Thursday, September 29, 2016

right now: goat vote round two

NB: Update at bottom of post

Well, it's the second level of voting for Pen 3.
Here's what the post looks like on FB:

If I understand the system, there are three levels of competition in each "Pen" before the winner of each Pen (there are 4 Pens, and each began with 20 goat pictures!) will go on to - I sincerely hope - the Final round.

So, if you'd like to vote for Tsuga and Lily - before 5 PM ET today - click here to go to the Chaffhaye FB page and leave a comment with the number 47.

Thanks again for all your support, both voting and sending good thoughts :)

9:10 PM update:

Well, Tsuga and Lily made it through Round Two...
 and will proceed to Round 3!
Thanks again for all your support.
Onward :)

Monday, September 26, 2016

heavy horses

Two members of Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale hitch, having a word.

I've always had a deep, deep fondness for heavy horses.

When I was a little girl, a favorite treat - and a rare one, since no one in my family shared my interest in horses - was to visit the huge retired work horses at the MSPCA Nevins Farm and share out a box of sugar cubes.

Decades later, one of my favorite adult lesson horses was a Percheron mare.

Lusitano stallions in Portugal and a Percheron mare in Vermont...

I was never much of a rider, but no one can say I lacked range.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


I had the pleasure of viewing many, many quilts this week, at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, MA. Here are some snapshots I took to share with the needlefolk and sewing-persons and quilters among you.
And anyone who just enjoys color!

Sorry I couldn't get close to the quilts to photograph them,
but you'll get a taste, at least.

There were also lovely garments displayed on these nifty wooden silhouettes.
This simple design looks like something I could really use,
and might possibly even be able to make!

I like this tunic-y smock very much also, but it's harder to see the structure of the garment through the pattern of the fabric. (Making a note in my new Fabric Design sketchbook.)

Some of the stitchwork made me think of Sally at Crafts, Cavies and Cooking :)

I just realized I have no photographs of the hexi-shape quilts that are very popular right now. They must have been there. There was a huge variety of quilts - at least to my eye. Some of the simple repeating patterns made with lots of tiny pieces remind me of the quilts I grew up with.

Oh, and this last one is not a quilt. It's a hooked rug.
This really caught my eye, as it is a view I have experienced hundreds of times in my life, and which has never failed to provide a warm thrill of anticipation.
Can't you smell that salt air?

I couldn't determine if the rug-maker, Robin Salmaggi,  is also the designer.

Here's a closer look, so you can see the color detail:

And now I'm going to sign off before evening chores, which are starting earlier. It's no fun carrying buckets across a paddock in the dark - my paddocks have a lot of micro-topography - and I've done it several times in the past week.
There has been stumbling and cursing.
It's possible the goats learned a new word or two.

Guess it's time to admit the days are not just "getting" shorter here in the northern hemisphere...they are shorter.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

heads-up right now contest alert

NB: Update at bottom of post

Remember the Chaffhaye feed contest that began a month ago?
It's FINALLY Tsuga and Lily's turn for the first round voting!

If their picture gets more votes in this one-on-one round,
they will progress to the next level of voting.

Here's the Facebook page link. A comment with #47 is a vote. 
Voting ends at 5PM ET today.

Here's what the voting post looks like.

Thanks to everyone who has asked me about this since I first posted; otherwise I would have been reluctant to bring it up again on the blog. It seems very me-me-me, but it's really feed for them-them-them! And Chaffhaye clearly wants everyone to ask all their friends to come and vote, so...

(looking down, shuffling feet, twisting toe of barn boot in the mud)

Thanks :)

p.s. If my link to the voting page doesn't work, just look for Chaffhaye on Facebook. There are only a couple of pairs being voted for each day - which is why this contest is going on soooooo looooong - so it shouldn't take long to find the picture.

9 PM Update:
the voting was close, but Tsuga and Lily will "proceed to the next level."
So far, so good!
Thanks to everyone who voted and/or sent good wishes :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

tuesday tip

I was thinking about the ways we make extra work for ourselves.
(I say "we" just in case I am not the only one.)

No  matter how long my "to do" list feels before I get started, it feels so much longer when I have to stop for a task that was completely preventable. Like searching high and low for a particular article of clothing because I left a tottering tower of folded laundry atop the dryer two days ago and forgot about it, instead of just putting it away.

Or having to interrupt a cooking adventure to sharpen a dull knife.

