Monday, December 31, 2018

the last morning of 2018

On this morning of the final day of the year,
I'm doing a bit of thinking back and thinking ahead.

While I'm doing all this thinking, what task could be more appropriate
than cleaning the seeds saved from this year's gardens?

Do you have any special plans for this New Year's Eve?
Or, depending on your place in the world, New Year's Day?

Monday, December 24, 2018

being there

While I was doing a second round of chores today, snow began to fall. 

First, just a scattering of flakes.

 Then a bit more.

The goats moved between the barns and paddocks,
eating their hay, as bigger flakes began to fall.

 Beautiful flakes. Falling slowly. Falling densely.

I brushed melting snowflakes from the paddock chair
and sat to watch for a while.

It was that rare, lovely snowfall that looks the way
I imagine people who do not live in snowy climates think all snow looks -
almost unbelievably perfect.

 I exhausted one camera battery and switched to a second.
By the time that battery was nearly done,
my clothes were wet through with melted snow.
It was time to head inside.  

For all the snow that fell, what remained later in the day was not much more than a dusting. Just enough to make everything look very pretty. If I hadn't been out in it as it was falling, I could not have guessed the way it looked coming down.

Isn't it a gift to be there, eyes open, for beauty?


early on the eve

Not yet daylight and I heard an odd little rattling sound I could not identify.
Switched on the lamp to see the innocent face of Moxie, who clearly was not just whacking at the strings of lights on the tree. Would never dream of doing such a thing.

Five minutes later:

Happy Christmas Eve morning, everyone.
May all your trees remain upright!

Friday, December 21, 2018

a winter tree

It was becoming a bit of a Christmas Eve morning tradition to drive to my "local" feed store in search of a tree. There are sometimes one or two left and I feel sorry for them. Also - and I admit this is important - the prices are reduced. It's a bit of a stretch for me to spend a considerable amount of money on a tree I can't plant.

2014: The Little Green Sportswagon

I also like waiting til late December because it means January - perhaps even part of February - will be a little festival of lights here every night. It really helps my, well, "spirit" would be the right word I think, to see those multicolored gems glowing in the house when I am out in the barns at night. And I love catching the scent of balsam when I come inside.

Coming in from the barn

Last year and the year before, I didn't put up a tree. Partly because the cats were kittens in 2016, and partly because there was so much mayhem here with construction projects in December 2017. On Christmas Eve last year I did put up a swag of lights between the workshop and barn, and even that little bit of cheer was very enjoyable in the weeks that followed.

But this year, I decided weeks ago that I want to put up a tree. I really really want to. Even if the cats try to climb it. Even if the cats DO climb it. I budgeted for a tree, and decided that instead of taking a chance and waiting til Christmas Eve, I'd get the tree in time for Winter Solstice, which is today.

This is a bittersweet twig and a fern.
But it could be holly berries and a balsam branch :)

Yesterday was a whirlwind of chores, but in the afternoon I visited the local florist shop and chose a tree. Brought it home, trimmed the trunk so it will be able to drink again, and pulled it carefully through the sliding glass door onto the porch.

Phase Two of Winter Tree complete! The tree is on the porch!

Phase One is "make room for a tree on the porch."
I'll be doing Phase One today.

Then comes Phase Three: adding the tiny lights.

At 5:23 PM, the moment of Solstice in my neck of the woods, I will light the tree. And breathe a sigh of happiness that the wheel of the seasons has turned once again and days will now be growing longer.

What a joyous thought!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

a little announcement

In the upper righthand sidebar, there is a new item.
Under "Pages" there is a link for Cloud Harvest Cashmere.

I thought for a long while about this, and had reservations about making this blog in any way a "commercial" entity. But it also seemed quite silly to not have an option for anyone who might actually want to see whatever little items I might be making in an effort to support my goats' habit of eating.

I finally decided to make a separate page, so readers can choose to visit if they wish. That seems about as low-key as it can possibly be. I hope you'll agree.

And now, in a completely unrelated theme:

how about this sky?

For about three minutes, the view from my Massachusetts window made me feel like I'm living high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

better late

Thank you all so much for your birthday wishes! You will laugh when I tell you that I fell asleep after chores last night before eating any lemon meringue pie, but I had a slice for breakfast this morning. And this evening, I finally opened my presents.

Have I mentioned my approach to the "Black Friday"-type mayhem? It's got nothing to do with Christmas for me - indeed, it has nothing to do with Christmas in any way, period - but I use it as a practical way to plan ahead.

All year I keep a list of "needed/wanted, but can wait" items for the animals, myself, the house. Come November, I shop from that list during the sales, almost entirely online. It can mean a whacking great bill to pay in December, but considerably less than the same purchases would have cost if spread out over the year; things like a replacement router, a pair of prescription reading glasses, a humidifier for the porch, a nice cotton workshirt for next Spring, and a pair of insulated walking boots for winter Piper-rambles.

