Wednesday, September 2, 2020

september 2nd

In 1752, a random immigrant settler in New England - oh, let's say a goatherd who had done the evening chores and was ready for bed - watched the sun go down on September 2nd and woke up to sunrise the next morning on September 14th. England - including of course our little Colony - had just switched, overnight, to the Gregorian calendar.

This is a bit the way time feels to me lately. While I am asleep - or at least, not paying attention - time is taking great leaps. But unlike the colonial goatherd, perhaps suspicious if not downright resentful at the disappearance of 12 days, I also find time to be static. The static part is far more disorienting to me.

I want to thank everyone for their kind comments on my most recent post, and I appreciate very much that people who cannot comment here took the time to find another way to reach me. Your words really touched me, and it means a lot to know that Piper made so many online friends. I sometimes said that Piper and LeShodu each believed she ran the blog, and now they are both gone and I see that maybe they were right because in recent days I've had no words at all.

I will probably write Piper's story someday - it's a good story, a happy story - but words of any kind are oddly elusive right now. Yesterday I had to make a phonecall and felt like I was trying to communicate in a second language. This post is by far the most words I have strung together, writing or talking, since my previous post. I'm fine - we are all fine - it's just a very strange time right now.

Maybe I'll try to post images for a while.

Thank you again. So much.


Friday, August 21, 2020

dear heart


Spring 2003 - 21 August 2020


I have no words.

If you write, I may not be able to respond for a while.

Thank you for understanding.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

that time again

It's #DrawingAugust time on twitter!
That magical time of year when people try to do some sort of daily markmaking and post the result with the hashtag so everyone can share and enjoy.
It's what got me started drawing, for which I will always be grateful.
I encourage anyone who feels inclined to jump right in -
the atmosphere is most welcoming!

Here are my first four, poorly photographed (I almost always do my markmaking at night, and take the snap with my sketchbook in one hand and camera in the other) but with lots of words to distract you from the quality of the snaps. Let's see if that works.

Day One: ink and watercolor, mug on a knitted coaster.
This is the big mug I used to have tea in every single day until the 13th of July, when I broke the glass insert for my teapot. I haven't made tea since. I am not saying this makes sense. Obviously there are other ways to make tea.
Anyway, this is a very nice handmade mug.
I hope I don't break it.

Day Two: an ink sketch based on a painting by Winslow Homer.
I often draw from photographs, but drawing from someone else's painting is new. I think I'll do more of it. Not attempting to copy paintings, but using them the way I use photographs. But isn't it interesting to see artists who can duplicate work? I vividly remember walking toward a gallery in the Louvre and suddenly getting a whiff of linseed oil. A painter was at work, making a copy. In the Louvre! And I wasn't allowed to take a waterbrush into the Fitchburg Art Museum.
(Maybe it was me?)

Day Three: an ink line drawing, detail of the perimeter fencing.
Today this exact spot on the Upper West Side fence is under a lot of pressure. Yesterday a large limb came down across the fence about 20 feet along, and it's creating tension in both directions. I'm hoping to have someone here with a chainsaw soon to help remove it.

 There is quite a lot of chainsaw work ahead, I am sorry to say.
Yesterday's storm was mighty.
I was very, very fortunate in terms of damage.
But it's hard not to feel sad when big, healthy trees come down.
If I had more land - and therefore more forest - it would be easier to see everything within the bigger picture of forest ecology. I know it, I understand it, I appreciate it. On my own hectare, of course I still see it that way, but I suppose I feel change on a more personal level? I don't know. I just know I do feel sad about the massive oaks that came down in the wooded part of my property.

Day Four: ink and watercolor,
detail of a bronze Tiffany Studios candleholder, c.1905.
Not much to say about this one. I was poking around online looking at Tiffany
desksets the way you do, and came across a pair of these candleholders on an auction site. After the elaborate decoration of the desksets, I found the simplicity of this design visually soothing. What do you think about Tiffany creations? Any favorites?

And that's it so far, for #DrawingAugust 2020.

I hope your Summer is going well.
Here it has been consistently uncomfortable - hot and muggy - nearly every day.
With thunderstorms for drama, followed by more hot and humid.

Piper and I have been spending the majority of our time
reclining on our respective lounges, letting the air conditioner blow breathable air
as directly as possible into our lungs.

It's not a bad life, but it sure doesn't get much done.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

rudbeckia returns

For the first time, a rudbeckia plant has survived a winter and reappeared!
This is one of the four rudbeckia plants I ordered from a nursery last year. This year it has already struggled through insect attacks that left many leaves tattered and many petals half-eaten before the blooms had even opened. But, as you can see:
the overall effect is one of Triumph and Beauty!

