Celebration and Persephone, Oct 30, ’14

Oct 30, ‘14

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Sunny and warm for the end of October

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There are still leaves on the trees

Oct 30, ‘14

Today is a day that feels celebratory, to me.  There’s a sense of something in the air, something almost definable, but equally elusive.

I think that the days growing shorter and a weather pattern that calls for frost and high winds in the next few days has something to do with the indefinable sense of something happening….

Saturday morning calls for frost.  Sunday morning calls for frost and high winds all day.

Perhaps as early as next week my immediate world will be turning brown and the trees completely  stripped of all leaves.

Today, though, is warm for the end of October and sunny.  The sky is blue and the air is sweet, reminiscent of early spring air which is sweet and clean and smells of earth, green grass and old leaves turning into earth.  And, as in early spring, a few chirps from a far away bird.

One thing definable to me, the celebration of Ear Plugs.  Because of Ear Plugs I’ve 5 days in a row of healing, refreshing, non-interrupted-by-upstairs-kid-noise Sleep

“Oh sleep! it is a blessed  thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Ear Plugs the praise be given!
That allowed the gentle sleep from Heaven,
To slide into my soul.”

(Inspired by and paraphrased from  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

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I’m thinking of my paternal grandmother today, the one who had me reading stories from Greek Mythology to her as she ironed shirts and pillowcases, the one who read stories from Greek Mythology to me as childhood bed-time stories.  I can hear her in my Mind’s Ear, telling me that Persophone is readying herself make the change from Goddess of Vegetation and preparing to go spend 6 months with her husband in Hades, where she’ll reign as Goddess of the Underworld until it’s time for her to return.  Perhaps this sense of imminent departure is what’s in the air….

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The last Impatiens of Summer….

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Jack ‘o’ lantern, ’14

Oct 28, ‘14

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In a Fall filled with warm and sunny bonus days today is the biggest bonus of all.  The temp is 66 degrees, the sun is shining and there’s very little wind.  Not at all bad for Oct 28….  So far, no frost, but that will change soon, probably within the next 4 or 5 days.

I’d planned on carving my traditional jack ‘o’ lantern tonight but since the sunshine was so inviting I sat out on the back porch and carved it while sitting in the sun.

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First cut: Lid and smoke hole

When I was a kid my mother had a big garden and along with all the veggies she planted there were pumpkins.  Most times, we had more pumpkins than any one family needs and we kids sold them from a little pumpkin stand we made alongside the road.  We always had plenty of pumpkins to make jack ‘o’ lanterns for Halloween.

I bought this pumpkin for $6.99 at a local supermarket.  Since I was so late buying last year’s jack ‘o’ lantern pumpkin I bought this one 3 weeks ago and have had it under a tarp on my front porch to keep it as fresh as possible.  It wasn’t quite ripe when I bought it.  It is still fresh and was somewhat hard to cut, so I think it’ll last quite a few days.

Whenever I’m carving a jack ‘o’ lantern my mind goes deep into my memory bank of the many jack ‘o’ lanterns I’ve carved and this year it was no different.  I think that my mother and my grandmother were my 2 earliest jack ‘o’ lantern carving mentors; they come up sharp and clear in my memory.

With the Sharpie pen I drew a line for the lid.  After I decided where the face was to go, I carved out the smoke hole directly opposite.

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Lid and smoke hole

At the supermarket recently I saw a set of specially made tools for carving pumpkins.  I debated with myself whether or not I really needed to bring these tools home, use them once and then find a place to store them until next year.  I constantly hear a lament in my mind “You’ve got too much stuff!” and decided to carve my pumpkin with the usual tools in the usual time-honored way – with a kitchen knife cutting triangular eyes, nose and straight cut snaggle-tooth smile.

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Pumpkin with drawn on face

The part of the process of pumpkin carving is scooping out the innards is my least favorite part.  This pumpkin was very fresh, just barely ripe, so the innards were well attached.  I usually scrape them out with a metal spoon but had the idea to use scissors to cut the strings and found that worked great.

