Sheltering in Place, Part 4

Grape hyacinth latifolium ‘Touch of Snow’

We’re in Day 10 now of sheltering in place and will probably be doing this at least until the end of April. We’re fine. It’s been raining and that’s good. I’ve gotten some early gardening in between storms, like finishing up the apple tree pruning. I thought I’d share photos of our garden as we go along, along with my art. We have a fully-fenced acre in a great rural residential neighborhood. We’ll be “staycationing” this year except for day trips around our area once it’s safe.

I was never a fan of grape hyacinth until I saw this tricolor variety in the top photo and now I have lots of them planted in the beds outside my studio door. Seeing them makes me smile every day.

Our mini apple “orchard”

We have four apple trees: Ashmead’s Kernel and Cox’s Orange Pippin, both famous English dessert apples, a Granny Smith and Newtown Pippin, both green which is what my husband prefers. On the espalier to the right there is grafting to be done to make it multi-variety again, but it produced a nice batch of Gravensteins last fall.
In the background on the right below the power pole is our blueberry patch of about three dozen plants. I got them all pruned up as they started to bloom. They produce between five and six gallon bags of berries every year. Blueberries can happily grow in pots and are nice for casual “grazing”. They need acid soil and are generally low maintenance. Maybe consider adding one to your “family” this year!

Hellebore

This started as one sedate, as the British would say, bog standard pink-flowered variety that I can’t remember the name of and which, after some years, merrily started to self-seed into this nice big clump. It really is just about the first plant to bloom in late winter even here in our mild coastal climate.

“Potting Palace” west bed

This is the west end of what I call the Potting Palace since it’s 34′ long and divided into three sections. This is the greenhouse end, where we grow tomatoes and I keep seedlings growing on in pots. In the bed and blooming right now are three English wallflowers I grew from seed and some ‘Kingsblood’ tulips. The lilies are starting to emerge. There will be a clematis planted at the base of the trellis pretty soon.

Narcissus ‘Geranium’

I planted about ten of these lovely members of the daffodil family many years ago. They kind of got lost under a parahebe shrub that finally died and was removed. And, wow, in the meantime did they increase! Once they’re done I’ll dig them up and spread them around the garden front and back.

Tulip ‘Rococo’

Finally, we don’t live in prime tulip territory and some fade away after a year or two or three. I love parrot tulips, including ‘Estelle Rjinfeld’, which bloomed for two years in this spot then vanished, for their over the top colors and shapes. I’m trying a new one this year ‘Rococo’. They came right up and are blooming well.

Sheltering in Place, Part 3

Peregrin and Hailey approve this message

It’s been an *interesting* six days. We both felt somewhat stressed with the adjustment to the new reality, but are otherwise safe and ok. We’re doing some of what we need to and some of what we want to, including just kicking back. The spa is getting used most evenings if it’s not raining.

The weather has been quite cold with rain on and off, but I’ve made progress in the garden. Finished the first round of planting out plants in pots, finished pruning the apple trees and the blueberries, also a ‘Hot Lips’ salvia that had over grown an agapanthus (Lily of the Nile). Coming up is rose pruning, vegetable garden prep and the weeding of a couple of borders.

We’ve not gone anywhere since our trip to the Arcata coop before the official Shelter in Place Order was issued, so yesterday morning we drove into Eureka and went to Costco to stock up on a few things. We wore disposable gloves in the store, which wasn’t busy at all until we were on our way out. They seemed to have everything in stock. We got ibuprophen, three flats of peaches, three flats of my favorite Kirkland sparkling water (morale purchase), the one bag of dog kibble each customer was allowed, two bags of doggy duck jerky treats, one bottle of olive oil and one package of prawns. At the checkout line they’d put white tape on the floor to keep people properly spread out and even then the employee keeping an eye on things had to ask someone to move back. We finished up, loaded it all in the car, pulled our gloves off inside out and put them in a baggie.

Looking southwest past old dock pilings to Tulawat Island, recently returned by the City of Eureka to the Wiyot tribe from whom it had been stolen.

