Late to the party

I’m getting a late start today.

My frantic mind had settled enough to let the sun come up without my help,
which gave the overnight coating of sleet enough time to begin to melt,
and sorting the box of newly arrived garden seeds was a most pleasurable task to begin with, then a walk to the compost pile turned into a bike ride in the greenhouse,
which lead me to Ruth…

(photo credit Mother Earth News)

Ruth Stout.
The other party to which I am late in coming today.

Arriving at this sixtieth decade I seem to be only just now stumbling across the paths of quite a few amazing humans. This week it is Ruth.
Or was, as she left the planet after 96 years of living here, back in 1980.

I’ll bet that most of my hard core gardening friends are smirking as they read this having known of Ruth and her simple ways well before my stumble…Ruth Herself didn’t throw away her tillers and pesticides until she was 60…so there ya go.

The evolution of my own gardening life saw me give away a brand new tiller a few years ago after learning about building better soil by letting the critters do the work..and I know many of you followed along as I adopted Joel Karsten’s Strawbale method which I have been experimenting with for about 5 years now… and that has morphed more recently into my latest guru Charles Dowding’s No Dig compost only beds which Kory has been helping me build and tend.

Well move on over and pass the hay…
it’s time to quit working so hard and strip down to the essentials.

I’ll let you enjoy this introductory video… for those who are not smirking,
and you can google down this rabbit hole to your hearts’ content…
because it’s time for me to lift some brushes…
but before I go…
here’s a little teaser of a nod to my favorite part…
she gardens in the buff.
Yes.
Yes.


Solstice Gardening

A little dirt on your hands…in December ???

You bet.

I’ve been watching the forecast like a hawk and we’ve got a slight warming trend for the next week or so…averages above 40 and near 50 degrees. And coupled with the sunshine Finn and I headed out this morning to soak up some of that vitamin D, and I thought you’d like to join us.

In the photo above you can see those beds which Kory and I tucked in for the winter. The two in the foreground have some plantings and a cold frame. Let’s take a peak…

Under that tunnel on the right is an earlier fall planting of carrots. I invested in those tunnels for the first time this year and they are terrific. The manufacturer is Haxnicks. I went just now to Amazon to find a link but they only have the fleece version. The one shown here has a poly netting. Very sturdy and allows a lot of light in as well as terrific insect protection. They also make a heavier shade version which I’ve used with great success in deep summer heat. I’m using this one to cover the carrots and provide a structure over which I can drape a heavier plastic sheeting for insulation. We’ve had weeks of sub-freezing temps and so far they are not dead…so that’s a win.

The mini greenhouses, one shown on the left, are new this year. They fit the bed perfectly and I anchored them to the wooden frames for extra security. I did find that link…click here. (Actually I just checked the link and it is not the exact one shown above but it is the same manufacturer. Might need to do more surfing than I have time for right now to find the right one.)

So far I love them. I had a larger version of them years ago and, in the warmer winters, it gave me a full extra season of growth for kale and chard and even some pop up spinach volunteers.

You can see this swiss chard, planted last march, is still going strong and is my go to smoothy ingredient.

Today it was time to experiment with the second one I bought, and so the flat of seedlings which have been keeping me company inside the studio were ready to rock and roll…

I popped out a few of the kale and Hakuri turnips and out we went…

My theory is that this one may be warmer than the other as it is sheltered from some of the winds by the greenhouse which may also throw back some warmth from the south facing sun.

Here you can also see the easy access from the zippered panels.

Boy did it feel great to sit on my garden bench and hold the Hori Hori knife, and just like that they were planted. I have zero expectations that newly planted seedlings will make it planted this late but I live in hope these days.

It wasn’t in the original plans, but I thought adding one of those tunnels here might give an extra layer of warmth, and it worked out perfectly as a support for…

Yep…the christmas lights.

Somewhere I read of a  gardener putting a string of lights inside a cold frame to add a tiny bit of heat during the night. Why the hell not. I can never get enough of christmas lights.

I’ve put the compost thermometer in there so I’ll have some idea of the comparison between the two covered beds.

As you can see, a solid 43 degrees before I covered was promising.

And here we are all bundled up and ready to grow…maybe.

 

It’s a sea of mud out there now, and shortly after I wrote last week’s post those pesky Muses actually did show up and have made up for my basket of angst by hurling half a dozen new and sparkling challenges my way.

So…as Finn conquers…it’s time for me to get back to the easel…

But Oh My Goddesses did it ever feel good to be out working in the garden on this almost Solstice day.

 

 

 


E…scape

It’s that time of year again…

Garlic Scape Time

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.

Stay tuned and stay frosty out there,

Heather

 

 

 


The Thinker

This is Zoe
thinking seven year old thoughts…

with legs which are longer than six
and can climb that old ladder of sticks

and fingers much faster than five
which can tenderly twist a thin chive

a patience greater than four
to fill two buckets and more

and a lot more pockets than three
holding feathers and wings from a bee

still smiling the smile of the two
she listens for things that are new

with a heart that is deeper than one
to us, she comes second to none.