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Another step in the pumpkin carving process is to make sure to have newspaper handy to hold the scooped out innards and carry them to the compost pit.

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It’s rarely been warm enough to carve outside so I skipped the newspaper and threw the innards directly into a compost bucket.

Onto the face carving!  When I drew the eyes, nose and mouth I drew them a bit smaller than I wanted them and cut outside the lines so that I ended up throwing out  parts of pumpkins where the lines had been.

After the innards were scooped and the face carved, I scooped out a small depression in the inside bottom of the pumpkin —  for the candle.  After I inserted the candle I wrapped tin foil around it to prop it up.

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And even though it’s still daylight, I lit the candle.  The smell is wonderful and the memories are sweet.

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Expecting Frost: saying farewell to Garden ’14

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Today is sunny, windy and chilly.  The forecast today for the high temp is 52 degrees.  Presently, it’s 50 degrees.  High wind warnings are in effect for daytime hours and a light frost is expected for Litchfield County in the early hours of Monday morning.

I feel loathe to accept the cold and frost which marks the beginning of Heating Season and the end of Growing & Harvest Season.

I ordered 100 gals of heating oil which won’t be delivered until Tuesday morning.  The oil in my tank is so low I’m going to have to do without heat until that load of oil is delivered.

The day I ordered the oil the Five-Day reported that tomorrow the low temp was expected to be 35; the frost warning was added this morning.  The day I ordered the oil was on a day that was unseasonably warm and I was wearing sandals.  After I made the call,  I commended myself for ‘ordering ahead’ and for being ‘well-prepared.’

Whoops….

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Last of the Tomatoes

I’ve picked the last of the tomatoes and broke down the parent vines.  Some of these tomatoes are almost full grown; there are many the size of large and small marbles.

I have no idea what to do with all these green tomatoes.  I’m waiting for Inspiration!

I have friends all over town who are eating the green tomatoes I gave them last week.  I wonder if they’re as tired of fried green tomatoes as I am.

The parent vines are now in the process of turning into compost.  In my heart I thanked each and every one for their service and for giving me such a bountiful and tasty crop.

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Mexican Sunflowers

Up until May ’14, I’d never heard of Mexican Sunflowers.  I bought the seed package because the flowers were so brilliant.  I was looking for a flower that would draw bees and  I wasn’t disappointed; the bees were all over these flowers for the past 3 months.  I was also hoping the brilliant red flowers might draw humming birds but I didn’t see any, to my disappointment.

I’ve picked a few large bouquets of these flowers to enjoy inside and to spare them from Frost.

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Raspberries

For the past ten days I’ve been cutting back the canes that have no more berries on them as I pick from the canes that are still producing.  I estimate that by now, I’ve clipped 2/3rds of the total patch.  There’s probably 35 or so berries left to ripen.  I hope the Frost doesn’t kill them.

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Pumpkins, my bonus crop

These tiny pumpkins are the offspring of last year’s jack ‘o’ lanterns.  By the time I went to buy my jack ‘o’ lantern pumpkin last year there were only 2 pumpkins left and those tiny eating pumpkins, better suited for soup or pie than a jack ‘o’ lantern.  So, I had 2 tiny jack ‘o’ lanterns.  The ‘innards’ all went into the compost and 2 of the seeds from those pumpkins turned into vines this spring and produced more pumpkins for this season.  The first vine produced 2 pumpkins and then died.  The 2 pictured are from the 2nd vine, which is still producing flowers.  For today, anyhow….

Putting a garden away for the winter is a bitter-sweet occasion, with a longing for the warm and sunny days that have been and a dread of the cold and dark days ahead.  Looking forward to the next garden is hopeful and sweet, even though we’ve yet to have our first frost and then our first killing frost and so much winter to get through.