This year, I added a little fun by making some birthday "surprise gift" purchases as well. The first was from a small New Hampshire online yarn shop that imports yarns from the UK.

Look, it's a hat and two pairs of socks!
(Some assembly required.)

I also placed an order with Blick Art Supplies. I'll tell you what: a fifty-dollar "surprise gift" budget can buy a whole lot of fun when there's a sale going on and free shipping for a $45 order.

I say "surprise" because it seemed likely that between mid-November and mid-December, I would forget at least part of what I ordered. Every time I visit the Blick website, dozens of items catch my imagination. Ordering just a few things from that treasure trove and then putting it out of my mind meant that I genuinely forgot all but one item. When I opened the box from Blick this evening, it was as if this gift had truly dropped unexpected out of thin air.

I said, "Oooh!"

Out loud.

And then I laughed like a loon.

 I've been wanting a pocket sketchbook for a while now.
This is a very, very good one.
In fact, "It's just what I wanted!"
I'm pretty excited about it.

This waterbrush is a brand I haven't tried before.
Every year I buy one - maybe two - new ones, figuring out what works for me.
This one is labelled "1 mm" - quite tiny.

Then, in order to embrace the ongoing adventure that is watercolor,
I went to the other extreme:

Fun ahead :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


It's my birthday
and I have big plans:

It's a quiet life, but a happy one.
And sometimes there is pie!

Monday, December 10, 2018

monday meander

Piper and I went for a ramble in one of our favorite areas today. You've seen bits of it before, in photographs and various sketches - it's one of the places we visited repeatedly during our first outdoor drawing adventures.

And speaking of drawing, thank you very much for all the kind words about the iris watercolor. I'm so glad you liked it!

Today was crisply cold and very bright.
While Piper examined dozens of enticing aromas,
I took dozens of ice portraits.

I took a few photographs of stones that I usually see from a different perspective.
To give you an idea of scale, when I'm standing next to this one, the ferns growing atop it are at eye-level.

I also managed to sneak in a few snaps of Ms. Piper.

But mostly:


More clear, cold weather is predicted this week,
and I am looking forward to it!
How are things in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, December 8, 2018

saturday sketch

This watercolor sketch is from a few days ago.
I wish I had taken a better photograph, during daylight,
but you get the idea.

Daily Markmaking continues...
hard to believe tonight will be #342.

What will it be?
And will I fall asleep in the middle of making it?
There have been some very close calls.
Daylight hours are so short and there is always so much to be done.
I almost never get out the sketchpad til nighttime, after chores are done and everyone has been fed. Most of the recent drawings and painting have been done while I'm snugged up in bed, with Moxie and Della anchoring me in place, and Piper within reach curled up in her new nest.

That's exactly the situation right now, in fact.
I'm the only one still awake, and I am very tired,
so I'd better get cracking.

I hope your weekend is going well!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

delivering the stars

The entrants in the giveaway for handmade felt stars
from the Snow Leopard Trust were:

4 KB
5 JO

The winner, determined once again by Random.Org,

is #3 Salty Pumpkin Art! 


Please email your mailing address to q dot piper at hotmail dot com within 3 days,
so I can get your colorful little constellation in the post right away!

Oh, and please put Comptonia in the subject line so your email will jump out from the literally hundreds of "offers" that are filling my email box this month.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018


I felt sad when my passport expired.

The expense of renewing it seemed unjustified, considering how unlikely it is that I will be physically able to travel. But letting my passport expire felt like a surrender.

Every now and then in the past 3 years - my passport expired on 8 November 2015 - I've mentally debated the decision. It came down to one question.

Not: "How likely is it that I will use a passport?"

But: "How much value does the option of getting on a plane carry?"

Once when I had a medical appointment in a city I rarely visit these days, an hour away, I stopped at the AAA office and had pictures taken. Just in case.

And one day when I came across my old passport while looking for something else, I put it in a place where I could find it when wanted. If wanted.

Well, on the subject of renewal:

My Massachusetts driver's license is going to expire in December. Hoping to avoid a trip to the Registry, I went online to renew it. It quickly became apparent that the licensing system in MA has changed, and is in the middle of a transition related to federal ID requirements. I read all the instructions two or three times, and after spending an hour on the website, I came to a startling conclusion:

The simplest way for me to renew my MA driver's license
would be to first renew my passport.

Crazy but true.

This morning, I renewed my driver's license online.

Because a few days ago, this came in the mail:

And I feel very good about it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

giving tuesday

I don't know about you, but I am just as tired of hearing people complain about
"the commercialization of the holiday season"
as I am tired of the actual commercialization.

So I love the whole concept of Giving Tuesday.

from wikipedia:
Giving Tuesday, often stylized as #GivingTuesday for purposes of hashtag activism, refers to the Tuesday after U.S. Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a movement to create an international day of charitable giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season. Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season (Black Friday and Cyber Monday).

