Today was the day. After a couple read throughs of her books,
and heading down a few you tube rabbit holes… and waiting for the weather to thaw…
Today Kory and I created our very own Ruth Stout garden bed.
Complete with a Ruth Stout memorial archway…
With the ground thoroughly frozen at the start of the day, and mother nature shining a record breaking 65 degrees down upon us by mid-afternoon, everyone was in high spirits to be spending a February day in t-shirts.
I laid out some cardboard and newspaper to define a border and the stories in the Vineyard Gazette will be whispering to vegetables for years to come.
Let the deliveries begin…
After an early morning spent bearing witness for an immigration trial at the jail, my human rights hero, joined us to help supervise…
And one of the best parts of the day was watching how much fun Finn had playing in the hay. I didn’t get a good picture but she had such a big smile on her face…as if this fluffy soft bed was just a big gift for her.
Early on Kory could see that the ground was thawing rapidly so he made a lovely path…
By lunchtime we had almost two thirds completed.
Ruth recommended a good 8″ of mulch. She used spoiled hay because it was cheap since the farmers couldn’t feed it to their animals. After trying to find a ready source of that around here I decided, as you will recall from my last post, to use the regular bales available at our local supplier…thank you again Homer.
This chronicle is not meant as a how-to, interested gardeners will get much more pleasure out of reading Ruth’s own words of wisdom. I CAN report that there has already been much eyebrow raising, and not a little “mansplaining” from those who have heard of my plan.
Ruth had much to say about that…
“Naturally the neighboring farmers at first laughed at me; for a few years they doted on stopping in in the spring to ask if I didn’t want some plowing done. But, little by little, they were impressed by my results, and when they finally had to admit that the constantly rotting mulch of leaves and hay was marvelously enriching my soil, they didn’t tease me anymore. On the contrary, they would stop by to “have one more look” before finally deciding to give up plowing and spading and to mulch their own gardens.”
Originally I had planned to use straw bales as a border, which would provide some structure to run wire rabbit fencing all the way around and then available, directly upon disintegrating, to be tossed onto the mulching bed.
But we had much more hay than we needed to start out with so Kory used hay bales along the back edge and Him and Herself fetched another couple truckloads of straw to line the other sides. The straw is cheaper and won’t break down as fast as the hay, but all of it, as I repeat myself, will eventually be tossed onto the bed to provide the continuous mulching required to build the soil.
Fun fact…In the past years, when I was experimenting with strawbale gardening, it was quickly discovered that a fully grown studio rabbit is just the right height to reach up and nibble the tenders growing at the top of a bale. A bit of wire fencing was enough to decide them that there were other delicacies requiring much less work elsewhere in my yard…and several of them have been quite happy enough with that arrangement to pose for me in between noshes…
Some tossing techniques…
It was simply a glorious day to be outside making those January dreams come alive..
Even though our entire yard is on a sloping angle, this section of the studio yard is full of underground springs and is a devil to mow because it’s a swamp on all but the driest days. One of the benefits of this mulching method is that there should no watering needed. Ruth described setting out a small lawn sprinkler only to give seeds a head start.
Time will tell if the mulch will be happy as happy as the rabbits with this arrangement.
By three o’clock we had finished the large bed, hay mulched a nearby flower bed as an experiment, put straw down between all the raised beds to make muddy spring passage a bit easier, in addition to Kory tackling all of the chores Miss Pat had on her to-do list.
The finished bed…
Kory replenished the firewood stack on the log cabin porch, and now we can sit back with our feet up in front of the fire and wait for winter to rain and snow on this creation and for all those lovely earthworms and critters to wiggle their way into Finn’s fluffy bed.
I figure we made a loosely consistent 18″ or so blanket of hay and built a 15 x 50 foot bed.
I also figure there are more of these warm weather breaks ahead, and I have a large pile of leaves which we can chop up a bit with the lawn mower and toss on the RS bed (that pile is frozen now). And from now on all of the garden waste and grass clippings will go on there as well.
I’ll still keep the compost piles going. We had great success last season sifting many wheel barrows of that home grown gold. The existing raised beds were put to bed with that gold in the fall so should welcome rotations of deeper root crops this year, and most of the leafy greens and such.
Our next project is to replace one of the first raised beds I built, the bottom boards are rotting away. So it will be just the place for a keyhole garden. Oh yes, I am. I’ve designed it to use the same galvanized corrugated aluminum which we used to repair the walls of the asparagus bed last year. With some tweaking and design updates I’m hoping to improve on our first attempts and make a more permanent structure that can double as a cold frame for winter greens. Stay tuned for more on that.
Expectations for the RS bed this year are low because of the time it will take to break all that hay down and begin to build a nutrient rich soil. Others who have tried this report it took a year or more to begin to have soil that would support deeper root crops. OK, so I will be planting potatoes. Ruth just pulls back her mulch and throws them directly on the ground and piles the hay back on top. Pretty much the way I’ve been growing them for a couple years so there ya go.