Then it was off to have some fun at a big informal open space on Humboldt Bay, which is where the photos above and below were taken. Our two rough collies, as seen in the header image, Peregrin on the left and Hailey on the right, had their usual good time running around and sniffing.

Looking towards the north end of Humboldt Bay.

After this refreshing break we went back to McKinleyville for a quick stop at Eureka Natural Foods. They’d put some sensible policies in place and, as one went in, there was an employee making sure that customers got a sanitized cart but, as you read will below it’s still a bit of a work in progress. OTOH, it’s barely been a week, so no complaints from me.

The store (which is often referred to as ENF) was also not busy so social distancing was easy. I had our own clean veg bags for the bulk buys of whole wheat flour (we have a breadmaker and know how to use it) and peanuts. Distance courtesy is clearly and quickly becoming the norm. Except for the few people like “That Guy” when I was checking out. Here’s the account I wrote for a Facebook post after we got home: “Then on to ENF in McK. Definitely room for improvement. No signage with their quite good policies, no enforcement of their checkout line policy. Big, well-dressed dude got in line behind me as I was checking out, barely 4′ away. I asked him to step back. His response was to push the mini-cart into me, lean forward and flip me off with some smart-ass talk. Clerk did nothing. In one of those, ‘darn it I wish I’d done “x” moments back home, I now wish I’d flipped him a peace sign and smiled.”

When we got home we put on another set of gloves and unloaded everything except perishables either onto the luggage rack on the back of David’s Jensen Healey or on the big recycle bin on the breezeway. Then those gloves went into the same baggie. It’s getting quite cold at night, low 40s predicting 37F tonight so everything should be ok by tomorrow for sure since the virus is estimated to only live 24 hours on cardboard and 2-3 days on plastic. But we need to reorganize the food storage shelves in the garage anyway and will do that over the weekend.

Last night’s dinner

I made this tofu-veggy stirfry last night: Peanut oil, cashew bits, chopped onion and garlic, sliced brown mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, and pineapple, seasoned with a bit of salt, cayenne and finally Vietnamese coriander from the herb border. Garnished at the table with Thai chili paste. Washed down with Eureka Natural Food’s “house beer”.

“Takhi Foal” downloadable pdf coloring page

Finally, I am also actually getting work done. I’ve recently uploaded three new coloring pages to my Fox Studio Etsy shop, along with three original pen and in drawings of corvids and my first tutorial! It’s an introduction to sketching for beginners, perfect for anyone who is now home a lot, maybe most of the time, and is interested in learning to sketch but didn’t know where to begin. Art is for everyone and sketching is fun!

“Raven” 8×11″ original oil on paper

That’s it for now. Next post will have some spring garden photos! I hope you, your family and friends are well and safe.

Keeping A Record…

Yesterday, March 16, kind of feels like the first day of the rest of our lives. And, as is true for so many, we’re now sheltering in place due to the coronavirus. Fortunately, we’re in a northern California county that had one confirmed case back in January (a person who had just arrived back from an infected area of China) and none since then. But people here are preparing just the same since it’s almost sure to make another appearance.

Not sure why, but I’ve found that I want to record what it’s going to be like between now and when the “all clear” is sounded. I’ll be posting whenever I have something to say or show you. My husband and I are fortunate in that we are in good health and we work at home. He’s the Executive Director of a tech consortium with members in a variety of countries. Their April meeting has already been pushed back to June, now with the expectation that it will be pushed back again to fall at the earliest.

I’ve been an art professional of one kind or another (sign painter, graphic designer, illustrator, now fine art painter) for over forty years, so my art will be part of this record. I’m also an avid gardener and have an acre to play with. All our travel is cancelled so the garden will get my full attention, including the vegetable part of it. We also have six apple trees, three dozen blueberry bushes and a raspberry “patch”, so I’ll be posting photos through the year of all that. The blueberries are already flowering. We get between five and six gallon bags of berries from them every year.

Right now the clematis armandii and wallflowers are blooming, along with crocus, grape hyacinth, daffodils and early tulips.

