Monday, March 16, 2020

So..... What's Everybody Up To?

Hunkered down, out playing in traffic, self quarantine?  

See this guy?  Yup I am married to him, this is his beach office.  He ran off to Florida for a week but just couldn't walk away from the office. Rachael and Kim also flew down from the land of snow, ice and Iditarod racing.  They had a blast.  Abby stayed in Colorado under quarantine.  Turned out to be a sinus infection, phew!   I stayed home, as I am banned from the state of Florida (read past blog posts). I worked in the garden, the studio, started seeds, worked at school and took some grand walks with Kirby. We both had the best vacation ever! 

School is officially closed and all my shows are cancelled for the foreseeable future.  I am unemployed.  Yikes!  Wait, I have always felt unemployed, have always scrambled to make a living, in some weird way I think I will be OK......... if not, leave me my illusions.   The only time I found myself in deep state panic is getting an email from the library; Your library card will expire in 10 days.  Ran over Friday afternoon to find it locked up like Fort Knox.  Jumped on the Facebook page and the director emailed me at 11:30 pm to say she was alerting the main library not to cancel my card.  Then emailed the next morning at 8:30 am that the main library would continue my card until the library was open for business again.  Deep sigh of relief as I don't know what I would do without the library!!! 
Gotta love librarians, one posted her own Meme this week, it's true! 

I am so happy to have a small patch of ground right now, I am finding it hard to stay inside.  It occurred to me I am always off running somewhere; school, shows, galleries, etc.  Enter Corvid-19 and listen to those doors slam!  Now I only need to walk out the back door.  I did nothing in this yard last year, except plant a garden.  No pruning, no compost turning, no cleanup (which is OK because loads of critters over winter in my messy garden)  I was always running, I think the entire 365 days! 

For the first time in years I have time to do what needs to be done and the weather has cooperated this year too!  If there was a foot of snow on the ground I would be stir crazy with bells on but there is green grass!  The more I am out on this little half acre the more my list is growing.  
 Bad news/good news:  the nurseries are still open and there are plants galore!  

time to draw up a new plot plan so I don't buy all the plants! 
(take this along to the nursery; no room, no plant!)

Even though I have been on this plot for 35+ years I am still learning.  When we moved in, there were Ostrich Ferns everywhere, they were growing into the foundations stones and they were 3-4 tall.  They were everywhere. I considered these a pox and ripped them out.  Gave large black garage bags, full to friends, pitched them over the hill, put them in the recycling yard waste bin.  It took years to eradicate the dreaded Ostrich fern from this half acre.  Guess what I bough last week?  Why?  I just found out these are fiddleheads.  They can be sautéed in olive oil and eaten with complete joy or scrambled eggs. 

The last two weeks have been perfect weather for transplanting long established plants to other places in the yard.  Here is the laundry list of this weeks escapades.  
The double file viburnum is history.  It almost killed me, literally!  The root ball ended up being well over 100 pounds but the invasive species is gone and an Elberta Peach tree (dwarf) is in it's place. 

Everything that was in this bed is gone and has been replaced with edibles.  
I have ordered 3 more honey berries to pollinate what is already there.  I also ordered lingonberries.  As a landscaper we planted cotoneaster, a lot of cotoneaster.  The birds like the berries as do the rabbits, not so great for human consumption and considered toxic.  Lingonberries are delicious and can planted in shady areas, especially around azaleas and at the feet of rhododendrons.  Raspberries; 2 Latham, 1 Heritage and 1 jewel (black raspberry)  There is a honey crisp apple I planted last year, a service berry planted 20 years ago, 20 asparagus crowns a stanley plum tree (Italian prune) and a new majestic peach tree to anchor the corner.   I will be filling in with comfrey, digitalis, a few herbs and a peony or two.  I ordered pavement roses for the rose hips, rose hip tea in the winter is packed with vitamin C and it's pretty tasty.  Pavement roses have bigger hips than rosa rugosa.

The compost pile has been an on going project but look at that compost!!  

I am desperately trying to do "no dig" gardening.  I had Hairy Bittercress everywhere!  It was a carpet and starting to bloom.  It is edible and loaded with Vit. C, calcium, magnesium, beta carotene and anti-oxidants.  I added to salad greens and it was great, don't let the name fool you.  The flowers are a bit chewy but the tender leaves are delish!  But when it starts to flower I freak out a bit because the seed heads explode sending the next generation everywhere!   It was gently yanked and put in the compost pile for nitrogen! 

back to spreading compost! 