Gonna also try onions and leeks, brussel sprouts and kale, shell peas and edamame, and a big section of squash. I sow all the seeds I can fit in the studio and the greenhouse so I may start most of the RS bed plants by pulling back the mulch and adding a couple of inches of composted manure and peat before planting the seedlings.
And don’t forget that strawbale border can be planted in as well. Maybe with marigolds and nasturtiums with onions and turnips in between. And a cascade of morning glories for the memorial arch.
Ahhh, what an absolute bliss of a gift this day was.
Thank you Kory for all that you do for us. These two old ladies are so grateful.
This summer we enjoyed a staycation. We had a blast at the Granary Gallery Show at the end of July… here’s a few pics from that week of fun
a look at the show…
post opening toast
peg and maureen
dave and barb
a few precious hours to relax
Then we returned to this little corner of the world wherein we toil and play…here are just a dozen or so pics out of the hundreds I took this year of the studio garden…note I had a helper this year, Kory, who did most of the heavy lifting…yeah !
mint and such
raspberries on the way
beans mid way
zukes before the squash bugs
a toast to Herself
mulch makes the blueberry bed
second tub o’spuds
one of the few times I sat in the sky chair
a taste of the vineyard
There was a wonderful visit from Alex, who is probably banging on some drum at a band concert about now…
Kory and I built a new walkway, and he cleared us a beautiful view of our creek…
Zoe spent a week at Camp Gran and Mima, and was a terrific helper…
We taught her to play Clue…
Then we taught Arthur to play Clue…
We celebrated Andrew Wyeth’s 100th birthday with stamps and a trip to see his retrospective at the Brandywine River Museum…
a selfie in the Kuerner Barn
We took in an O’s game with Doug and Scott…
I pretty much parked myself on the studio porch for weeks, and carved spoon after spoon and then got out the spinning wheel and spun my way through the last of the long locked lincoln fleece…
And we kept up the tradition…of opening and closing the season at Reeser’s…
I did a bit of commission painting somewhere in there, and a lot of wool gathering, in addition to the spinning…
Delayed by a hurricane or two, we have just finished packing the car…Finnegan’s followers will be just about as pleased as she was to know that her bed and bowls have been included… and tomorrow we head back to the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
An extended autumn stay to allow the muses to take me down some new roads, and listen to new stories, and refresh my soul.
So this is just to say, that we are well, we are grateful, and we want you all to stay safe out there.
to spend at least 30% of the day in an upright position.
Which would triple the output of the last eleven days, wherein I crawled from daybed to nightbed, dragging boxes of tissues, bottles of medicine, and an increasingly bored bernese mt. dog.
I have managed the first 18% of that goal by throwing the contents of the kitchen and garden into a large pot, now simmering away with chicken soup. With a few breaks in between to sip some hot tea and cough up a lung, I am upright, sitting in the office chair, but basically upright, and catching up on the business that piled up while we were away in IRELAND !!!
The fairies were with us all the way, and they turned out to be the only two weeks since late July that I have been free of the plague. Brilliant !
I think the muses have grounded me upon my return so that I could linger in a foggy state and simply drift back to our time there and cement the whirlwind of images and experiences. It exceeded every single expectation, from the traveling companions, to the glorious weather that followed us, to the historical touchstones and meaningful connections, and on and on and on to the landscape and the people.
Here’s one of our favorites, An of Inis Oirr.
We spent a day on that smallest of the Aran Islands, with a bumpy wagon tour,a pint in the pub, a talk with Masie and Thomas, and Herself threw off her shoes and walked in the ocean. An, or Anya (I’m sure that spelling is not right) was the owner, waitress, chef at the little cafe at the top of the hill, just below the castle ruins. She fed us marvelous chowder and hot chocolate and smiled and laughed the afternoon away. Apparently Pat has wrangled a room in her B & B in exchange for light housework.
One of the bucket list items I got to cross off was buying a Bodhran, the Irish drum used in acoustic sessions, and it has just arrived here in grand shape from the little shop in Dingle. I did a bit of googling, and discovered that there is an annual Bodhran festival right there on the tiny island of Inis Oirr.
Already signed up to the mailing list. Bit of practice to do before I’m worthy of that group but we may take An up on her offer.
Be assured that this trip was a creative game changer and I’ll be sharing thoughts and images as they begin to move from the suitcase to the easel, but I am approaching that 30% threshold and I’ve got some paperwork to finish before this thing sits me back down.
Looking out of the studio window on this, the first day of the new year, I am eager to let the last five months of challenging emotional detours fade into the history books…carrying the lessons forward that sustained us in the deep waters, the rock solid humor that kept us sane, and the love that is at the core of our precious little family of three.
The work begins anew today and the muses are tingling with anticipation.
It’s time for the annual editing of the ideas. Pouring through the stacks of sketchbooks, the mountains of photo references, compiling all the notes and phrases and scribbled phrases that have been gathering in the corners of the studio…and my mind…for the last year, and putting them in some manner of order. Then teasing out the concepts and titles and compositions which scream the loudest to have their turn on the easel.
