Tag Archives: orchard

Night visitors

Living out in the near wilderness, we are often beset with furry critters set on eating our produce. Our 90 acres is more like a big park than a real farm. We don’t mind sharing but…there’s plenty for the animals to eat without invading the garden and orchards.

Recently we noticed that something was munching on the fallen apples. So we set up the deer cam in the orchard. My goodness, but there is a LOT of activity out there. Plenty of deer, lots of raccoons (and babies), and one slinky coyote. This isn’t counting all the rabbits and squirrels that set off the camera.

And for those of you who think raccoons are cute little masked bandits, think again. They are vicious creatures who just enjoy the pleasure of killing a whole flock of chickens in a single night.

Anyway, we’re really trying to capture a photo of a bobcat or mountain lion rumored to be living in these parts. We’ll move the deer cam into the woods soon and see what we will see.

Day visitors - a whole herd of deer munching on peaches  8:45 a.m.

Day visitors – a whole herd of deer munching on peaches 8:45 a.m.

Big buck 10:15 p.m.

Big buck 10:15 p.m.

Raccoon stealing bait from trap 5:08 a.m.

Raccoon stealing bait from trap 5:08 a.m.

Wylie Coyote 1:43 a.m.

Wylie Coyote 1:43 p.m.

Evening muncher 6:45 p.m.

Evening muncher 6:45 p.m.

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Country living, the good and the bad

If you’ve been following my blog then you know that I live in a 130+ year old

Seckle Pears, also called sugar pears

farmhouse in a county that doesn’t even have a single stoplight (and they’re proud of it.)  This is a big change from the megalopolis that I lived in 25 years ago where I had to fight three and a half million people to work every day.  Yippee for rush hour!  Now my drive is about 25 minutes of beautiful rolling countryside.  Yeah, the weather can affect that which is why I have 4 wheel drive.  It’s a necessity out here.

I often have people say to me, How can you stand to be so far away from everything?  Don’t you miss the services in the big city?  What about shopping?  I just give them one of those are you kidding me? looks.  So…I have satellite TV.  I have satellite internet which is faster than my high speed internet at work.  And, well, UPS delivers.  I’m only about an hour from an international airport but I live in the middle of my 90 acres.  Taxes are low.  I can’t see even a single neighbor from my house.  And those neighbors that I have, I actually know.  As an aside, did you ever realize that when you are packed in like sardines in the city, that you often don’t even know your next door neighbor?  How sad is that? 

My mailman will actually bring a package to my door and, if I’m not home, just stick it in my studio.  My husband exchanges recipes with the UPS guy.  If you need help, you just call someone.  People actually show up!  And much of the payment for services might be a basket of pears or some fresh eggs.  Or an I’ll catch you later

In case you’re looking for your own place in the country, I can tell you that property is usually much cheaper.  My 90 acres isn’t in the heart of NYC or LA.  It’s not actually enough to make a living on unless you’re doing some intensive farming, but it’s a nice place.  In Texas this would just be a big back yard.

So, what are the disadvantages of country life?  Well, you know those friendly neighbors?  They really do want to know all your business, or at least seem to.  I’ve always contended that it would be easier to hide in a city with a million people than it would to be in a place with a million acres.  People out here notice things.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but if your cow is out, they’ll stop and tell you.  Or bring you a pie when you are sick. 

There is also that shopping thing.  When I run out of that essential ingredient for a recipe, it’s a long way to town if the local mom and pop store doesn’t carry it. (You learn to improvise a lot.)  And restaurants tend to be a little more countryfied.  You probably won’t find that goat cheese pizza at Sally’s Truck Stop.  The wine offerings at Wal-Mart are certainly limited and the clothes down at the J.C.Penny….well, let’s just stick to basics.  On the other hand, think of how much money I can save from impulse buys! 

A trip to the city usually involves a good part of a day and lots of stops.  I find myself saving up all my shopping for a single trip.  Also, there is a constant list on the fridge of what I need to buy next time I go to the big city.  But art supplies, books, even tractor parts can now be purchased on line at often cheaper prices than at the stores so what is wrong with that? I’m saving money on two fronts, i.e., not shopping as much and doing more internet shopping.

One really big advantage of living in the country is the stars!  I just love to stand out in the dark gaze at all that magnificence.  And just wait for a meteor shower!  Wow!  There are also the critters, for better or worse.  Possums and skunks, rabbits (there go my new expensive perennials), squirrels, and chipmunks.  Deer are pretty but very dangerous to vehicular traffic.  We’ve had run-ins with seven of those rats with antlers, one resulting in totalling a brand new car.  Coyotes running the creek beds on a frosty night will send shivers up your spine and make you snuggle deeper under the covers with their howls and yips.  Whipoorwills are nocturnal and blasted persistent if one happens to take up residence in a tree outside the bedroom window.  And very occasionally a bobcat which sounds like a woman screaming.  OOOOooooooo.  

But overall, the country life is the life for me.  I love the peace.  The decompression on the way home at night.  I love the change of the seasons which seem so intense. I love picking fresh vegetables from the garden or fruit from my orchards.  Yep, green acres is the place for me.  (I can’t believe I just said that.)

Frequency of plein air painting

I’m often asked how I can find the time to paint, especially with a full-time job.  My answer is that if it’s really important to you, you’ll make the time.  In my case, summers are my less busy time but in the performing arts season, my weekends are usually busy.

Plein air oil painting of apples, 8 x 10

One of the good things about living on my 90 acres is that I can just walk out the door of my studio and find something paintable, nearly every season, any time of day.  Sometimes I don’t have a great deal of time to pack up and drive to some scenic location so I start scouting around the farm for something interesting.

This past weekend I just walked behind my studio into my apple orchard to do a quick plein air sketch.  The wind was blowing, the bugs were biting, but this little 8 x 10 oil painting only took about an hour.  It’s not so much the finished product as the practice.  Sargent used to paint daily, even when he was visiting friends, and then wipe off his canvases at the end of the day to start anew the next day.  I won’t tell you how many layers of painting some of my canvases have.  😉