Monday, April 30, 2018

the real thing

Between drizzling mizzling rains today, I paddled out and got a few pictures of Pulmonaria for you. These pictures accurately show how the colors pop up through the fallen leaves of last Autumn.

The largest leaves are red oak, which gives you an idea of the size of the plants.

And in this picture, you can see deep pink buds, and several flowers in the process of turning from pink to blue. This isn't the exact stem I painted, but it could have been.

I hadn't seen this plant until a kind gardener in town gave me some from her own garden. It was long past blooming, and when it came up the following year I did not know what it was, so the flowers were a big surprise. I posted a picture here on the blog  and several readers identified it for me.
Rereading that old blog post tonight also confirmed my feeling the bloodroot is usually up first.

Speaking of which, here is the bloodroot today: all tucked in against the cold.

Plants are simply amazing, aren't they?


Sunday, April 29, 2018

bits of color

This year, the Pulmonaria began to bloom a full week before the bloodroot. It was so refreshing to suddenly see a bit of pink and blue amidst the many shades of brown in the leaf litter still covering most of the gardens.

The plants are only a few inches tall but they certainly have a lot going on in the Color Department. In addition to the multi-toned stems and prettily mottled leaves, the flowers begin to bloom in pink, then shift to a lavender blue!


Saturday, April 28, 2018

no turning back

Yesterday, a cluster of delicate bloodroot buds - which I've been admiring daily - 


The sky was overcast and rain soon began to fall, continuing all afternoon and right through the night. It was still raining when I got up this morning, and although it has now stopped, the sky is a heavy, dark grey.

But no matter.

The bloodroot is blooming.

That's it.

It's Spring!

Let's dive in.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

more than halfway there

Each Spring, after weeks of daily plodding out to the barns with my basket-o-brushes, there's always a point when I know I'm on the long, slow, downhill side of the annual cashmere harvest.

I haven't found a feasible alternative to these giant ziploc bags.
But at least I reuse them, as you see by the elegant labels.

People are often surprised to hear how long this process stretches out. I have only a small herd, but the variability in shedding is extreme. Acer always starts shedding in February; Dara has just begun and April is nearly over!

Right now, some goats are functionally "done" and will just need one or two quick clean-up combing sessions so the last of the undercoat will be off and fresh air and sun can get to their skin. Like Sambucus here:

But there are some goats who will still need more hours of careful combing despite already having been thoroughly combed at least three times. Case in point: Azalea.

It takes a lot of very gentle work with a slicker brush to remove loose cashmere without tugging on this long, thick topcoat. It took over an hour working on just her left side (above) to get to the point where a rake would run smoothly through her coat:

And as you see, it's still picking up a few wisps of cashmere.

A few days after a thorough combing, Azalea will look like the top photograph all over again, and we'll have another session. I'll be collecting less cashmere next time, but she is still carrying quite a bit.

Betula is another long-coated goat. We've worked very hard this year, Bet and I, to harvest as much of his cashmere as possible. But now he is dropping the remainder so fast that it immediately becomes a matted layer trapped in his topcoat. I'll keep working to get it off, but more for health and comfort than for useful fiber. This is all discarded fiber from one combing of Betula this week:

With the harvest drawing slowly to a close, I'm already starting to think about knitting again. The past couple of years I've had to put all WIPs aside when the combing starts, because even though my mind misses the restful quality of knitting, my hands can only take so much in one day. This year, that meant a pair of nearly-finished socks has been waiting since February for toes.
Soon, socks. Soon.

Right, Azalea?

Monday, April 16, 2018

just two cheerful snaps

 A White-throated Sparrow, perched in the sugar maple sapling just outside my window. I saw the first flash of yellow last week and have been hoping to get a decent photograph ever since. Today, this little bird provided several.

This fragile stem has been rooting in water after a recent horrible mishap involving a very large potted begonia and a windowsill. This morning I was surprised by the sudden appearance of a perfect flower.

I hope your week is off to a pleasant start.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

saturday snaps

Lately, there's been so much this.
If it's not raining, I try to comb cashmere for two hours in the morning
and one or two hours in the afternoon.

Today, though, being Saturday, there was no morning combing. I needed that time to gather up rubbish and recycling from the barns and the house and take it to the dump.

This afternoon I could have combed, as it was overcast but not raining. But Piper deserved some quality time with a person not too pooped to be good company.
We headed for the woods.

Funny thing: you know how a dog will jump up when the car keys jingle? Well today, Piper didn't wait for that. She jumped up when she saw me put a sketchbook and paints and brushes in a little pile.

We spent nearly two hours wandering around.
Trying to keep our feet dry. (Mostly me.)
Smelling things. (Mostly Piper.)

It was perfect light for soaking up colors.
Striped Maple buds looked almost black next to the deep green stems:

A single partridgeberry:

Color and texture:
I generally take many photographs of bark.

So today I also tried painting some bark.
Red oak, hemlock, and black birch:

Before I could add a fourth species, the sky suddenly grew darker and the temperature dropped. So Piper and I packed up and headed briskly out, just making it home in time to cover the hay. It was a very good couple of hours.

Piper had a grand time, even during the few minutes that I was painting. We have reached an agreement about how close a dog's head should be to a watercolor.

This close:


Sunday, April 8, 2018

a sketchy week in review

Early in the week, so much snow had melted in the woods that the partridgeberry was visible again. So refreshing to see that occasional glint of red on the forest floor!

Then, it snowed and hailed and rained and snowed.

There were thunderstorms. Gusting winds.
Branches came down.
The power went out twice in 12 hours.

Then we had a sunny day!

On the sunny day, I took a break from combing goats. Although it was still cold and windy, I dusted off my sketching chair and headed to the woods with Piper.

We walked in, then Piper trotted around while I set up my chair, unpacked my watercolor pencils, got settled in and started to work.

But...Piper was so excited to be out in the woods, she kept coming back to me, dropping her head - thud! - onto my sketchbook, and looking up at me, grinning. Seeing her so happy made me happy, too, so I put the sketchbook away and brought out the treats instead.

Outdoor sketching can wait.
I still have lots of photographs to work with.

And nighttime sketching is good.
The trickiest part is staying awake.

I don't know where this weekend went,
but I hope you all had a good one!


Friday, April 6, 2018

now you see it

now you don't!

If you happened to see the horrendous comment that was up for a couple of hours recently, my apologies. Very few slip through the net, and in fact, there's been a remarkably low level of ugliness on this blog over the years.

My guests are just The Nicest People!

So this may have been a one-off. If it becomes a recurrent thing, I will have to implement "administrator approval" for comments, as do many of you on your own blogs. We'll see.

Further seediness:

Attention Tess, Winner of Seeds: I have no way of contacting you directly! Please send me your mailing address and choice of seed - Winter or Summer squash. If I don't hear from you by Saturday, a full week after the drawing, I will assume you have also won a trip to Tahiti - hey, congrats!!! - and are going there instead of planting a garden this year.

Also in Seed world: here's the link to Tipper's giveaway in case you missed it. Ends tomorrow, 7 April.


Are we ready for the weekend?

Let's hope for a little less of this:

and a lot more of this:


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

another giveaway - right now

Guess what!

Tipper over at Blind Pig and the Acorn is giving away two more Sow True Seed squash seeds packets in a drawing today! Click that link to get over there and leave a comment. Good luck!


Sunday, April 1, 2018

now appearing

The tulips I hastily planted in the new raised bed on 15 November 2017 are beginning to appear! Snow predicted tomorrow, then days of rain.

But today: tulips.