Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Whimsical Naturalist - Child's Quilt - Goshen Star

Introducing my latest big quilt finish.  I've decided to call it the Whimsical Naturalist because, while I adore all things botanical or entomological (except spiders, no thank you), this panel set had a particularly charming whimsy.  My especial favorite is the very handsome luna moth, but there are also the dashing Mr. Toad, ladybird beetles and bilberry bees.
I remember plenty of times as a child and now with my own children, capturing bugs in jars and watching their antics as they try to escape.  And there are now fond memories of our first spring ladybug release party last April.

But this quilt does not stop in our own garden.  It has headed now to its forever home, with a very dear cousin.  Their family also shares a deep love of the outdoors, and I hope they will enjoy many happy family picnics, forts and reading-time snuggles with this fun but gentle child's quilt.

The patchwork block is called a Goshen star, and is a historic block dating back at least to the early 1900s.  I like the unexpectedness of this star block, as opposed to your traditional lilies.  I thought something a little different would fit the whimsy of this quilt well.  If you're interested in the Goshen star pattern, you can find it over at Quilter's Cache.

I bound this one with forest green and echo-quilted the stars.  The tendril vines in the wide lattice are understated so as not to distract from the other elements.

Be well wherever you are,


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Graduation Quilt for the Student of a Lifetime

Well, there she is, on her way.

The best student I ever had the privilege to work with, and I wish her well.
After ten years, I've seen her grow and yet remain true to herself.

She's harvested over 100 lbs of sunchokes with me in November,
planted at 50 daffodils and divided as many two seasons in a row,
played with and watched Robin and Jay grow.

She's gone from a pesky, sassy farm-girl in bright yellow wellies every week to a quirky and mature young lady I am happy to call my friend and piano student.

She's joined me in all kinds of crazy endeavors, from the semi-retired Etsy studio (I just can't run it without her, she was that productive) to making herbal throat lozenge lollipops.

Robin and Jay love her like part of the family.  When we went to her farm, they insisted on wearing her favorite color, because "Liz Loves Lime!"

So, naturally, it had to make a tasteful appearance in her quilt as well.
She has worked so hard, and I know she will continue to.  I simply could not let her go, though,
without something special to remember us by.

This quilt incorporates so many running jokes between us (and after all this time, we have plenty!).

Liz knows I have a dislike for  aversion to  near-phobia in regards to most zebra prints.  It's not that I'm averse to the animal itself or to fur in general, although I would never buy or wear even fake fur.  It's just that a big zebra print is usually a warning-flag to me--sometimes of tackiness, sometimes of diva behavior.  Or at the very least of mascara, which I detest.  Liz knows all of this, and laughs.
So, naturally, I had to include zebra print too.

The fleurs-de-lis are a symbol of courage as she goes out into the world on her own--not just college but everything that comes after.  I hope this quilt will comfort her during the transitional college years and many other times during her life.

There are music notes, but they don't overpower--because our time together has been about much more than just making music.

It's been about refining oneself.

Music is just the mode.
And so, after a decade of learning together, I think that about wraps it all up.

Well done, dear Liz--and best of luck always.

Your ever-proud and supportive


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Midsummer Tour: Back Garden

Lots of photos for this post and most are pretty self-explanatory.  I can tell you that the squash met a hasty demise from squash vine borers (the varmints) soon after this, and the corn is tasseled out nicely now, and the sun-chokes are putting on flowers as I write, although they haven't opened just yet.  Enjoy the garden tour at your own pace and without interruption from me this time, and if you have a question feel free to ask!

Thank you for visiting.
May the rain fall soft upon your fields!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Midsummer Garden Tour: Front Garden for Birdwatching

I know.  I'm a month late or more.  I promised a midsummer tour though,
and here it is, all as it was at the end of June.  When things change every day it is difficult to keep track, and July skipped by.

To start off, the gladiolus were simply brilliant.  This one reminds me of raspberries on cheesecake:

The front garden walk will continue to slowly evolve towards the vision I have for it.  Meantime, it's doing well for its first season.  More variegated liriope will balance on the right side around the azalea next spring.