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Rainy Day, Oct 11, ’14

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Green tomatoes and one blue Morning Glory

Today is wet, chilly and gray.  That’s the all day forecast.  It’s perfect weather for sleeping-in and sitting on the couch wrapped in a comforter with a 3rd cuppa and a warm cat, watching the drizzle filling the air.  It’s not exactly raining, the air is full of fat and heavy water droplets.  The mailman just walked by; he appears to be covered with dew.

According to the 5-day, the weather will improve after today.  This is good news.  So far, we’ve yet to have a frost or temps lower than 40 degrees, which to me is wonderful considering that we’re heading for mid-October.

I’m still picking kale from my garden and have about 20 green tomatoes hanging on the vines as well as one tiny pumpkin.  I’m hoping for a few sunny days so perhaps the tomatoes and pumpkin will ripen further.  I’ve given away many green tomatoes to a friend with a large family who “just love” fried green tomatoes.  After one or two, I’ve had my fill and am happy to give them to a friend.  I’m still picking raspberries from the canes in my front yard.  A few more sunny days will see the end of those but while they’re coming, I keep picking.

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This little neighbor has been roving the neighborhood while his young owners are in school. She’s eaten quite a bit of my Kale. Good thing I have an overabundance!

I’ve had an abundance of garden vegetables, flowers and berries this summer for which I’m profoundly grateful.  I have an abundance of Tomatoes, Kale, Raspberries, Zucchini and Peppers in my freezer to keep me going in the winter months.  I also have an abundance of fermented kale, also from my garden.  It tastes somewhat like sauerkraut.  If nothing else, it will be good to add to soups that I’ll be making in cold weather.

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Soon this tiny pumpkin will be soup!

I’m almost ready for Frost.  Most of my houseplants are inside or have been brought to the porch outside the back door, waiting to come in.  I have coverings at the ready for anything left outside I may want to save from frost.

The predominant color of the foliage in my heavily wooded part of the world is a deep and dark green with patches of yellow, red and orange.  Grassy areas are vivid green —  because of today’s drizzle and because we had a cool and relatively damp summer the grass never got brown or stopped growing.  I’m waiting for more leaves to fall so I can collect some for mulch and add to my compost.  So far, there’s not an abundance of fallen leaves.

Today I plan to take advantage of this Rainy Day by settling down on my couch & curling up next to my warm cat for a good long read which will probably morph into a good long nap.

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I’ll be bringing in this begonia for the Winter.

Happy Autumn!

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Decorative Painting Projects Summer ‘14

Sept 29, ‘14

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Albert on Floorcloth

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Sunflowers DD, ’14.  Floorcloth, 7.5 x 5

I’m still working on this very large floorcloth and have settled some of the areas I’ve considered problems.  And yet, it’s still not finished.  Close, but no cigar….  There are still details, details, details….

I’ve been working on this cloth on the floor in a large open area in my living room/studio.  Albert likes it when I’m working on the floor and is usually in my face making a pest of himself or lying quietly by my side.  I normally work on a large table but this cloth is too large and bulky so I work on it on the floor.  It’s a good thing I’ve kept up with some of the yoga poses I learned years ago.  I sit on the floor, one leg tucked close to my body and the other stretched out and , bending from the waist, I lean forward and work on what’s in front of me as far as I can reach.  I enjoy the perspective of viewing my subject from above and making art where people viewing it will have to look down on it, while walking across.

This floorcloth was made in a sunny spot where the color is vibrant and intense.  It’s my hope that this art will bring sunshine into a corner of a house where  there is no window or sun.  The walls in the corner are made of stone, the overall color in the room is predominately stone gray.  The floor this cloth will be covering is gray cement.  A month or so ago I took the floorcloth to the country kitchen where it’s going to be.  I thought at the time that the color on it was good but was truly amazed at how all that gray in the walls seemed to suck out all the color from my floorcloth.  So, I brought it back home and have been working at intensifying the color.