The rhubarb is emerging!  

The birds are nesting again! 

Speaking of birds...... I had no plans to get baby chicks and instead was going for juveniles but since I will be home I guess I will try my hand at baby chicks.  By the time they feather out I can have the chicken coop redecorated..... maybe?  And how many baby chicks fit in a yellow labs mouth at one time? 

And although I feel like I am plodding along with my little seedlings in the cold frame, compost turned, chicken coop cleaned, pruning done there is still so much to do.  It is a full time job!  

I have only touched the back of the property and haven't even started the immediate gardens or front gardens.  

I staked out an area for a greenhouse, a small green house.  
I need to get my rain barrels hooked up yet and the Spring rains are here! 

maybe there will be time for some kayaking this year!! 

I have inventoried pantries, freezers and basement shelves and I believe we are OK for a few weeks, even a couple months if we have too.  

I bought extra dried beans and rice.  Another few bags of flour for the freezer.  The shelves in the basement are still pretty full although diminished.  But I still have garlic and onions.  Chives are emerging now.  My final trip to the store to pick up a gallon milk to freeze, I found the store shelves full of good food.  Freezer and processed food was gone but I had no trouble finding beans, grains, cans of salmon, tuna or things you had to cook.  We don't have a microwave and I do like to cook.  Outside, the hungry gap is behind us and there are plants to forage at the moment.  

I didn't by hand sanitizer I bought isopropyl alcohol and I have hand cream.  I also bought a gallon of bleach.  

All these projects I have wanted to do over the past few years, now is the time!  I made laundry detergent last weekend and it works absolutely great!  It costs pennies on the dollar and I added my own essential oil, Siberian Fir and no dyes or perfumes! 

I am learning a new crochet stitch called Tunisian crochet, thank you YouTube. 
making new dish clothes from cotton. 

I still have more pruning to get on with so the wood pile will continue to grow.....

Gosh so much going on!  I am embracing the self quarantine edict.  Now I need to work on that guy in the first picture of this blog post.  We went to Home Depot for a few things and had to use the touch screen checkout, EWWWWWW!  He said; let me do it!  I did!  I railed all the way to the van about wearing gloves, not touching your face, how many breeders we had just had contact with.... he said nothing, gets in the van, rips into a bag of potato chips and starts eating.  Horrified I stopped the van and ordered him to walk home!  What is wrong with you?  I'm hungry, they had chips...... 
yes, we are all doomed! 

and the electric fence is on......... 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Random Thoughts on these Apocalyptic Times........

Keep your sense of humor #1 and then CYA (cover your ass) 

First off; HAPPY MARCH 1st!  

I feel like I am on the biggest adventure ever and when do we GET THERE?  
Have you noticed? 
The days are getting longer, the geese are flying north, I saw my first turkey buzzard yesterday (huge in so many ways!), bird songs are very different, and I just feel it down to my bones, things are stirring.  
I don't want to be cooking anymore I want to be pruning, planting and spreading compost.
I spent two days spreading compost.  Tip of the year......... Never ever ever ever put your compost pile next to a freaking locust tree!  Every year I have to chop through locust roots and sift the compost, what pain the sieve!  But it was done in February! 

The chicken chalet was cleaned and readied for a new flock! 

Spring is afoot and as we all know hope springs eternal and I HAVE SEEDS!!  

I have started seeds! 

We have had a mild winter with varying swings in temperature.  Trying to take advantage of those wild temperature swings, boots and gloves never got put away.  The entire winter allowed me to prune and transplant.  Two trees were taken out before nesting season. 

 I don't think I've ever been able to turn the compost pile in February let alone spread so much of it.  Mother Nature and I have a leg up on so many things that otherwise overwhelm me in March.  This March I am not so overwhelmed and pretty excited about what is coming.  

The cold frame I built a year or so ago is finally getting a proper work out!  

Kale, so much kale.....

Black Seeded Simpson lettuce..... I have been planting this cold weather variety since 1972, it just never fails.  This seed stock was marked 1993 and the germination rate is still killer! 

The cold frame harbors; kale (3 varieties), lettuce (3 varieties), onions (2 varieties) and leeks. 
Radishes will probably get planted later today while the moon is in Taurus.  I'm trying Biodynamic gardening practices this year but only when convenient.   Just not many hard, fast, set in stone rules around here. 
Why because I am a woman gardener and things get done when they get done.  There is a whole lot of grey area on this half acre.  Thank the goddess above and below, Nature is pretty forgiving and recovers, so y'all just need to forget about making mistakes and go for it!  Most things want to grow and survive, period.  