Each of the four was planted in a different place, in hopes in increasing chances of survival. This one was planted in a small bed right by the gate to the barn paddock. Whenever I walk past, I check to see if there are insidious insects chewing on the flowers, and if so, I knock them off. But this past week, there have been tiny bees working away at pollen collection!

Every morning I've thought, "I must go back for the camera," but by the time I've done even the slightest task - such as turning on the hose and passively watching it fill the goats' water buckets - there is sweat literally dripping from my hair, and my clothes are sticking to my entire body. When I get back into the cooler house, the camera is no longer on my mind.

Until today! Today I chanted "camera, camera, camera," as I walked back to the house. Went in, pulled off the leather gloves that were sticking to my fingers, grabbed the camera and went right back out.

One of the little goat-combing folding chairs was conveniently at hand, as I had used it last night to avoid 20 minutes of leaning while doing barnyard macrame on the lower part of a stock panel. So this morning I pulled that little folding chair right up to the rudbeckia and started making bee portraits.

A nearby patch of bee balm was hosting a group of big furry bumblebees, but the rudbeckia was providing an exclusive pollen party for a number of tiny bees from what I think is the family Halictidae - and that, my friends, is as far as I am willing to go on the bee id's. I started to look into it, but it's a huge family, and I have to save some of my small memory bank for remembering whose hooves need to be trimmed and whether or not I've paid my bills this month.

Besides, no name is needed. I'm happy just to see these amazing little creatures.

And these amazing flowers.


Friday, July 24, 2020

the first salad


Cucumber, snow peas, and balsamic dressing.

This week I noticed two tiny Suyo Long cucumbers on the ground, right at the base of the two plants. I harvested them right away, in hopes this will allow the plants to devote more energy to growing up on their trellis - they were slow to start, possibly due to insect damage. There are several flowers on both plants now, and they are beginning to climb. I'm hoping for lots of cucumbers as the summer goes on. These are the only variety I planted this year, and I could happily eat Suyos every day.


Snow peas are a new venture for me, and these have been hit with constant very hot weather from the day they germinated. It seemed doubtful they would survive. The plants look very frail and some are already withering, but last week they began producing flowers and pods. So pretty! And tasty. Next year I will plant more, and try to start them earlier. I'd like to have enough to freeze, as they would be quite a delicate treat in the middle of Winter.

A request: do any of you gardeners have a tried-and-true recipe for a plant spray that will protect plants from destructive bugs without harming the good bugs? I've found many online recipes (of course) but there seem to be a lot of "I tried that and it killed all my plants!" stories also. And lots of people don't seem to realize that diatomaceous earth does not discriminate. I grow organically, and generally overplant to try to offset losses due to bugs and other problems, but many of my plants are struggling this year so I've got to try something. If you've had success with a homemade solution, please share in the comments or an email - thank you!

We had a huge downpour yesterday, really a series of downpours, with thunder that shook the house. The rainfall meant I didn't need to water the gardens last night. Thank goodness. I had an appointment in the morning which left me fairly dozy and fizzled out later in the day. In fact I was half asleep when I heard the first roll of thunder and had to hasten outside to get the hay covered just as the raindrops began to fall. Thank goodness again!

Here's to the weekend ahead - 
I hope we all have a good one.

Here's a little Hesperis matronalis to get us off to a good start:


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

roasters rising

One of my favorite things:

the 2020 Sculpture Garden has begun to create itself.

The Candy Roaster squash plants are just beginning to reach for the trellis.

How are everyone else's doing?


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

tuesday tints

Moxie would like to draw your attention to one of the new anemones.
She's staying in the background so her flower can have the spotlight.

This Spring I wanted to plant something special in a spot between the barns.

Remembering my wonderful experience with a Japanese anemone purchased on a whim at a local nursery last year, I decided to look for anemone bulbs.

But in a different color.

These anemone bulbs, ordered online, were advertised as "the deepest blue."

Not all the flowers are quite so deeply blue,

and even the darkest ones may gradually turn paler.

But they are all very pretty shades of blue, violet, and lavender.

If anyone knows anything about these plants, please share in the comments! I really didn't know what to expect apart from that "deepest blue" description, as I didn't buy the bulbs from a nursery. It was an experiment, and the plants are probably quite a different variety or even a different species of anemone, Some of the stems on the Japanese anemone of last year were waist-high, and the plant grew into a robust clump. The new ones are smaller - more like 12 inches tall - and less sturdy. I also remember the pink flowers lasting a remarkably long time, while the blue ones are gone in a few days. Of course the weather has been dreadfully hot, which may be a factor. I keep trimming off the spent flowers in hopes of encouraging more growth and blooms. And I'll try to protect the bulbs over the Winter, to return in the Spring.