Acutely aware of time, and the energy that is required to push the boundaries further for each new painting, I can here Polly’s voice over my shoulder, telling me to “Shake yourself together”. She’s right. All the pressure I’m stressing out over, to chose the right images, to meet gallery expectations, to take on the harder subjects, to bring the work to a new level, and to clear away enough of the outside world to find that focus which is essential to make a space for the magic to happen… I do know better.
It just simply won’t happen unless I get out of my own way. Let all those “shoulds” go. Pull up what you can of the drawbridge. Bite the head off a tiny chocolate santa and dig in…
So today, I cast the net. A wide arc of review, in which the first wave of ideas, old and new, will be gathered into a new listing. There are no limits to the criteria… I’ve always wanted to work on that…I think I might be ready for this one now…I can’t wait to try my hand at that subject…oh yeah, I forgot about that light…on that boat…and look who wandered into that photo shoot…I still love that title…and this one makes me smile.
Time will do the weeding. For now, make the list. There are always one or two ideas that rise quickly to the top. Usually it’s something fun and light that practically paints itself. Just get the brushes flying and the muses will smooth out the rough patches.
What I need is a nice long walk on the beach…with my girls.
After a hard year in which our friend Saren and family said farewell to three of their dogs, she is welcoming these two precious girls into their home…and our pack !
We have already fallen in love. Ellie is the lab and Ava the shepard and it’s hard not to see their predecessors, Nina and Finn’s special pal Tallie, in these wee furry two. They were perfect angels, as all puppies are and I’m so happy for the light back in Saren’s eyes.
It’ll take some time for Finn to adjust, she’s an old dog now and it was a bit of a furprise (I’ll leave that spell check in there)…but all tails were wagging and there’s nothing better than starting your day with puppy kisses !!!!
In July, when we were on the island of Martha’s Vineyard for the Granary Gallery show, I gave blog readers a teaser which may have left some of you wondering, why is a world famous photographer, David Fokos, following HN around with his camera ?
And why were his Emmy winning wife, Barbarella, and Herself in such gleeful moods down at the dock in Menemsha ?
Well, their award winning selves are executive producers for a new art venture,
A successful Kickstarter campaign launched them into the production phase where they have begun to film and interview artists. These documentaries will be featured on the network site.
I agreed to be one of their flagship projects and the fun began in earnest on MV in July.
David Fokos and I have been paired for the same group show week in the Granary’s summer schedule for a few years now, so we have come to know each other after long respecting each other’s work. He creates breathtaking, large format black and white photographs, like this…Eight Rocks and a Stone, Chilmark, Massachusetts, 2000.
Barbarella is, well…a Diva. I’ve linked the image below to the bio page on her website, and, while there, you can click around and find out a bucket full of interesting, humorous, artsy and eyebrow raising tidbits about Barb, her juicy creative mind, and her many projects.
Together, these two are a force for creative good, and, after two days of being tethered to them, (Literally, my pocket was full of wires and my every word…heard by a studio full of machines.)…and trying to keep up with their production energy…Pat and I fell into heaps of old lady exhaustion.
In between takes, and camera set ups, and retakes, and hours of listening to myself ramble about…myself…we had a few breaks to get to know each other better. Oh the laughter, the stories, the entertainment quotient was stellar, and we agreed that we live in exciting times.
Here are a few behind the scenes snaps from the first “shoot” on Martha’s Vineyard, and the last two days of frivolity, here in the studio. Click on thumbnails to view photos.
A bite at The Bite
Tea Cup Glam Shot
Herself as apprentice
The Artiste ?
A bit of bubbly Barb
Tree Top Tripod
The case for support
Going out…take three
Leaning in to listen
The Apprentice inspects…
Microphone on…and on….
It’s a wrap !
I’m in awe of the amount of work they managed to accomplish in this small and densely packed studio, and I’m in a stupor thinking back to my bumbling responses to their thought provoking questions. I have no idea what documentary worthy words they will be able to tease out of the mess that was my commentary…but I am confident in their abilities to make the visuals stunning.
I’ll keep you posted on the progress and let you know when they deem it launchable.
Now, it’s travel time for us…a weekend of wedding celebrations, then back to the island for some working R and R.
Here’s to the autumnal equinox and clear cooler days to come…Stay frosty out there, HN
We have returned safely to the studio, and the GG2015 show moves into the exhibition stage. Every two weeks, during the summer, a new show opens and the granary elves play musical paintings and shift the artwork to make way for the new works. I took some photos, after the crowds dispersed, so you can see what a masterful job the gallery staff does in hanging the show.
It has been a terrific start to the summer show season, with a satisfying double handful of red dots filling the walls. We return home to a triple digit heat wave and one very happy puppy to greet us. I had promised myself a week of uninterrupted gardening days, but with this weather I’ve turned up the A/C and brought out the quilting bag. The creative soul needs some rest but the hands…never.
Stay frosty out there and thank you all for your support.