The cliome makes show-stopping pink-and-white fireworks atop the hill.  This plant is vivacious and defies even the cruelest Southern heat.  While it can take over quickly, the hummingbirds, bees and butterflies do love it, so it has a place all around my yard.  It can take a drastic pruning, branch out yet again and keep on blooming right up until cool weather moves in.

Rudbeckia and echinacea make terrific (and useful) perennials together.
The goldfinches are especially fond of these.

Once more, all together:

And that's the front garden tour at midsummer.  
I hope you enjoyed it, and will return for the (I think) far more interesting back garden tour soon!

Be well,

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Of Watermelon and Mark Twain

Good afternoon!  While the garden is baking to perfection outside today (and I'm wondering if I might just harvest pre-steamed vegetables tomorrow morning), I thought I'd share a fun moment from earlier this month, when Jay harvested his first watermelon.

Jay is in the habit of commandeering the largest plants in the garden and annexing them into an assorted collection called "his" garden.  As long as he helps me take care of them, I'm fine with that.
I have even caught him going out to tell the plants he loves them and he's proud of them.

And so he can be, because his first watermelon had to be cut in half for us to weigh it.

It weighed in at 14 pounds.

Weighing our produce is a big deal to the boys, and besides having the practical benefit of letting me chart how much yield I get from each cultivar and when, it is also great math practice for the young apprentices.
It helps to have practical reasons WHY to learn something so that you have an incentive to do so!

That, and it's fun.  When was the last time you held a 7lb serving of watermelon?
And snarfed it in the backyard?
And spit seeds to heart's content?

Which brings to mind Mark Twain's quip that, whatever it was, the Forbidden Fruit of Eden was assuredly NOT a ripe Southern watermelon.  When asked how he knew, he answered,
"We know because they repented."

With that I leave you, as Jay is investigating the fascinations of an even feed walking foot and Robin asks help engineering an airplane.
Fun times await around here always!

Choose a marvelous day,

PS--(I'll be posting a series of my harvest logs and charts for free download next week, so stay tuned!)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Family Portrait Palette

Family portraits, alas, have not happened for us.  And I mean formally ever.  We did not even have a photographer at our wedding.  There has always been something that came up, and although every Christmas DH and I commit to getting a family portrait done "soon", it just has not happened.

We have photos, of course, and some great ones at that.  We are candid folks and let's face it--when you have preschoolers who are a combo of camera-shy and goofy, you just go with it.

But like so many other times, I may be coming round to a change of heart thanks to Jennie.  She has been diligent about family history work, including preserving the Now.  Her question about what color scheme we would choose for a family photo struck home for me this week.

So I'll start off with this:

Thinking about this, I went through my old photos from when Robin was a tiny, colicky baby.  I felt I was losing hold of my identity at the time and needed to realign.  I needed to smile.  I'm so glad I did, because those tired months have turned to trying, testing and terrific years.  Our family photo seems to start at that turning point for me.

So it comes down to what we'll plan once I do finally and actually call (as I will this time) to schedule an afternoon or morning with a talented photographer from our congregation.  And, seeing as how I am not particularly good at accessorizing outfits or (heaven forbid) getting Robin and Jay to match...

The answer is love.  We'll wear the clothes we love.  The smiles and laughter we love and maybe even some of the dirt we love.  But as long as we can finally get a picture with all of us together that captures THAT crucial element--
frankly, I don't mind so much what colors we're wearing.

A good photo can always go black-and-white, anyway.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Color Monday: Vegetable Splash Color Palette

Jennie asked what we like to sip on in summer-time for this Color Monday.
Answer?  V-8 and Splash!

I'm also in sort of a carrot-loving mood, as its close relatives Queen-Anne's Lace and Mammoth Dill are making a stellar showing in the front garden and attracting a lot of beneficial insects for us.
I posted about the foraging expedition that landed me such a wonderful garden guest here:
Have a lovely and fantastic Monday!