We'll see!

Friday, July 17, 2020

from the vault: wreck of the hesperis

Dear Readers: I've been tidying up a folder of document files, and found this piece written for the blog last June but not posted. Since I haven't written about the goats for quite a while, I thought you might find it entertaining. I'll add a couple of pictures of Campion taken at about the same time.

Yesterday afternoon I was painting in my studio (formerly known as my tent) when I heard a goat shouting. The voice was that of Campion, who generally has a lot to say about everything and nothing, so I wasn't overly concerned. But the shouting continued.


Everyone had food and water, the weather was pleasant, and there was no sound of colliding horns. Without moving, I called out to Campion, asking what the problem could be. Sometimes just speaking to a goat by name is all they need to hear to settle down.


I put my brush and sketchpad aside, climbed out of my chaise, removed the icepack strapped to my back, and followed the sound down to the Upper West Side.

There was Campion, head high, excited, and yelling his head off at seeing me.

He had somehow gotten inside the vegetable garden fence, the naughty goat.

And once there, he apparently couldn't get back into the paddock.

Goats are sometimes determined to go where they know they shouldn't be, but soon become terribly upset when they can't get back to where they know they belong. It's actually a very useful trait, from a goatherd's perspective. I remember the time Betula somehow climbed over the six-foot perimeter fence onto the bank garden by the driveway, and then hollered at the top of his mighty voice until I looked out the window and saw him there. Like Campion, Betula was tremendously relieved to see me when I hastened to the "rescue."

I opened the garden gate and Campion came trotting right over, then, halfway through the gate, remembered that he is a goat and should be playing it cool. So he stopped. He looked all around as if deciding whether or not to do me the favor of coming out of the garden. I did the only thing that would not prolong the process: nothing at all. If I had tried to hurry him out, he would have backed right up and hoped I would chase him around the garden for light entertainment. So I did nothing at all - this is not my first Goat Rodeo, Campion! - and in a few seconds, he stepped out into the paddock and I went into the garden to find his entry route.

Unfortunately, I found nothing. I hope this means he squeezed through the gate, which can easily have another latch added. If, on the other hand, he climbed over the fence, it will be a major problem. I am not going to start replacing all my interior paddock fencing - that is simply not possible under current management. So let's hope it was the gate.

Campion didn't do much eating while in the garden, which is a shame because there is plenty of grass and plantain going to waste between the rows I'm preparing for the vegetables. He must have gotten nervous right away. I did find a trampled stalk of Hesperis matronalis - "dame's rocket" - with buds and flowers, which was sad. I picked it up to put in a jar of water in the hope the buds would continue to open.

Carrying that one flower stalk through a paddock full of goats was no small feat - I was mobbed. And Acer, who I can best compare to a colt in terms of size and assertiveness, was sure he could get it away from me. I finally stuck the flower in my hat like a feather and held up my empty hands, palms forward, in the universal gesture for "I have nothing for you!" and the goats immediately ambled away. Even Acer.

Back into the tent, with the flower in a jar, for Daily Markmaking:


Friday, July 3, 2020

five on friday

Five snaps taken today, after a rain. And a quick note:

If you are considering signing up for Disney+ for the sole purpose of seeing the Hamilton film - released today - I highly recommend it. Recorded during performances by the original Broadway cast in 2016.

It's an absolute gem.

Happy Independence Day.

Rise up!

Saturday, June 27, 2020


I'm sorry about the lack of posts in June, and I thank the folks who have touched base in one way or another. I appreciate it very much. We are okay here, but it's been a tough month.

As long-time readers know, I rarely mention politics on this blog, and I don't intend to change that - twitter is where I do "my politicking" (in the words of the old Davy Crockett theme song). But this past month has been a very dark time in America, and while I've resisted writing about it here, I've also found it impossible to write about cheerful things.

So I'm just going to say this.

As a Very Serious youngster, I cut my political teeth early: on the Nixon years and Viet Nam. Protests and Kent State. Watergate. One of my first public performances (did I ever mention that from the time I was about 15 I used to write music and carry a guitar everywhere?) was at a concert on a city Common, encouraging Latino voter registration. I was too young to vote, but I could sing. So I did.

One good thing about coming of age in such tumultous times was that it set my political frame of reference wide. When Nixon was reelected it threw me for a loop, but it also pretty much surprise-proofed me in terms of politics.

Until 2016.

I've never entirely agreed or disagreed with the actions of any President, even the ones I've been most inspired or most disturbed by. But prior to 2016, I never imagined experiencing another presidency as deeply flawed at that of Nixon. I thought I had lived through the worst American presidency of my lifetime.