Which brings me back to the original reason I decided to write a post in the first place.  I'm not crazy about making any hard fast decisions at the moment as things seem to be in flux, wavy gravy flux.  
I am listening to NPR and occasionally watching CNN and I hear what is supposed to be coming and anybody who thinks this government is going to save us ........ well you can go to the line I am going to call; Culling the Herd.  Ok enough of that talk.   I have this little pottery I run and it's run hard these past 35 years.  I was in Boston for SAC Boston when the marathon bomb went off and we were on lock down for a couple days.  An investment of a couple thousand dollars and carnage.  I made expenses by selling mugs and bowls which I had not been juried in for but had tossed in the back of the van because something said; load 'em up and I did.  Thank you little voice in my head because I was one of the only artist that made her expenses.  Not very much art went out the door the last two days of that show.  Driving home I thought; the paradigm has shifted.  I opened a gallery in Cleveland and got off the road.  Had trouble paying the rent and hated the grind so found myself back at local shows.  Closed the gallery after 3 years and eked out a living back on the show circuit although things were changing and shows were getting harder to clear expenses and I'm not getting any younger.   
After doing taxes for 2019 and wondering why am I doing this but can't seem to stop myself I applied to a very large local show that runs back to back weekends.  I applied to both weekends with different bodies of work.  I did it last year and it almost killed me. Two days ago I got the congratulations to both shows and felt a pit in my stomach.  Cash out lay for both shows is around $1,000.  The show dates are the last week of June and first weekend in July.  I want to support local shows but this might not be the year.  The contract is due March 31st, and yes they gave me a primo tent space.  


The stock market tanked last week due to this thing we are calling COVID-19 or the Coronavirus.  And can I just say every week I read something that is invading us on every damn front!  If you live in Ohio here is partial list that should make your heart stop:  The bighead carp, grows larger than a beagle (I am not making that up!) garlic mustard (which I can eat), the emerald ash borer,  the asian longhorned beetle, kudzu, callery pear, bush honeysuckles, West Nile virus, zebra mussels, the round goby fish, Canadian thistle, gypsy moth, chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, The European corn borer (we are the corn belt), sea lampreys, house sparrows, starlings (muscling out native bluebirds), feral pigs, white-nose syndrome in bats (who eat mosquitos carrying West Nile Virus), hemlock woolly adelgid, walnut twig beetle, lesser celadine (an escaped ornamental from Europe), Japanese barberry. 

So how are you celebrating; National Invasive Species Awareness Week in your neighborhood:  March 3-8th.

While all these deep thoughts rolled around in my head I went to the grocery store and watched the woman in front of me fill three shopping carts and drop over $600 on "stocking up" stuff while her husband was out filling gas cans in the bed of his pick up.  All this in my little town, in the middle of no where.  We are the BELT! the rust belt, the bible belt, the corn belt, the snow belt, we survive on getting belted........  We are Browns fans who are 99% sports scar tissue and people are starting to freak out.  

Ok I'm not worried about me but I am worried about "THEM".   Yup, I am glad the basement is full and the freezer is full and yup, I ordered a few extra seeds this year.  So now do I buy the lumber for a green house or spend it on show fees?  I'm leaning toward the green house.  In lieu of what I am seeing at the grocery store and hearing at the local watering hole I don't think people are going to be up to buying much art.  I think they're gonna be stockpiling and that include guns and ammo from what I see at our local shooting range, Point Blank.  Husband and wife team dressed in matching camo prints, both knuckle dragging limbs attached to large ammo boxes, also in camo.  And don't even ask me what I was doing at the local shooting range but WOW was it a wake up call to people I only thought existed in Idaho in a bunker..... they walk among us!  Well that sent a shutter up my spine but then calmed down when I realized they buy their art from Fur and Feathers All Outdoors for 50% off.  Oh and can we toss in an election year?  My sales are always down in election year, always!  It's like the cherry on a sundae.  

I am still teaching and hope the school remains open for the remainder of the school year.  We have many foreign students who return home for Spring Break.  I am not sure what will happen, another variable.  I have been well paid and would surely miss the income.   

So here is my plan........ thank you Elizabeth Warren (no, I am not endorsing or voting for her) I honestly don't know who I'm voting for yet as it's like watching a train wreck, you can't stop watching.  Seriously my heart hurts so bad for this country and my kids.  The orange one has got go so I would vote for any rational adult including Bozo the Clown.  