Clematis armandii in full bloom. The fragrance is wonderful!
English wallflowers I grew from seed
Daffodils in bloom

We share our home with two rough collies Hailey and Peregrin (“Lassie” dogs) and two cats, Michiko and Alexander A Really Great Cat.

Hailey, our seven year old tricolor and Peregrin, our 3.5 year old sable merle
Michiko in front and Alex in the back; dog toy box to the left

In other news, I’m participating in a fun art event this year called Inktober52. The original event, Inktober, calls on artists to create one black and white piece a day in the month of October. Inktober52, in its first year, is about creating one black and white piece a week for the entire year. I’m going to do my best to not miss a week and so far so good. All the finished art is posted first on Instagram here with the #inktober52 hashtag, including mine. I’m also posting to my Facebook public page here and on Pinterest here. Jake Parker, who invented and runs both events, sends out an email on Thursdays with the prompt for the next week, so everyone is doing the same subject, but in their own way. Hundreds of artists from all over the world are participating. So, sheltering in place or not, I’m able to connect with other artists.

Inktober52: Prompt: Tower

This is what I had to say about this week’s drawing: “After thrashing around I decided that I could use “tower” as a verb, but then what was towering over ? I tried a couple of different ideas and then “towering redwoods” came to mind. I grew up, and live in, Redwood Country so I dug out a photo I had of me standing in front of a huge coast redwood right by the road in Prairie Creek State Park. I started out intending to fully render the trunk, but had the thought of doing a “reverse”. Less time (a LOT less), maybe more visually interesting and different. I also create downloadable pdf coloring pages that I sell in my Etsy store and maybe this piece will end up there. I used a Gillott 659 crow quill nib (Joseph Pennell’s favorite), Platinum Carbon ink on Clearprint vellum⁣.”

Ikh Nart Sunset, Mongolia

Finally, for now, the 12×16″ oil painting above has been accepted into the Fusion Art Gallery online exhibition “Sunrises and Sunsets”! The location is one of my favorite places in Mongolia, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. I own my own ger with all the furnishings and have been allowed to set it up in the reserve and live there for a week or so and that’s when I get to see sights like this and take photos that I can turn into art.

Location Watercolors In My Own Backyard

My portable watercolor kit.

Spring has sprung so I’ve gotten out the past few days to paint and sketch in our garden. I use a Yarka full-pan set of paints, a variety of brushes and either a 9×12″ Arches cold press block or 8×8″ pieces of Sanders Waterford cold press taped to a piece of foamcore with taped edges.

The south side of what we call “The Long Border”

I really wanted to do the lilacs before they faded, so I focused on them.

First washes

I got so involved in what I was doing that I forgot to take any other step photos of this first one. My goal was to limber up for the painting season and catch the lilacs against the dark green of the English laurel behind it. I stayed with really simple shapes working, as one does with watercolor, from light to dark.

I then went around to the other side to do a close-in version of the lilacs.


I kept it loose, starting, as before, with a light pencil drawing and then laying in the lightest areas of color.

As you can see I treated the lilacs as simple shapes, not getting into painting individual flowers. I also paid attention to color temperature, starting warm in the lightest area and going cooler in the shadows.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the way they came out. The roses are just getting started so stay tuned…

The Art Life: Not Just Art

Alexander
Alexander A Really Great Cat

I have the good fortune to work at home doing something I love. It also means “visitors” every day. Our two rough collies and three cats wander in and out, sometimes just to say “hi” or to hang out. The last few days Alexander has come in, sprawling across my desk in front of my iMac to get his tummy skritched and combed out. He was a slightly scruffy little shelter kitten who we got when he was about three months old. He’s grown into a phlegmatic 8 year old, 16 pound furball.

(And wouldn’t you know it, as I was proofing this post in he came. Pause for tummy combing….)

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(Ok, I’m back.)

Being at home also means that if I, say, spot a juvenile great blue heron down at our pond I can grab my camera and get some photos.