 


My summer vacation…

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

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 !

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…

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.

I catch you on the other side of the leaves…

 


Sisters and the Muse

This falls under Ted’s favorite category of “sorta fun”.

A while back, one of my master muses, John O’Hern, sent a query asking about the painting Sisters. He was writing an article about florals, and botanicals, and Albrecht Durer, and naturally…thought of moi. (She wrote with a grin)

The article came out in this month’s American Art Collector Magazine, which Pat brought in from the mailbox last night.

As I read through and found it today, I see that an image of Sisters did not make the editorial cut. I can see why as the others make a wonderful bouquet of floral still lifes, and my little garden painting is of the more humble vegetable variety.

But, here’s the fun part.
What John wrote about the painting Sisters is…in his most inimitably magical way…delightful.

And I quote,
“Heather Neill observes a helpful symbiotic relationship in her own garden between her tomato plants and a volunteer scarlet runner bean that self-seeded the year before. Sisters refers to the ancient practice of “sistering” or “growing companion plants to, in this case, literally, support one another”, she explains. “Native Americans would plant corn to support the beans, which would shade lower growing lettuces…all in the same patch.”

The subjects are shown after dusk plucked out of the dark by a porch light. Neill’s saturated color and hyperreal painting along with the dramatic light suggest a more sinister role for the vine when the light is extinguised.”

Only John would imagine such sinister designs, plucked after dusk by a porch light.

Brilliant, and ta.


Sky chair summer

After the big summer shows I usually come home and crash…
for a week…
then get right back to the easel.

Well, this year I’m taking it slooooow.
We have been blessed with a new studio apprentice, Alex.
Here he is with his Dad, splitting away the mountain of wood that arose
after the two great, but sadly decaying, pin oaks came down last month.

neighborly

Alex is one strong, enthusiastic, and smart worker, and he is making it possible for this old artist to cross off a long list of chores that have been put on hold…for a decade…while all focus has been on painting.
He has begun to learn the art of panel making and is teaching me a thing or two about snakes, and we’ve both enjoyed some spoon carving on the back porch after the mornings of hard work.
Pat and I feel like we have won the lottery as far as good neighbors go. Every which way we turn, we find kindness and generosity. Believe me it is appreciated.

And, after all that fun morning work…the garden beckons.
Those straw bales are producing, and though I have had an attack of storm trooper squash bugs, there has been progress…

albino zuke early harvest watermelon

Time to try the new slushy machine…

slushy

and of course… Reesers…with friends

reesers

and, at the end of these perfect summer days…

sky chair summer sky

Sending you love from the Sky Chair.


5am…enough light to see

That’s the note I found this morning, on the studio kitchen table, written on a scrap of cardboard, with a sharpie, found beneath the pile of framing tools, which were left untidied, after a long day of framing, and print making, and general mayhem making.

The Follansbee arrived just after I put out the lanterns last night, stopping for a pallet on the studio floor, as he made his way home from a week of teaching woody things down at Roy Underhill’s place in NC. So, the note was all we got to see of him this time, but we had a good visit on his way down south last weekend.

the master carvers tea

His hair is long enough now to tie in the back and a good bit whiter. But the sparkle is still there in those eyes. Gonna catch up with him and the family in the fall, so that’s ok then.

The day dawns, a little later for my own self than the master carver, and Herself has left to ship two new paintings out to the Sugarman Peterson Gallery. There is an opening for that show on July 3rd, in Santa Fe, so today you get the first peek at them…

All Her Eggs  – 16 x 20

All Her Eggs 

Scape  –  12 x 13

Scape

From the sharply pointed pen of Mark Twain…

“Put all your eggs in one basket. And watch that basket.”

Eggs courtesy of Dru and Homer, who farm a CSA just over the hill. They are as delicious to eat as they are to paint. The eggs.

And just out that window and a little to the right is the little wren. Always.
When Zoe is here, she relies on the wren’s first trill of the morning to signal that it is ok to get her giggly self out of bed and start her day.
In the early summer she has a different job.
This summer she has built her nest in the birdhouse just above the garlic bed.
I wait with lusty anticipation all year for the garlic to send forth those gorgeously delectable curly scapes, and this season, her babies hatched on the very same day they appeared.

She spends her busy days now bouncing from Ted and Polly’s wind chime, to dancing from scape to scape.
So, there ya go. Ted is having a blast, directing the muses every which way I turn around here.

Look for these two garden graces to be winging their way out west this week. And if you are in Santa Fe, please stop by to visit Michael and Christie Sugarman and say hey for me.

Now it’s on to more framing…
stay frosty out there.