For one reason or another, the installation day for the cloth keeps getting pushed back.  This is fine for me as I have more time to refine some of my ideas and work them out.

Before I began intensifying the color on the floorcloth I worked on this wooden box — an abandoned craft project — that someone gave me a few years ago.  I put the floorcloth in the spare bedroom for a week and painted this box.

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Sunflowers and Crows on Wooden Box

This box is finished to a stage where I can add a few details and call it done.  The crow’s eyes aren’t finished and I want to lighten the flowers a bit.  This was a ‘for fun’ project and was a great break from working on the floor.  I enjoy the motif very much and have some plans to use it further on another floorcloth.

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Chairs #1 and #2 of 5

This is a commission project.  The client is tired of Brown.  She wants blue, something light and airy.  The chairs are in a dining-area corner opposite the corner where the floorcloth is going to be. It took me quite a long time to work out a process for painting 5 chairs and then coming up with a design for the back of the chairs but that being done, I’m now halfway through Chair #2.

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Chair #1 – finished!

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Close-up, design on chair

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Sunflowers Sept 25, ’14

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Sunflowers ’14

Sept 25, ‘14

Another of my gardening goals for Garden ’14 was to grow a successful crop of sunflowers that were in full bloom by the end of August, for my birthday.  I’m pleased to report that my goal has more than been met.

I’ve had a plethora of sunflowers growing in front of the house and in the garden close to the house along the south side.  I’ve had a constant supply for bouquets of Sunflowers for more than a month.  I can see them blossoming from my windows as I work about the house.  The ones in front of the house grew higher than the raspberry bushes and I could see them from the street.  The ones along the side of the house I could see as I drove down the street in my car.  For a few weeks, before the inevitable slide of Summer into Fall, I felt like the Sunflower Queen.  At the peak of summer, when the days were warm and sunny, I enjoyed many moments standing in the midst of them – sun on my face,  bobbing bright yellow of sunflowers, the scent of earth and water and the sounds of buzzing bees.

I’ve grown sunflowers in recent years but nothing like I had this summer.  There are still some blossoming as I write, I can see them from where I sit.  I didn’t have good luck growing them when I lived on Culvert St mostly because of lack of space, poor soil and squirrel problems.  I didn’t have great luck growing them here on Brookside Ave last summer, mostly because of squirrels and a woodchuck.

This past early spring I read an article about the health benefits of eating sunflower sprouts.  I wasn’t so much interested in eating the sprouts as I was in how to grow them.  In the past I started my proposed sunflower garden by planting the seeds in the ground.  After I read the article on sprouting sunflowers I had the idea to sprout the seeds and when the sprouts were large enough, to plant them in the ground.

This is what worked for me this year, I think.

In early May I bought 3 packages of Russian Mammoth sunflower seeds and sprouted the seeds from package #1.  I sprouted the seeds in a flat dish on 2 layers of very damp – not wringing wet — paper towels with 2 layers of very damp paper towels covering them.  I made sure that the seeds had plenty of moisture without being drowned.  It took 3-5 days for them to sprout.  When those plants were an inch or so out of the shell, I planted them in soil in a windowsill planter.  After they were 3 or so inches high, I planted them in the designated patch.  In the meantime, I’d already begun sprouting the seeds in package #2 and continued this process throughout seed package #3.  After all the seedlings were planted,  I had sunflowers at various levels of growth.  As they flourished and blossomed, I’ve had sunflowers in continual bloom for many weeks.

Back in the day when I was working more hours and had more money, my constant supply of sunflowers came from the floral department in my supermarket.  If growing one’s own veggies (and flowers) is like printing one’s own money, the value of my recent sunflower bouquets has been like winning the lottery.  Now, if only I could figure out how to grow them all winter….

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Tomato Time

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Big, fat, heavy, juicy, tasty Big Boys!