There's just no "down side" to Giving Tuesday. I love the recognition of the value of all kinds of giving - your time, your goods, your voice - not just money. I also love that so many philanthropists and organizations that can offer huge financial contributions, take this opportunity to match the tiny financial donations of ordinary folk like me. When my five dollars suddenly becomes ten, that's pretty sweet.

This Giving Tuesday website provides "near me" opportunities in the US - searchable by town or state, with a filter for category. I tried it for Non-Profits and immediately found 4 in my little town, and 1775* in Massachusetts.

An interesting website I visited yesterday for the first time is a place "for nonprofits to find pro bono help and for skilled volunteers to provide it." I don't have experience with TaprootPlus, but I do have experience offering skills to non-profits in lieu of cash, because these days my time/skills are frankly worth far more than I can afford to donate in cash. It's very satisfying when such an arrangement works out, but it can be hard to set up without a specific project/need already identified by the organization. (Psst: still hoping to hear from you, Snow Leopard Trust!) So if Taproot Plus is a functional clearinghouse for both the nonprofits and the volunteers, that sounds like a need fulfilled, right there. If any of my readers have used this website to either find free help or provide it, please share in the comments or send me an email. I'd love to follow up.

Meanwhile, today I'm going to make my small - but sometimes matched! - donations to groups I've written about before on this blog - APOPO HeroRats, the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, the Pat Brody Shelter for Cats, and of course, the Snow Leopard Trust.

Pat Brody Shelter - free access outdoor area

And now - if you've made it all the way to the end of this post! - here is a little reward.

Some of you may remember a giveaway back in - oh my gosh, I just pulled the original images, and look - it was January 2015! 

Well, last year I had stocked up on more of these stars in order to repeat that giveaway in December. But I unexpectedly lost my laptop for most of that month and missed the opportunity.

So let's do it now!

I just checked the Snow Leopard Trust gift shop, and did not find stars amongst their many felted items, which makes these handmade stars not only pretty and cheerful, but possibly rare collectors' items!

To enter, just leave a comment on this post - perhaps sharing your own ideas for Giving Tuesday? or just say hello - and I will draw a winner one week from today. All are welcome, anywhere on the planet and on the International Space Station.

The winner will be announced on the blog and will have 3 days to provide me (by email) with a mailing address.

Good luck!

That state-wide number made me smile. There was rather a lot going on in Massachusetts in 1775! It was the start of the American Revolution.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


ice on motherwort

None of that shilly-shallying, dusting-then-a-warm-spell, off-and-on easing into Winter this year! Our first snow was the night of the 15th, and it was a heavy, wet snow requiring the tall boots. Since then, we've had more and more snow but often right on the edge of freezing rain, so it's a bit of a mess out there.

Still plenty of color, though! Doesn't this Rubus look lively despite it's icy snowcap?

After the most muted Autumn foliage season I can recall in all my New England years, my eyes are reveling in shrub colors right now. I painted this watercolor the day after the first snowstorm, when the sun was reflecting off the snow and backlighting the Kerria japonica between the porch and the stilt barn:

The kids are taking this new snow situation in stride, and of course the rest of the herd is very familiar with all aspects of Winter. All is well, as long as there are plenty of sheltering options when wanted - such as during the freezing rain episodes - and Management keeps the hay coming.

 My boy Betula, reaching out from under the stilt-barn to have a bite of hay.
What? Doesn't everyone recognize their animals just by their noses?

This past week, despite the weather - and the fact that the zipper on my work coat broke completely so I'm now wearing multiple fleeces and moving like the Tin Man - a long-delayed barn project is finally seeing progress. The doors - which have been a headache/backache for a long time - are now 80% functional again. A little more effort and they may be perfect. If I can avoid wrestling with them every day this Winter, it will be a BIG improvement!

Campion says, "Doors are all very well,
but let's focus on that hay you mentioned earlier."

It's definitely Stone Soup time, and the crockpot has been on a constant simmer. Do you keep a soup pot going, and add different things to change it up as you go along?

At this point in it's evolution, my current soup has beef, onions, mushrooms, bone broth, carrots, rice and chick peas. I sometimes add shredded cheddar or curry seasoning when I dish up a bowlful. Yesterday I also cooked a pot of lentils, so now there's an option of roasted squash and lentils with soup poured over. I am eating well. We all are. Bonus: at the feedstore Saturday I bought a new kind of chewbone that Piper seems to enjoy - huzzah! It looks like a rolled rawhide bone but it's not rawhide or bone, it's completely edible. I gave it to her Sunday afternoon and she worked on it for four hours, non-stop, before she had to stop for a nap. Today she was back at it again, so if it retains it's allure and lasts more than a week, I'll order a whole bag.

Time to paint #324 of the DailyMarkmaking2018 and call it a night. Here is a group of one-inch squares I've done recently as a change of pace between "regular" sketches:

Always something new to explore, isn't there?
Amidst all the other stuff we do, and deal with,
let's not forget to have some good fun.