 


Last brush stroke…

Finally !!!
It’s been a very long haul since I began painting for this summer’s season of shows. Way Way back…in November…the theme for this year’s work snuck up on me. I just looked back at a blog entry near the end of that month and it was full of feathers. And Wolsey. My pal, the ever tapping cardinal, who is out there now, right now, slamming into the big window over my shoulder.

No wonder my studio is now full of paintings of…birds. Many many birds. And feathers. And Eggs. I put the last brush stroke on the last of these paintings just an hour ago.

Thought I would jump right into framing because two of these have to make a very speedy path to Santa Fe, for the opening of a group show at Sugarman Peterson Gallery. But I’m too tired to do that tonight, and it feels good to sit in the comfy chair in the office, by the air conditioning vent.

Some of the bird paintings will make there way out to Santa Fe, and my garden has been wanting equal time. There is a nice little feature in American Art Collector Magazine this month about the SPG show, and they included my thoughts on the muses this year…

” Where the focus drifts, the muses follow, and they are encouraging me to dig around in the dirt and out in the greenhouse and among the weeds to find inspiration for painting ideas. So, I will be adding to my series Garden Graces and building on the figurative work that has been whispering over my shoulder…just as soon as I plant the tomatoes.”

I got them in… last week. But, as the new little “look how healthy you are…not” app reveals, the arc of my “steps taken each day” has flatlined for the last three weeks. No wonder, since it is exactly 50 steps from cabin to studio. Double that and then spend 12 -14 hours at the easel and you have…100 steps. I’ll make up for it now though. My garden beckons and I can hear the weeds singing my name.

Here’s a few pics of my straw bale gardening experiment.

Got the squash and watermelon planted in a baseball diamond pattern. Scott’s fault, Go O’s.

peas and squash

The Raspberry bed has a new annex now and the greens are happy.

raspberry patch

  Other side of the baseball field…new blueberry bed, in the distance, is being harvested now.

straw bale field

This is the view out behind the sky chair, where the potatoes are thriving.

behind my sky chair

And the way back bales, two similar beds of bales are two the right with strawberries in them and this one has a steady crop of chard and beets which I use daily now.

    out back bales

So…there’s that.

Then…inside the studio…the shift is on. Frames and paintings are now stacked in every room and the Corcoran shuffle keeps Pat jumping as she delivers and picks up paintings from John at his photography studio. My job. Frame ’em up. Then write painters notes and pack everything up for our trip to Martha’s Vineyard for the biggest show of the year at the Granary Gallery.

That’s right…I know your calendars are marked… July 12th is the opening. Incredibly only three weeks from tomorrow. Geez…

So, I’m not sure if the whole reveal  thing will happen with the new works this year but I will unveil them as the files come in and you will get the sneak peeks that my readers have come to expect.

First up…way up… is

Updraft  –  12 x 16

updraft

Yep, that’s really how close the house is to the edge now…or at least “was” back when we stayed there last July. And just over those rocks is a 30 foot drop to the beach.

Ahhhh…the bluff.

On this, the 40th anniversary of JAWS…I think I’ll keep my toes out of the water and flying in the sky chair which is where I’m headed right now. This will be my view, for tonight at least…

night night studio

Night night studio.


I love a craze…

This is Phyllis’s fault.
One photo shared on social media and now look…

back bales

Straw bales upon raised beds begun

And then there’s this…

potatoes

Future site of Potato Farm

And this…

home base

If you build it…

Here’s the manual…

bk

And the link to do your own research…click HERE.

This all seemed like a good idea in February. And Pat is now best buds with the farmer over the hill who has loaded up every one of the 40 plus bales we absolutely needed.I have had great fun experimenting with fertilizer and have replaced over 40 washers on the old rugged hose. And, despite our efforts, things are starting to grow…

straws

beets

peas

Most of us on the east coast are experiencing the slow to warm up  spring which has been a good thing for us old lady gardeners who have day jobs to which they should be attending. But I’ve already made use of the wisps of straw which collected in the back of the truck  in two paintings…so…the bales are props !

There is new life in these old bones and the extra weeks of cooler weather has allowed this gardener to pace herself. I had time to add a new bed dedicated to blueberry bushes…

blueberry

and build a better lid for the cold frame and an annex to the raspberry bed…

frame

and …weed !

As of yesterday, all the bales are conditioned…read the book…and I’m ready to install the drip irrigation system. The back beds, with the strawberries, were started a month or more ago. There is good growth there and the row cover system allowed me to save the tenders from all three frosty nights.

We got a good rain last night, though it wasn’t enough to wash the poo off of the eagle cam…ugh. And Saturday is the SHEEP AND WOOL FESTIVAL …YEAH !!!!!!!!

So that means today I will have to knuckle down at the easel and limit my outdoor putterings. Seriously. I have a LOT of painting to do.

So, this is Phyllis Disher Fredericks fault !