Friday, August 30, 2019

beyond the zone

In choosing subjects for daily markmaking,
I sometimes deliberately stretch beyond my comfort zone.

By the way...
who knew there would ever be a markmaking comfort zone?
Life is full of surprises!


Last night was my first attempt at a bear.

With thanks to KB for sharing the video this youngster appeared in.

Readers, if you click the link, you'll see the bear climbing the tree
and "posing" for me within the first 10 seconds of the video.
But you'll want to watch the whole two minutes!


Wednesday, August 28, 2019


I am enjoying the zinnias.

If you left-click the pictures you can see them in a larger format.

This is recommended.

 It would be difficult to get too close to a zinnia, I think.

 Every time I go down to the big vegetable garden,

 I spend ages visiting the zinnias.

And I am not the only one.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

sunday snaps

We've had two days of genuinely pleasant weather.

Not too hot.
Not too steamy.
Not as many mosquitoes and biting flies.

I turned off the fans in the barns!

For the first time in months I was able to enjoy staying outside after chores,
instead of heading inside to peel off soaking wet clothes and dry my hair with a towel.

Today, Della helped me photograph the bees in the perennial gardens:

"There's one!"

And Moxie helped me work in the big vegetable garden:

"That's enough work for a while. Let's sit in the shade."

But Piper said,
"Honestly? Gardening has never really been my thing.
And Those Goats are EVERYWHERE!
I'm going back inside for a nap now."

Okay, Pip. I'll open the door for you, and put a treat on your pillow.

Then it's time to check on Those Goats.

Moxie spends a lot of time in the goat paddocks.
It looks like she's outside the fence here, but not really - 
she's in another paddock with other goats.

It must have been a huge relief for the goats to have fewer biting bugs.
This Spring and Summer has been, in a word, terrible.

This weekend all the goats have been quietly browsing or resting in the sun.
Not kicking at flies or flapping their ears to get rid of mosquitoes every few seconds.

I hope these gentler conditions will continue...
right into Winter would be nice!

Everyone relaxed.
Not a squabble, not a row.

Just the way I like it!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

thankful thursday

The rain we've been having.

Some of the vegetables in the garden are struggling with all the moisture. Of course the not-vegetable-plants are having a grand time, as demonstrated by this between-rows photograph:

Despite the weather, and the jungle growing up around them, the pole beans are producing abundantly. And the beans themselves are beautiful - almost all completely flawless, rarely a nibble or a spot, which is not always the case with organic gardening. I am amazed and very grateful.

More bean salad, coming up!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

salad days

Bean flowers:

Bean fruit:

Bean salad!

I picked the first French filet beans a few days ago,
immediately made a huge bowl of three-bean salad,
and have been eating it twice daily ever since.

You'd think I'd be getting tired of it by now, but no.
I'm just trying not to run out before I can make the next batch.

Last night I had intended to go down to the garden after chores
and fill another basket with beans:
one bean for each goat, all the rest for me.
But just as I was collecting empty grain pans and distributing peanuts,
thunder began to roll and lightening flashed quite nearby.
So I hastened to cover the hay and get Piper, Moxie and Della into the house.
No bean-picking last night.

Maybe tonight though.
Oh I think so.

Three-bean salad: breakfast of champions!

Friday, August 16, 2019

a fluff piece

Captain Hastings lost his only companion a few weeks ago. For a couple of years there were two elderly, retired hens for him to look after: The Dark Golden Hen and The Little Brown Hen. But early last Winter, The Little Brown Hen, who had never been "right" from Day One but always seemed happy enough, began to go downhill quickly and I had to put her down. I am a big "quality of life" person. I'll go a long way to try to keep everyone happy and comfortable, but I also think there are worse things than dying and sometimes the unpleasant decision is the right decision. The error that I have sometimes made has been waiting longer than I should have, and I'll try not to make that mistake again.

The Dark Golden Hen was on an Assisted Living program all through the Winter, which involved a cooked breakfast served each morning, and a Staffperson (that would be me) going out to the paddocks at dusk every evening to call her - she would answer - so I could pick her up and carry her up the stairs into the stilt barn, where she had a cozy box of hay and a heat lamp on every night. (That's right. I kept a heat lamp on every night all Winter for the comfort of one hen. Is this a good time to point out that I never refer to myself as "a farmer"?)

Spring rolled around at last, and The Dark Golden Hen was active and happy and tottering around followed everywhere by Captain Hastings...until she wasn't. She gradually became so incapacitated that her quality of life was seriously affected.

Suddenly, Captain Hastings was the sole chicken on the place.

I kept a close eye on him, worried that he would become lethargic. And I took steps. I did two things: I asked people if they needed a rooster to take over a flock, and I asked people if they knew where I might find a couple of healthy young hens. It was a question of which would happen first.

Captain Hastings has been toughing it out the past several weeks: still crowing at 4:20 every morning, still making routine visits to barns and paddocks, still coming to the porch door in late afternoon to ask for sunflower seeds. But he also began to get within ten feet of me when I went out to do chores - something he has never, ever been willing to do. I took this as a sign of desperation for companionship, not a sudden appreciation of my finer qualities.

Well, good news!

Yesterday, these two 4-month-old Lavender Orpingtons
joined our merry barnyard band.

Aren't they pretty?!

I didn't have to drive far to get them, and the woman who raised them was very nice and even insisted that I choose the two I wanted from her flock instead of just "the first two you can catch," which was my suggestion.