Now, after more than three years of near-daily moving of the decency goalposts by the GOP, the list of transgressions by the current administration is too long for me to even begin to enumerate, nor do I wish to. The unimaginable has become our daily fare, and there is no bottom. There. is. no. bottom.

Sadly, it seems to me that the UK is on an alarmingly similar trajectory. Still behind the US, but not by very much, I'm sorry to say. Not anymore.

But what's all this in aid of, this grimmish blogpost that perhaps no one will read (which is understandable and perfectly fine)?

It's this: I'm trying to get myself over the hurdle of non-communication that began in my mind when protesters were tear-gassed for a photo-opp by a would-be dictator holding up a Bible.

A Bible.

As a citizen of the US, I have a responsibility to pay attention, to seek information from valid sources and make careful judgements and decisions - not to look away and throw my hands up and leave it all to someone else. I have a responsibility to do what I can, however little that may seem to be. That's how democracy works, isn't it? I believe it is.

But despite the horror of recent weeks and the likelihood that it may well get worse before it gets better, I am also trying to find enough peace in my own heart that I can return to writing and posting photographs here. I miss sharing the little miracles of ordinary life. I miss our conversations in the Comments and emails.

I wrote this tonight to try to find my way back. I hope I have.

And for anyone who is still reading, thank you.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

not my own words wednesday

'I can't believe THAT!' said Alice.
'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said: 'one CAN'T believe impossible things.
''I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'

Through the Looking Glass 
Lewis Carroll


Friday, May 29, 2020

pictures from several walks

It's been hot lately. Over 80 every day.
I don't usually install my air conditioner in May, but I'm considering it.
Some nights have felt airless, even with a fan on.

One morning after very little sleep, I got a foolishly late start on chores.
By the time I came in, it was 84F in the shade and I was soaked with sweat.

Full disclosure: that doesn't mean I was working hard.
It doesn't take much physical activity to bring me to that state.
These days I break a sweat walking to the letterbox.
But that morning was hot.

I could say, "I just haven't adjusted to the hot weather yet,"
but there's no reason to think I will adjust to it. I never do.

One day I took Piper to the pond for our walk.
We haven't been going there lately, and we almost didn't go that day, because there were so many vehicles at both entrances I had hoped to use.
I can't take Piper off lead if there is anyone else on the trails.

Fortunately, there are other entrances, and other trails.

Generally, no matter where we walk, even on our own little road, there are more people and biting bugs about.
We just need to be out early and back early.
Piper is not really helping with this.
If she would just get up from her bed, jostle my elbow and look enthusiastic,
it would be much easier for me to fall out of bed - I do rely on gravity to help with this - and get moving, so we could go for a walk.

Instead, I'm the one doing the jostling and enthusing.
Piper is perfectly content to sleep in.
But once I've gotten her up, she is happy to go for a walk.

Warning: Introspective Moment 
It's a surprise to me that it's taking so much effort to reactivate a simple habit - getting up and out at dawn - that was a way of life for decades.
It's a surprise of the, "What? Am I not that person anymore? When did that happen?" variety. Hmmmm.
End of Introspective Moment

It doesn't matter, really.
All that matters is, I need to get up and out early.
Yesterday we started at 8, and walked less than a mile because it was very biting-buggy despite my herbal repellent spray, and as soon as the sun was high enough to come over the treetops and reach the was hot.
Today we started at 7:30 and although the bugs were horrible, it wasn't quite as hot. Humid though. Ugh. Tomorrow I'll try to get us out earlier.

Because this hound isn't going to walk herself.

Trust me. I asked her.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

thankful thursday

The tulips are planted in a small perennial bed by the barn paddock, where I pass them multiple times every day and very often stop to admire them. I've posted several photographs and sketches of the first tulips of the year.

You may recognize this one. It was the very first:

The first few tulips provided joy day after day after day, surviving very cold nights and even a snowstorm. The colors have surprised me by changing over time -
some becoming lighter, others deeper.

After the first week or so, I often considered putting them in a vase.

Three had reached the stage of being more open than closed in the evening,
when we got the multiple-storm and tornado warning.

 Thinking that strong winds would shred these very-open tulips, I finally cut the stems and put the flowers in a vase on the porch, where I could enjoy them. Considering that every paddock and garden is currently scattered with branches that came down in that storm, it was a good decision.

For several days, the tulips opened more and more.
Don't you love the way tulips stay beautiful even as they become fully "blown"?
They simply begin to look like a different flower, one with wide open petals.

But yesterday I turned the vase slightly,
and instantly most of the petals fell into my hand.

Imagine how fragile the connection must have become.