Gardening season is on the wane.  Days are growing shorter and the slant of light isn’t as favorable to my little plot of land as it was in Spring and throughout most of the summer.  In closing down this season, I’m pleased to report that for me, this has been a most successful gardening season, particularly with the tomatoes.

I grew the bulk of my tomato crop in 5 huge plastic pots that were filled with fresh potting soil, old potting soil and much compost from last year’s gatherings of egg shells, kitchen scraps and toilet paper & Paper towel rolls and one tiny seedling per huge pot.

A few seedlings from last years seeds sprouted out of the compost I used in the big pots and not having the heart to kill them, I planted those in the ground.  All in all, I had 6 plants in the ground and 5 in pots.  The tomato vines that were planted in the pots grew strong and tall and started producing flowers and green tomatoes late in May.  By early July, the plants were so tall and the tomatoes so big and heavy they were bending the cages I’d put around them and sprawling on the ground.  The seedlings from last year grew strong and tall and overshadowed everything that was close to them.

I enjoyed many sunny mornings smelling the fresh smell of the deep green leaves as I watered them.  I’ve enjoyed watching the plants grow from tiny seedlings to healthy vines covered with tiny yellow flowers and tomatoes in every size and stage of their growth.

I’ve had an abundance of tomatoes since late July.  Instead of merely having some for me, some to share and none to put away for the winter, I’ve had plenty!  Plenty – an abundance! —  for me, plenty to share and 18 quarts of frozen tomatoes in my freezer!

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Sometime late this past Winter/early Spring, my mother expressed an interest in growing tomatoes on her patio in the up-coming growing season.   I gave her 3 tomato plants for Mother’s Day and volunteered to be her Gardener.

My mother is a Gardener from a long way back and has always maintained a garden for as long as I’ve known her.   When all 5 of her kids were small, she had a huge garden a short distance from the house in an intensely sunny spot in the center of a large, open field.  There were rows and rows of everything – tomatoes, squash, beans, cabbage, Swiss chard, cucumbers and up to 7 or 8 long rows of corn.  There were also hours and hours of planting, weeding, harvesting, preparing veggies for canning & freezing & so much more.  In a corner of the garden was a huge composting area.  The value of Gardening & the benefits to body, mind and soul was instilled in me from a very early age.  When her children started leaving home, mom’s gardens gradually became smaller.

As mom got older, she had her garden moved to the end of the back lawn.  It was a small garden but enough for her needs, now that my father was gone.  It was also closer to the house.  As she became even older, that small garden got to be too much.  She stopped gardening a few years ago and that garden reverted back to field.  So, when she expressed an interest in growing tomatoes on her patio, I was pleased that she wanted to try and glad to help.  We also grew lettuce and kale – not in huge quantities but enough so before lunch she could say to me “Run out to the garden and pick us some lettuce.”   Or, in a phone conversation, “I went out to the garden and picked some kale for my supper last night.”  These words thrilled me, this is ‘old’ mom, not mom who’s now old.

Mom’s tomatoes didn’t do as well as mine because her patio doesn’t get as good sun as my tiny corner of garden off the back porch of my house.  But, hers did thrive and they did produce and they are enough and I’ve had plenty of my own to spare and share.  We’ve shared quite a few of her tomatoes these past 6 weeks, in tomato and mayo sandwiches, of which neither of us ever tire & will miss sorely when the growing season is past.  The growing, harvesting and consuming these tomatoes has been a focal point for us, something we share in common, something that,  from the tending and the nurturing & consuming, has undeniably brought us closer together & has given us a sense of comfort and even joy.  Something that shows we’ve always been close together, just never realized it….

We’ve spent quite a few hours on her patio this past summer tending the tomatoes and getting lost in conversation about past gardens, past events and people who are gone.  We discussed current events in the family, our community, the world….

Yesterday, in the sunlight and early afternoon almost autumnal shadows,  we discussed how we’d garden differently on her patio next growing season.

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