Foraging for Bee-Friendly Flowers: The Natural Look

For anyone getting interested in starting their own garden whether great or small, the *very first* necessity before you buy your first seeds or vegetable plants is to get on the radar for all your natural pollinators.  If you skip this crucial step, expect a small harvest.  Some first-time growers might even mistakenly assume they have a 'brown thumb', when actually it could just be that their yard isn't bee and butterfly-friendly.
You could go out to a local nursery and purchase all the flowers the bees seem to love most.  This is a very good strategy, of course, and you can see in the foreground here that I've gotten some lovely bee-balm myself this year.  However, it's that tall, graceful so-called weed plant in the background that I'd like you to take a good look at.
Do you know it?  It's a Queen-Anne's Lace. 
It grows all over roadsides throughout much of the US.  It is a favorite of bees and butterflies for its thousands of tiny flowers in umbelliferous (umbrella-shaped) clusters.  To identify it from its poisonous look-alike, find the one purple flower in the center of the flower cluster, and you have your lady's lace plant for sure. 
All you need to do is go foraging along some country roads with a shovel and a bin to keep your plants in.  I take my short-handled shovel for easier transport.  Sometimes the ground is very hard on roadsides from drought conditions, so don't go expecting a trowel to do the job.
And there's one other thing.  Don't expect the Queen-Anne's Lace to look like it's survived the first year.  It's an extremely hardy plant, but like all carrots it doesn't take the stress of transplanting well.  But don't worry!  Make sure you get a good, strong root ball, and then wait.  When I foraged my original QAL plant last spring, the seed heads dried and I scattered them around.  The original plant didn't come back, but a tiny little carrot-looking seedling sprouted in the fall and over-wintered.  Others came up in the raised beds but I culled them out, because I can't have them there!  QAL's great strength is that you don't even have to really prepare the soil.  Since it's a native plant used to making its own way without any human pampering whatsoever, you can plant it in the most uncultivated part of your garden and it will still thrive.  The one in the photo above took its stand in the middle of my walkway and survived numerous tramplings while small, as well as a very harsh winter.  I did give it a bit of encouragement and some pine-straw during the toughest months, and told it I was proud of its will to survive.  Yes--I talk to all of my plants.  There have been acoustic resonance studies that show plants will grow toward sound.  So my Gran was right: plants are alive, and they can tell when they're loved.  She talked to her plants and so do I.  Try it.
You can see this roadside castoff has no complaints now.
So...If you want to start a garden, make sure you have your yard bee-friendly before you plant any flowering vegetables.  And watch out for native plants!  They are your hardy friends and the bees are used to them already.
Dill is in the same family as QAL (the carrot family, in case you're wondering--so don't plant them close together if you hope to save any organic dill seed!), except its flower clusters are bright yellow and of course the leaves and seeds are everyone's favorite pickle ingredient.  I love dill plant, too.  This year I'm growing lots and lots of mammoth dill in perennial borders as well as around a test tomato plant, because I've read that dill deters hornworm.
Come mid-summer we'll see about that.
Needless to say though, I am totally set for making dilly beans, pickled squash and cucumbers.  There will be absolutely no dearth of this herb this summer.

 The colorful foliage above is sun coleus.  I kind-of have a thing for coleus and always have.
A front-view of the garden as you enter:
And a lovely little harvest from today--the first beet!  So pretty and I love that all of it is edible.
Such a useful and hard-working plant.

Well, that's all for now lovelies!  I've got amaranth cooking for amaranth fritters and a big garden-fresh dinner for tonight.  Yellow summer squash, onions, bell peppers, turnips, and rattlesnake beans--all from the garden this year.  I don't know if I'll even need to harvest more lettuce for the salad.
Be well and be happy friends,

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Color Mondays: Amber Waves Palette and Triple Flying Dutchman Sketch

here is my own version:
Actually I have most of these colors in a Kona jelly roll that I've been meaning to use for and elemental Earth, Wind, Fire and Water triple flying Dutchman design.
Check out my sketch:
Now if only I could buckle down to make the flying geese.
I use the no-waste method for making geese, which leaves you with 4 at once.  It is printable as a handy pdf to keep posted in your workspace.  You can find it at this link from patchpieces.
Happy Tuesday and Happy creating to all, wherever you are and whatever your medium.
Be well!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rustic Woven Hoop Arbor Trellis for Butternut Squash

The butternut squash are already everywhere, and it's not even the end of May.
The Sweet Jack corn is as tall as I am and tasseling out ahead of schedule.  I planted very thickly indeed this year, since last year I had two stands of corn lodge over due to the prevailing winds in our backyard.  You can see my sideways trellises to help support the top-heavy stalks now.  No problems so far, and I hope that the close spacing will aid in pollination.  I hand-pollinated last year with good results, but it can be tedious.  (Believe me, I'm exclusively hand-pollinating ALL the yellow squash this year every morning...but more on that anti-squash borer solution later).