So here's a tip that won't prevent a task, but may delay the necessity for a longer time. When chopping/slicing/dicing, try using the spine instead of the cutting edge to push chopped vegetables, etc., from board to bowl.

You may find your knives stay sharper, longer.

(Note to self: put the clean clothes away every time. Sheesh.)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

draw august, paint september

To try to keep the momentum up on some sort of daily sketching, I've been participating in #PaintSeptember this year. It's just like #DrawingAugust, but posting a daily painting of some kind on twitter. Well, it sure hasn't been every day for me. Every time I have my hired helper here for a few hours, it means No Extra Things on that day and at least a day afterward (Recovery Day). I also missed an entire week when the kittens arrived, which was a very fair trade-off :)

But I have been trying. I think there have been eight September paintings so far. Yesterday I tried to sit in the South Paddock and draw my workshop, but Campion became very interested in my watercolor pencils.

And decided to fight me for them. The rogue!

I gave up (but did not surrender my pencils!) and settled on the porch with a stalk of Solomon's Plume. Here it is, and as always, you can left-click any image to see it more clearly in a gallery window, then just click the "x" to come back to this page:

Now I want to share with you something I've been thinking about for a year.

Last autumn, I tried an experiment. I had a few of my #DrawingAugust pieces printed by Spoonflower to get a sense of how different original materials on paper might translate into fabric. The results were surprisingly satisfying - clear, detailed, nuanced - although you will have to take my word for it this morning because this is an extremely poor photograph of the sample:

watercolor (daylily detail)
graphite (beans)
Ink line drawing (sunflower)
digital composite of colored line drawing (fern)

Had some help with the photography. That's all I'm sayin' ;)

That swatch has been on my fridge for months now, reminding me to think in terms of potential fabric design during #DrawingAugust this year. I'm leaning toward printing cotton fabric with a botanical design. What do you think? Perhaps some of the line drawings, like this:

And/or some of the watercolors, like this:

It occurred to me this week that I have plenty of ideas and enough raw material to work with already, but am just apprehensive about the expense of a fabric-printing venture. What if it's a dud project, just because I didn't think through the technical aspect beforehand? But...what is the technical aspect of fabric design?

Spoonflower's website is fantastic for the logistics of getting your design ready to print, but - does this make sense? - I'm pondering the technical aspects of using fabric.

I don't know enough about the uses of fabric to know the answer!

Then light dawned: many of my readers sew - and sew amazingly beautiful things! So, may I ask a favor? If any of you have suggestions about what makes a printed fabric work for you, or - and this might be even more important - if there are things that make a particular printed fabric a problem for you...please leave a comment or pop me an email! My sewing-person skills are minimal, and there are probably loads of things I wouldn't even think of, that are totally obvious to a skilled and experienced sewing-person. I gratefully welcome your thoughts and recommendations!

And now, since the humid, overheated, bug-filled weather is beginning to relent, Piper and I will try to have more time in our "studio." This folding chair with backrest and added cushions makes a wonderful difference in the length of time I can work before I must creakily move again. Instead of 10 or 15 minutes, I have worked steadily for over an hour! A few years ago, I would never have imagined that such a statement could be a cause for celebration. But it is, it is, it is!

The chair weighs over 7 pounds and is One More Thing to carry - along with backpack, cushions, water bottle, treats, etc., so we don't go far. That's okay! At least we GO! Sometimes I take Piper for a walk in the woods first, then we go back to the car for my gear and walk back in just a little ways to set up the studio. And buffet.

Cool enough this day to bring buttered bread for a snack.
Not to belabor the point, but: spread to the edge ;)

This is a portrait of a Studio Companion who has already had five treats,
but who knows you put six treats in your pocket:

I hope your weekend is off to a wonderful start!
Will you have an opportunity to spend some time outdoors today?

Monday, September 12, 2016

the why-not gardens of 2016

I tried to focus on growing just a few types of vegetable this year, such as pole beans and squash and popcorn. But because there was more room to experiment, I looked through all the not-quite-empty seed packets that have been left after each recent year of gardening, and thought, "Why not just stick a few in here and there? Nothing to lose."

Two of these why-not plantings were the poona kheera cucumbers from India, and the Rouge vif d'Etampes French heirloom pumpkin. The original plantings had germinated poorly, so I planted the now-older seeds - five pumpkin and 36 poona kheera - densely to compensate for low germination.