It is finally time for a studio sale!  I can bake some cookies and open the studio and gardens.  I don't care if I sell a thing.  It's place you can come have a cookie, glass of ice tea or coffee, walk around the gardens, visit the chickens, pet a blind dog and put your feet up.   

This last month we had the neighbors over for the pie party and last night a chili party.  It was fun and my house got a good cleaning on a regular basis. 

The chili was made with my scarlet runner beans, tomatoes, tomato jam, garlic, onions and poblano peppers from last year's garden.  Also served; cornbread made with local maple syrup and cheesecake with last years boozy peaches and/or blueberries. 

It's a lot of work but what isn't and even better, at then end of the party I don't need to get in my car and drive home because I am already here and I love it here!  

My gut is telling me to save the show fees and play my cards a little closer to my vest this year. 

Oh ya, and wash your hands, believe in science!  and don't hide...... 

 and just in case you need this magic spell which works great! 

Thursday, February 20, 2020


On this cold cold  February morning walk, when your eyes water and your nose contorts, sucking in ice cold air.  Tears dribbled down my face for no apparent reason other than it was fucking cold, a raspberry bramble slapped the back of my frosty numb leg, sending a stabbing pain up my spine to an already short circuited brain.  The sun was not out and it was a grey, milk toast Ohio morning with a stiff  14 mph north wind.  My shoulders were scrunched up enough to be declared a turtle neck.  Kirby had refused to walk down the driveway and was home snoring.  And about the time my legs were burning with cold and welts, I stopped to look around.......... 

yup, definitely worth it.....
and this is out my front door, no need to drive anywhere just walk across the street.  

Since rolling off the frenetic season of shows, holidays, family, feasting and all things glittery, it's time to take a step away and review. For every single thing I question, in this sometimes out of control lifestyle, I can ask; IS IT WORTH IT? 

Can there be a more simplistic question that can bring such clarity?  This is a revelation to me and just why this thought is occurring to me at 65 is a mystery.  Although I think I have ghost memories of my teenage self and possibly even my wee self asking that question, when staying out past curfew, locking my brother out of the house (on purpose) or things making my folks go little gray-er.  Even then the answer was always YES, a resounding YES with a side order of YES and sprinkled with a bit more YES!   I am not sure what the hell happened in between but I forgot to ask. 

I am often asked why I can and preserve so much food.  I had a can of tomatoes in the cupboard and the smell alone made me aware of how worth it is to have a shelf full of tomatoes tucked in jars from my garden in the basement. 
The other night I had Butternut Carrot Thai soup from a basement shelf and Butch opened a can of store bought soup.  We don't even need to have that discussion but the jar beat the can, no argument from the peanut gallery on that one.  For me, it's YES.  For Butch who could eat Kirby kibble and say Wow, where did you get this great recipe, not so much. 

Bread...... is it worth it?  YES!  and I figured out a way to make it so it only takes a few minutes.  And it's full of great stuff like oat bran, nuts, whole grains, Einkorn flour, rye and stuff that I like.... oh yeah and Guinness.  I can't buy this bread and it costs under a dollar to make so discussion over. 
Butch still likes Wonder Bread, I think it's a wonder you can eat it. 

Teaching out at the Montessori school....... I have made peace with this issue.  Not sure the kids would say it's worth it but for me it is!   I've made so much peace with this I took on another class.  
But it's the middle of winter when traditionally no money goes in my bank account,  it paid for two big diseased pines to be taken out. 

and I have change to buy a few new plants for all that space!  

The two shows I have committed to ........ going on past review I would say, YES. 

How about getting a dog?  BaHaaaaa!  

and you get to meet the neighbors! 

And what about all that work in the garden? 

Absolutely YES! 

I have said to NO to quite a few things so I am weeding out this year.  Things that made me a lot crazy and things that made me a little crazy.   That NO thing has opened the door to new adventures
 I am kind of excited about.  

I haven't been in the studio too much but just enough that I want to be there.  

And just so everyone knows;  Mercury is in Retrograde and this could all go right out the window but for now can we get a: OH HELL YES!  

Oh and the Mom Box idea has been a blast!
February Mom box included homemade truffles, biscotti, chocolate chip cookies and a cook book :) 

So that's a YES!  (and no I do not want to start a side a business in my spare time) 

next month it has to be vegetables!  

So ask yourself.......... IS IT WORTH IT?  
You might be surprised, I was! 

Ahhhhh thanks fucking cold February! 

How I feel about most days in February....