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 year’s challenge was to minimize the effects of the Allium Leaf Miner pest which had completely decimated last year’s crop. I can’t even bring myself to revisit the pictures from that devastation, so google it yourselves if you are scientifically motivated.
The local Ag agents suggested covering the crop in the early spring before the creatures emerge. I tried three versions of that. In the cold frame bed featured below, I had the doors closed until mid-April.
In this back bed I used fleece to cover the plants, which the wind and weather rearranged frequently, so there were gaps in time when there would have been access. Image below shows windblown exposure.
In the third bed, (it’s starting to sound like the three little pigs here…) I used a screened tunnel. See garlic growing tall under that screen.
I harvested scapes from all three beds over the last three weeks or so. The bed shown above was curiously the last to form scapes. Possibly the full time cover slowed growth ?
Some test pulling of the plants showed those gnarly wee beasties had indeed begun their invasion. As was the case last year, the leaves were browning early and the bulbs were not forming, or were becoming deformed.
So, this week I yanked them all.
In bed one, 100% infestation. No bulbs were saveable.
In bed two, 60% infestation.
In bed three, the one with the 24/7 tunnel, almost all of the bulbs were untouched.
Out of about 200 plants, I now have close to 60 curing in the greenhouse. If there are some critters lurking within I may lose some of those, but it’s not a total loss.
On the principle of being given lemons… I decided to make lemonade.
Well…garlic scape butter.
I saved all the scapes, which were untouched by the bugs, and yesterday I got out the cuisinart !
The recipe is quite simple. Grind up the scapes, mix them into softened butter, put that into a ziploc bag and spread it thinly to force air out, then freeze. Then it’s easy to break off what you need as you go. It is especially nice to soften and use as the spread for Garlic Bread.
I had enough leftover minced scapes to add some lemon and olive oil and also freeze for later use in sauces and such.
Bonus tip, which I learned from an old blogger whose name I apologize for forgetting, you take the butter wrappers and stack and bag them up and also put in freezer to use as ready made greasers for pre-baking pans.
So, I started this blog yesterday, only to find that my website was down…again. A long frustrating day of dealing with my server resolved the problem late in the evening. When I sat down to write this entry today…down again.
They tell me it is fixed now, for good.
If you are reading this, then at least for now…it is.
You will be hearing more often from me now as we near the big opening for the Granary Gallery Show…This year that date will be August 5.
I’ve been working full tilt at the easel, almost non-stop since last November, and you’ll see the results very soon.
In the meantime, I hope your gardens are glorious, your souls are finding peace, and there is laughter in the air around you.
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.
This is almost what my studio kitchen looks like today…
Add a kitchen table, stacks of art books and magazines, two baskets of laundry, another row of teacup shelves, a different iron, and a large bernese mt dog at my feet…
and you would be welcome to come join us as we head into the final stages of preparing to leave for the Granary Gallery show !
I left the ironing ’til last. Despite my predilection for sweats and smocks,I do try to make an effort to look respectable when I leave the studio and venture out into the real world.
And, while this heat dome is determined to hover over the east coast, I am determined to let linen keep what little air movement there may be…flowing.I’m halfway through the ironing. For the last two hours, Finnegan has been laying in front of the air vent.
I needed a break, so I’m writing to say hey, stay frosty out there my friends, and island breezes…here we come !
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.
A humongous box arrived at my studio door. It held some things from my father’s house. Way down at the bottom was a little zip lock bag. Inside were six carved wooden figures. Hmmm. I’d never seen them before. After my father’s death a few years ago, I uncovered many items and stories, some of which were familiar history, and some of which were mysteries. I found photos and writings about his grandparents and knew that at least one of his grandfathers tinkered with wood. So, I thought that maybe these were saved from his childhood.
Then the muses struck. I called Pat, can you come over…now. She threw on her coat and boots and slodged over to the studio from the log cabin. I love writing log cabin. Anyway, I bade her to lie down on the daybed…and take a nap.
I found the paper bag, filled with chicken feathers, which Homer had collected for me last summer, and I dumped them on her head.
Then I laboriously positioned the little chickens and the little goose around her sleeping head. Tucked in her red snuggy blanket, Herself was content to model as long as I liked. Until the feathers started…to tickle. I managed to capture this image just before…the sneeze.
When I was finished, and the model was back in the log cabin, and the feathers were corralled back into their paper nest, I arranged the dear ones along the window sill next to my easel.
Finnegan came over to give me an eagle hug and her tail swept the smallest bird onto the floor. When I picked it up I noticed some writing on the underside… Made in Indonesia.
With a sigh, I put her back on a higher shelf… and began to reinvent her past.
It’s a wonderfully dreary start to the day before Thanksgiving in central Pennsylvania, the perfect weather for painting.
We, like so many in this land, have a large plucked bird in the fridge and are planning to roast it with most of the trimmings and be thankful. And I am, for many things. But today, I thought I’d concentrated on…the birds.
Watching them, feeding them, learning about them, painting them, and most of all the delight of coming upon the treasured gift of their feathers.
The studio is full of them. Collected over the years, their beauty astounds. With my new bionic knees I am back out on the trails, and the muses are back as well…
After finding this beauty, I decided it was time to get serious about identification so I got this book…
Which I highly recommend. I’ve been pouring over it for days now. And the first one I spied was this one which recently made a supporting role appearance in this painting you might remember…
if you zoom in on the Jorgesen, that would be the clamp for you non-woodworkers, you will see the feather, which…every single one of the avian enthusiasts mis-identified. I have four of them which have been floating around here for years. But right there on page 91…
we see that it belonged to a Chukar ! Further research, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reveals that the Chukar is…
A native of southern Eurasia, the Chukar was introduced into the United States from Pakistan to be a game bird. It lives in arid, rocky terrain across the western United States and southern Canada. And then it hit me…I already knew that. Insert fading memory comments here as you will, but it all came back to me. Years ago, I’ll say 4, I found one perched on my studio garage roof. As you can see, it is a stunner of a bird so it caught my attention, but it is also not a local gal. I also seem to remember that, when first I googled this creature, there was mention of raising these smallish sized birds to release for hunters to take down with big guns, ( picture me here shaking my head in dismay).
The memory of finding the feathers is lost but, when I decided to take the leap to add that little bit of whimsy to Peter’s painting, it was after all a painting of Peter, the birdman of Plymouth, I didn’t have to look far to find the perfect candidate as these four feathers have been tucked into a little blue teacup behind my easel for lo those, I’ll say four, years now.
Above that easel is this display of painting and sketch and original model…
And yes, the muses are right there over my shoulder of late…
Cardinal Wolsey. The ever present window slammer of a bird, is still with me. I now believe she is more than just a disturbed bird. Pat and Finn met a woman at the park last week who, after hearing the story of the intrepid one, immediately suggested that she was someone who I had known who had “passed on” and did I know anyone in the clergy. Well I sat back in my chair at that one. Seriously, my father, the Presbyterian minister, returned as the slammer ?
Possibly ? I’m still pondering that one. But this bird is definitely trying to tell me something. She now follows me from window to window and watches me all day long. Hurling Herself at the panes seems to diminish when I settle in at the easel. Then she just flies up and stares at me…the rubbernecker.
Well, ok, that part could be Ted. He is definitely nudging me to focus on painting…probably as I write this…which is taking time away from what I began this blog with…
that perfect painting day.
Well, the dreary rain has turned to our first snowfall of the season. The promise of a winter wonderland, a bird in the oven, one at the window, and two dozen at the feeders…that’s all I need of Thanksgiving.
And, this…to all my friends and patrons, whose support allows me to do the work that is so meaningful to my soul…