Well. As near as I could tell, every one of those 41 seeds germinated! One of the pumpkin seeds even got washed away after the other four sprouted, but when poked back into the ground, sprouted and soon caught up to it's cohorts.

young pumpkin plants

One edge of my big garden was soon filled hip-deep with pumpkin leaves and vines. When one vine extended into the Lower West Side goat paddock, I tried to persuade it to turn back before it was too late, was already too late. The goats made short work of that branch; prickly leaves, sticky blossoms, massive stems and all.

Campion is a dedicated gardener. Specialty: pruning.

Three bright yellow pumpkins began to grow: one nearly hidden by popcorn stalks, and two outside the 6-foot perimeter fence above the bank garden. The perimeter fence is also the trellis for all the poona kheera plants, AND for the Georgia Candy Roaster winter squash plants, whose massive leaves tower over the six-foot fence. Quite a lively jungle out there!

poona kheera cucumbers
I picked the largest pumpkin last night, because the pumpkin and it's stem were being damaged by it's weight pressing into the fencing. I don't think it is ripe, but it can be perhaps be steamed and eaten like a summer squash. Although I'd rather roast it for soup or puree...does anyone have any experience with roasting or eating unripe pumpkins? Please do speak up in the comments! This beautiful pumpkin weighs nearly 19 pounds, and I do not want to waste a bit of it!

my first-ever pumpkin!

Not exactly a why-not planting, but do you remember the Suyo Long cucumbers from Tipper's Sow True Seed annual experimental project? Seven of the ten seeds germinated, and I quickly put little collars on to protect them from bad things like cutworms.

suyo seedlings

Since it seemed all seven seedlings were likely to survive, I thinned them by - why not? - moving four plants to a raised bed by the goat barn, to see which conditions the cucumbers might prefer. All seven plants have done well all summer!

They are such interesting cucumber plants. The tiny cucumbers look like this:

baby suyo long cucumber

As they grow, those strange, spiky-looking bright green things become strange, spiky-looking little white nubs. They may look sharp, but they aren't. I've even seen them described as "thorns" but I guess those people have never encountered an actual thorn! These little nubs just brush right off when you run a hand over the cucumber. Or even just your thumb. See?

The suyo cucumbers certainly earn their "long" title, and most of mine were grown on a trellis and have been quite straight. These two examples are each about 20 inches long:

suyo long

suyo also-long

I love the texture of the suyo peel; it is crisp and not bitter at all. A few of the cucumbers got so big the seeds developed so I scraped out those cores as a treat for the hens. I did the same with some of the poona kheera, and those I did peel because the rind is thicker - still not bitter, though! LeShodu, my Matriarch doe, greatly enjoys eating the strips of rind, one by one. I think her teeth may not be as strong as they used to be, so this is a nice way for her to get some soft "bark" without actually having to gnaw on a tree.

The suyo and the poona kheera are both still producing well, and I'm eating lots of cucumber salads - both a savory and a sweet version which I found on this post at The Blind Pig and The Acorn. In fact, I've got a tote full of cucumbers in the kitchen right this minutes, so I'm going to quit nattering and get busy slicing.

Hope your week is beginning well!

Monday, September 5, 2016

another reason to use the timer

Because there are times when flash is not an option.

1/10 second, handheld. 2 sec timer.

Absolutely NOT an option.

And who needs it?
Play around!
Experimentation is so easy with digital cameras.

Sometimes even a low-light, back-lit situation has possibilities.

1/8 second, handheld. 2 sec timer.

Sometimes you may be able to convince your camera that you actually know what you are trying to accomplish, and that it can stop helping you, thanks.

1/5 second, handheld. 2 sec timer.

And anyway, high contrast and ideal lighting and sharp focus
aren't everything.

None of these images is technically good.
Each one has something that pleases me, and that's enough.
I'm not preparing an exhibition; I'm enjoying unique snapshots.

But here's the thing: these are unedited, right from the camera. If you took pictures like this and wanted to "adjust" or "correct" or "improve" them, there are lots of ways to do so. Until your images have something that pleases you.

So, under the very transparent cover of following up on
"The Usefulness of a Timer under Certain Conditions"...

I want to share with you the arrival of these two tykes - both girls - who came home with me from the Pat Brody Shelter on Saturday evening. The little brown tabby is about 3.5 months old and the tiny calico about 2 weeks younger. They have been settling in and getting to know each other and their home. I think soon they will reveal their names.

Meanwhile, in the words of William Shakespeare:

"Chaos comes again."

Chaos and a lot of joy :)