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After work tasks include watering the vegetable garden and picking what’s ready. We got a very late start this year, but Humboldt County’s warmest weather is in September/October so we’ll get at least some goodies in the freezer like peas for winter solstice dinner.

Vegies

We picked our first real harvest a few days ago. Shallots, a yellow zucchini, Hurst Green Shaft peas (got the seed in England and haven’t found an American source for this awesome variety), Blue Lake green beans, and French haricot verts. Potatoes will be ready in another month or so. We’ve also planted regular green zucchini and summer squash, both of which will start to be ready for harvesting soon. I also, because I had them, threw some brussels sprout seeds from 2012 into the ground just to see if any would germinate. Thought I might get two or three. Well….I’ve now got a clump of over a dozen that are too close together. My plan is to carefully transplant them into a row once the rains come and the weather is cooler.

I think we’re going to dig a small root cellar on the north side of the garage since there are five varieties of garlic on the way, plus some heritage onions. The peas and beans will be, respectively, shelled and cut up for the freezer, where they will join the three gallon-size ziploc bags of blueberries our bushes produced this year. Did I mention that I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” right now?  :0).

In the meantime, last night I rummaged around for dinner wanting to use the zucchini while it was fresh and some mushrooms before they were goners. And came up with this…

squash dish

I set water to boiling for the shell pasta and then sauteed the mushrooms in olive oil and butter. I added the zucchini and let it cook for a bit, then added some finely sliced leeks. It’s seasoned with a bit of salt, basil, parsley and oregano. When the pasta was done I dumped it into the vegies and stirred everything together. Dinner was served in our Portmeirion “Borders” pattern china that we got at the factory seconds shop in England  twenty years ago.

As for art, as you saw last week, I’ve got some new small horse paintings under way. I also started this one, getting the brush drawing done. You can still see the pencil marks from where I projected the preliminary drawing for transfer and then made some corrections. But darn, I kinda like the way it looks now, so I might just call it done and keep it around. We’ll see.

DSC_2577

Gallimauphry Friday: Foiling The Gophers

 

gopher
Botta’s Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae), back when I thought is was cool to see a wild mammal on the property. I got over it because of the destruction.

I like to garden and we have an acre to do it on. It’s great exercise, especially for easel artists like me who are either sitting or standing most work days. Lots of range of motion…reaching, kneeling, carrying yard waste to the compost pile etc. so it’s a good workout in the fresh air. And results in flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruit and berries. But, like many people who live in rural areas, we have gophers. The cats account for some (Alexander a Really Great Cat got a big one last month), we set traps in live holes, but of course they’re never gone for long. Nature finds a niche and fills it. I’ve lost a lot of bulbs and even some roses over the years. So when I wanted to replace a couple I decided that I wasn’t going to just plop them into the ground and cross my fingers We had some leftover gopher cloth from what we had put under the raised bed and there was enough to line a couple of planting holes. My goal is to give the roots enough safe growing space that they will stay alive and thrive. We’ll see.

The Black Hole gopher trap is the most humane solution that we’ve found. When triggered it crushes the thorax and they die pretty much instantly. Plus it doesn’t endanger our pets or other wildlife. A few years ago while I was on my annual seven week trip to Mongolia my husband trapped nine and the cats got eight. That stopped the worst of the damage, but we have to be eternally vigilant, especially now when they’re getting active again and hungry.

I thought I’d post a few photos of what we did in case you might find it useful. If you have found any non-toxic gopher controls that work, let me know in the comments.

The roses are “Graham Thomas” a beautiful golden yellow David Austin rose that can be grown as a climber.

gopher-1
The first try. I dug the planting hole and we folded the mesh into it, dug out some more, tried it again, repeated until it fit the hole just below soil level.

gopher-2
And this is what it looks like with the rose planted with the addition of a river rock edge. It’s at the base of one of the vertical posts on the potting shed.

gopher-3
Out front planting space was tighter in the bed next to the garage door. I scooped the dirt out onto an old tarp.

gopher-4
Fitting the mesh into the hole

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Then we formed the “basket”, folding the corners securely together.

gopher-6
The rose and its root ball in place. Next step was to refill the bed. Managed to not disturb the daffodils.

