another front, the first planting of sweet corn is nearly ready; only a couple of days left.  This time last year, the raccoons came one night and decimated the crop.  Thus, our trusty guard dog is being posted out by the garden. Based on his enthusiastic barking last night, I think his presence was effective.  A couple of more days before we can harvest.  Mikey says he’s tired and needs some sleep.

What a difference a week makes

We returned from vacation last Monday and have been playing catch-up in the garden this week.  Apparently we had seven inches of rain while we were gone for ten days.

The main garden, about 40 x 60.  June 7th before we left.

Here is a photo of the garden right before we left.

The garden on June 21st. Quite a difference, eh?

And here are a couple of  photos of the garden after we returned.  After it’s been hoed and weeded, of course.  Corn at least two or three feet taller.  Everything else coming along.  Already harvested squash and peas.  Lots more to come.

 

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.

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