Squash borers aren't as fond of the winter squash like spaghetti and butternut, because those are much more closely related to gourds.  I grew two gourd plants all along the length of our backyard fence last year and they were never bothered by borers.  We had some leaf-chewing insects but nothing unmanageable.
I refuse to use Sevin insecticide.  Homemade garlic-oil spray has worked wonders on the aphids this spring, so that I hardly had a problem at all.  You do have to be careful not to mix it too strong though, or it will burn the leaves of your plant, especially if it is young.
But garlic-oil can't get to borer larvae once they're nestled all safe and sound inside your beautiful squash plant.  So butternut squash it is, and I had better start gathering my recipes.  Since the fence is obviously not big enough for these vigorous plants (we're not even into their peak growing season yet!), I spent some time trimming low-hanging branches from my black maple in the front yard, cleaning them and then weaving hoop arbors, which I fastened to the fence for a rustic and functional fence-topper to extend the growing space.

Weekend garden projects mostly got finished Saturday, so we're planning for some quality family time this Memorial Day.  And you?  Do you have projects or plans?
Be well,

Alpine Swift Watercolor

I have been outside almost nonstop the past few days working on the garden or other necessary projects, so I haven't gotten as much time for art projects as I would like.  But here is a sketch I've been working on in the evenings to just wind down a bit.  It's an alpine swift--this picture shows the pencil under-drawing and first watercolor washes.
Something about paint palettes has always fascinated me.  Maybe it's my partial synesthesia coming into play, but I can hardly help myself.  I take a picture of my palette almost every time.
It was only recently that I realized not every poet sees colors for vowels or considers different textures of consonants.  To me, English has very disjunct sound-colors that need to be managed carefully in poetry.  Welsh has a far different color scheme with all its aspirations and mutations, as opposed to German, Latin or French.  I didn't know until recently that there are at least 15 described variants of partial synesthesia and I have at least 5-7 of them.
Needless to say, color is something I take seriously.
It affects everything for me.  Everything.

But I digress.  The "swift" pencil layout before first watercolor wash:

I started this little guy as practice because I'm gearing up to work on the wall murals in Robin and Jay's room once more.  In there, there are no mistakes allowed.  My next two are a red-form Eastern screech owl for "O" and an uber-cool Red-eyed Tree Frog for "T".  I think I'll paint some aspen or birch trees on the other side of "T".  The room features a lot of different birds because Jay has been interested in birds from the start, just like his mama.  We're reading a fantastic book right now called "Have you Heard the Nesting Bird?".  He's getting more and more interested in reading as a result.  Hooray!
Have a lovely Memorial Day weekend,

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Harvesting Chamomile

Good morning lovelies!  I am going to show you one of my favorite spring harvesting joys:
Chamomile!  It is oh-so-delightful and I find myself intentionally brushing up against it whenever I walk past.  I've noticed my cat loves to rest around it, too.  He's not so fond of it as the enormous catmint out front, but that's to be expected. 
Be warned, if you have serious daisy-family allergies you may not want to grow chamomile in large masses right beneath your window, because these simple-seeming little flowers are potent. 
I wish you could smell the lovely fresh scent this morning...
Not only is chamomile great for herbal healing and insomnia remedies, it's also very useful around the house and garden.  I had a batch of nicely sun-dried flowers from the other day that I accidentally sprayed water on while playing around with Robin and Jay.  No worries, though, because that batch became anti-fungal spray for seedlings, to prevent damping-off and (I hope) as a preventive against early blight on the nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes).
And besides, the guys and I were having a great time anyway....