We’ve had a series of those “atmospheric river” storms, heavy rain and wind, so haven’t gotten much done other than to start pruning the roses. But in the next week or so I think the 2017 gardening season will be on!

 

 

February Flowers In The Garden And A Hummer With Attitude

Male Anna's Hummingbird telling me who owns the place
Male Anna’s Hummingbird telling me who owns the place, 1-25-15

Unlike much of the country we’ve turned the seasonal corner out here in northern California. Unfortunately the day after day of nice warm sunny weather means that we’re not getting any rain, so we’re going into a fourth year of drought. At the moment, though, the garden is starting up again with the first bulbs blooming, plus a few other “early risers”. The Anna’s Hummingbird in the photo was in the yard at the end of last month. There’s usually hummers around in the winter and spring, dog-fighting for, well, just about anything it sometimes seems. This guy landed in one of the apple trees. I couldn’t get very close, so even with my long lens (Nikon 80-400mm) he was pretty tiny in the photos. But I thought it would be fun to share one of him in his full “don’t mess with me” display.

Here are some photos of what’s blooming today (all photos taken with a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 28-300mm lens):

White crocus
White crocus

Pink tulips
Pink tulips

Daffodils
Daffodils

Corsican hellebore
Corsican hellebore

Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England
Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England

Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England
Wallflowers I grew from seed brought back from England

Crocus "Pickwick" my favorite
Crocus “Pickwick” my favorite

Flowering quince
Flowering quince

Primroses
Primroses

 

 

 

 

 

A New Dog! And Winter Birds At Our Pond/Bathing Pool

Hailey (Romany's Hadley)- our new 10 month old collie girl from Romany Collies
Hailey, our new 10 month old collie girl from Romany Collies

We haven’t had winter yet here on the north coast of California. The storm door has never opened and there’s been, until today, only one round of rain in our rainy season. It was really cold for a few weeks, but recently we’ve had warm, record-setting days when it’s gotten up over 70F.

But our winter birds are around and I got some nice photos of them bathing in our pond a few weeks ago. I’ve posted some of my favorites.

The big news is that we have a new collie! Our dear old collie boy died unexpectedly back in October and it was a hard loss for us. Being without a collie in the house left a big hole in our hearts. After searching around for a responsible breeder we found Romany Collies, located up near Portland, Oregon. I contacted them and it turned out that they had exactly what I was looking for….a older rough collie puppy. We brought her home on Janauary 13. Hailey is 10 months old, which is perfect. She’s a good girl with a fun personality, a solid temperament and is as sweet as can be. We love her lots.

Hailey on her first outing to Redwood Creek. Her recall is already reliable enough that we could let her off-lead.
Hailey on her first outing to Redwood Creek. Her recall is already reliable enough that we could let her off-lead.

She also is pretty entertaining. This is known as "Collie Pose" (although I know other dogs do it too)
She also is pretty entertaining. This is known as “Collie Pose” (although I know other dogs do it too).

We like to sit down by our pond in the afternoons after work and during the day on the weekends. A variety of birds are often around including, in the winter, a black phoebe, flickers, juncos, sparrows, robins and chestnut-backed chickadees. I recently caught the last two at bathtime. The robin was really enthusiastic!

robin 1robin 2robin 3robin 4robin 5robin 6All done!

chickadee 1chickadee 2

Backyard Visitors This Summer

Things have been busy in the animal department for the past couple of weeks. It’s full summer now and we’re getting a lovely variety of birds coming in to the feeders and flowering plants. There have also been some mammal sightings- a pocket gopher was visible in the middle of the day today and we have 2 or 3 skunks that we have seen a number of times.

I keep the cameras handy whether I’m in the house or the studio and it’s definitely paid off:

Allen's Hummingbird

Red Crossbil (male)

Black-headed grosbeak (male)

American goldfinch (male) and Black-headed grosbeak (female)

Steller's jay

Purple finch (male)

California quail (male)

Pocket gopher

Striped skunk