I chose two that have noticeably different shading right now, so I will be able to tell them apart by appearance until I get to know them. At the moment, they are living in a huge dog crate (it was my Irish Wolfhound puppy crate of years gone by) in the big barn, where Captain Hastings can visit them and the goats can look over the stall door at them but NOT visit unless I am there. Not that the goats would hurt the hens - they are a bit fascinated by them, really. But they might jump on the crate to try to get to the little dish of chicken feed, and that could be catastrophic for all concerned.

Mallow says, "I'm just LOOKING!"

And how is Captain Hastings reacting to all this?
Well, yesterday he spent most of the afternoon visiting the girls - walking back and forth outside the crate, settling down to chat, snacking, being quietly sociable - before heading off to his bedtime perch in the stilt barn.

This morning, he waited outside the big barn - at a safe distance, of course - for me to open the stall door so he could go in and visit again. The girls are staying in the crate, but there is plenty of room in the stall for visitors, and Captain Hastings can fly over the half-door if he wants to get in or out.

Unlike Bud. 

Bud knows this door is the only thing standing between him
and a bowl of chicken feed.
Which could make him very sick indeed.
Give it up, Bud.

 And here is the first portrait of one of the new girls:

So...what's new in your barnyard?


Monday, August 12, 2019

goats and gardens

There's no better feeling for a person raising livestock than to hear an expert say your animals "look good." Last week, not-my-usual-vet came out and did annual shots for the herd. He commented repeatedly on the condition and manners of my goats, which left me feeling pretty darned good. I don't take my goats to shows, and very few of the people who come here and see them are "goat people," so it's rare for me to get this kind of feedback. Rare and sweet.

Tsuga says, "You know he was talking about ME, right?"

It's taken several years of encouragement, but there are now three separate milkweed stands producing flowers here, and my efforts to bring Monarch butterflies back to my place are ever so gradually paying off.

Last year my Occasional Helper spotted the first chrysalis - which was unfortunately attached to a fence in a high-risk spot. After a lot of thought, I decided it's chances were better in the house, so I had the experience of watching it slowly develop into an actual butterfly. Pretty much everyone I know has had this experience - usually in childhood - but I never did. So it was especially magical.

This year, I saw two Monarchs dancing around the gardens!

And a couple of days ago I noticed one of these, in two of the milkweed stands:


Remember last year's zinnias? I started seeds in peat pots, transplanted them into the terrace garden, and they bloomed and bloomed and bloomed and brought me joy every single day.

This year I mixed seeds saved from last year's flowers with a few left in 2018 packets, and seeded them directly into the garden. They have just begun to bloom and it's so exciting to see what colors they are turning out to be. I already have plans to find seeds for zinnia colors I particularly enjoy, and plant even more next year.


How I love them.

Sometimes when the very last flower on a stem is blooming,
I bring it into the house to enjoy for it's precious day.
Like this:

And perhaps to draw:

And speaking of drawing...I think I answered every comment in the previous post,
but I want to say a general "thank you" again.
I am so grateful that each of you took the time to reply, and I am pleased as punch that you are not getting tired of the daily markmaking adventure.
You lovely people made me the same kind of happy as the vet who complimented me on the condition of my goats! Thank you so much!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

thankful thursday

Well, here it is August.
My, my, my.

What does that remind me of?

I know! It's another #drawingAugust!

A jar of corks without the jar, 2014

I couldn't remember when I first joined this informal twitterfest of shared artwork...
was it three years ago? four? I searched my own blog. (Very handy.)

It was 2014. Yikes! This will be my 6th year.

This post describes what Drawing August is about: fun and sharing and encouraging others and possibly even making artsy friends from around the world. Back in 2014 there was an actual sign-up list of participants. Each year the number has grown, and now a few people post reminders that August is coming up, and then it's just "try to do a drawing each day, and post a picture with the hashtag so everyone can see them all." In other words, an informal international event has become even more informal as it has grown larger - how often does that happen?

by the millstream with Piper, 2015

Each year I have had Very Good Company on my outdoor sketching adventures.

at the pond with Piper, 2016 (in progress)

I hope the heat, humidity, and biting bugs will lighten up
so Piper and I can head out to the woods this month.

At the pond with Piper, 2016 

For four years, my number of August drawings varied quite a bit.
I never made a full 31, and it didn't matter a bit.
It was still fun, and still interesting to see everyone else's work.

Missing the Sea, 2017

And then, January 2018 rolled around.
In a moment of optimism with no apparent foundation in reality,
I decided to attempt not one month of daily sketching, 
but one year of daily markmaking.

Iris, 2018

And to my astonishment, I did it. And am still doing it. Today was day #578.

Here's a thing I'm going to say to anyone who feels even a tiny urge to do #drawingAugust 2019:

if you do 10 or 12 sketches in a month,
you are bound to to be pleased with at least a few of them.
Which is a lovely feeling!
Why not give it a go?

I never imagined that the time spent sketching something - anything - every day
would become a peaceful harbor for my mind and spirit.
But there it is.

Moxie, 2018

I sometimes wonder if I post too many daily markmakings here on the blog,
and if you are getting tired of them.
I hope you haven't.
I hope you won't.

Because just as I am thankful for Jean Stevens,
the wonderful printmaker who encouraged me to give it a go in 2014,
and for the camaraderie of twitter's #drawingAugust folk,
I am thankful for you, my blog readers, who have responded so kindly
through comments or emails or even mail with a stamp.

Thank you. So much.