New work, redux

March in Maine: wearing crampons over my boots to hike down to Four Seals Beach and wearing fleece-lined leather gloves to stand on the rocks and draw, white sky with black rocks and seals barking in the distance, the full moon and the sun glowing on different horizons. I’m happy with the work, will continue to use a Cadmium Lemon wash and different hues to make the underlying map on this set of paintings.

Square Rock at 4 Seals

Four Seals, Square Rock, 18 x 24 inches, oil on board

Seed order 2014, new directions

Every winter I try to take a snow day off from work and spend the morning finalizing my seed order to Fedco. There’s something very satisfying about glancing up from long, detailed descriptions of luscious tomatoes and tender green beans to see the snow pelting down outside. (Seeds for bush beans and alyssm “Carpet of Snow” are already on order, as they were in 2013 below.)

beanies beans

My seed order for the coming year will be an experiment; an acknowledgement of suspicions and assumptions that I’ve been resisting for several seasons. My new guidelines, In no particular order, are:

  • I don’t need to grow boatloads of everything. That goes double for tomatoes
  • I should grow more of what we actually eat, regardless of whether it appeals to my Yankee nature and stores well in the pantry or root cellar
  • I love flowers, I paint flowers, and although we can’t eat flowers, I should step all over that Yankee nature and give serious consideration to creating a huge cutting garden.

And maybe give in to the occasional impulse buy that turns out to be really cool – like Dutch Butter popcorn!

dutch popcorn

Well, no, growing popcorn is an indulgence in space that we could be taking up by growing 9′ stalks of Silver Queen (the finest white sweet corn of all time), so popcorn didn’t make the 2014 list. I am easily swayed to excess when I’m reading seed catalogs but I think I managed to hold closely to my New Rules. FEDCO seeds just emailed me my order confirmation:

214 – Greencrop Bush Green Bean ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( A=2oz ) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
2425 – Bleu de Solaize Leek ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2510 – Space Spinach ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2555 – Giant Winter Spinach ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2766 – Australian Yellow Lettuce OG ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
3209 – Maruba Santoh ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
3222 – Tokyo Bekana ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
3230 – Mizspoona Salad Selects Gene Pool OG ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
3273 – Joi Choi Pac Choi ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
3315 – Gypsy Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
3316 – Purple Peacock Gene Pool Broccoli OG ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
3322 – Arcadia Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
4441 – Aromato Basil OG ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4481 – Wild Bergamot OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5113 – Sunburst Heliopsis ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
5168 – Giant Imperial Mixed Larkspur ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5171 – Lavatera Mix ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5291 – Tall Climbing Mix Nasturtium ( A=4g ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5350 – Elka Poppy OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5351 – Ziar Breadseed Poppy OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5731 – State Fair Mix Zinnia ( B=2g ) 1 x $2.80 = $2.80

This order and what I’ve saved from previous years will probably still grow more that we can eat, but perhaps I won’t feel quite as compelled to spend the entire harvest season canning tomatoes. Perhaps. The baby in this photo is now 22 – obviously I have a long history of growing too much produce!

tomatoes, everywhere

The summer studio

It’s minus 7F this morning, but I have off from my day job and a heated studio to paint in so I’m feeling particularly fortunate on this first day of the New Year. This morning I’ll start a new piece based on photos, drawings, and color swatches from this summer. Here’s the set-up – the hoop-house in the garden is a frozen refuge for field mice this morning, but on a sunny Saturday in late July it was glorious place to work.

Painting in the hightunnel

Happy New Year everyone!

Welcome to the studio!

We’ve started to move in to the new space and make ourselves at home. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to see the work from more than a few feet away, and to have all my equipment close at hand.  Below is the interior facing north. The big windows give an even light over the course of the day.

studio face northThe harsh light in the photo above streams in through a set of sliders on the opposite wall. The drapes are light-fast and insulating, because that’s a lot of south-facing glass.

south facing exposureThe view from behind the palette. . .

dec studio sw cornerWe’re still trimming windows and moving construction debris but we’re painting anyway – I’m looking forward to being able to post about new work in the the new space very soon.

 

Studio update 4.0

Today we have stairs to the second story! This is the view from the alpine garden looking east.

garden view

. . .and a better view of the new staircase.
front stairs

Looking down the stairs to the driveway and our gravel road, just as the crew from John Atkinson Builders is leaving. . .

drivewayHere’s the view into what will be my workspace. . . all that north light is will be nice to work under.

APo interiorThe south wall with sliding doors facing the house. . .

south wallAnd finally, the view out the big north wall window into the swamp. It will be wonderful to see this change with the seasons – I can’t wait for snow.

north wall

Photos from the Refridgerator

You have at least one of these, right? A photograph that was so good you fixed it to the front of the fridge with two magnets and there it stayed, getting a little more foxed around the edges with every passing year. This is one of my favorites; a little boy with one mitten chasing a puppy – also with one mitten, in the backyard during a snowstorm. They’re not so little anymore. . .

Jacob and Jim Clark

Studio update (let’s see, I think we’re up to 3.0!)

As an update on the 14′ x 20′ studio building project in the back yard – we have achieved window trim! And it’s beautiful.

window trim detail

These small casement windows will provide excellent ventilation. There are also large windows on the north wall, and newly installed glass sliding doors into the second floor. The crew had to take them apart to get them up there on the scaffolding – good news is that nobody died. Those sliders weigh a ton.

glass sliders

Here’s the first look into my space on the second floor (just before the doors went in). This is going to be a wonderful place to paint!

second floor interior

Still to do: battens, remaining trim, roof, and stairs on the exterior, first floor flooring and track lighting inside. Stay tuned. . .

 

 

Update from the hive

We’ve had very pleasant weather for far longer than is usually the case in October. There have been a few chilly clear nights but no hard frost here yet and the temperature is predicted to stay above 40 right through next week. Temperature doesn’t rule every living thing, however, and the pumpkins, green beans, tomatoes, and the bees, are all closing down as the day-length contracts and we move inexorably toward the winter solstice. We’ll see just over 8 hours of sun on December 21st vs. exactly 11 hours today.

Our bees have had a rough summer. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why there were so many corpses lying around (drones? disease?) the hive entrance, but I finally caught the culprit – we have predators! Bald-faced hornets are a North American species known for their large paper nests and for stinging aggressively in defense of their home turf. I’ve noticed them hanging around the fruit in the compost heap, but they have also been attacking the weaker of our two hives, robbing the honey stores and larvae and impeding the growth of the colony.

I picked up an old monograph on beekeeping at the Jesup Library book sale a few years ago. The cover is missing, so I can’t credit the author, but it includes some basic information about combining colonies when one is disadvantaged. The author suggests that this is easier on the bees when they have a common enemy – approaching cold weather, for instance, or predators. We have both, so I decided to give it a try. The weaker colony isn’t going to make it through the Maine winter by itself in any case.

I opened both hives and found that “Vanilla” (we name the hives for the color of their paint!) had not yet built out the outside frames with eggs or larvae. I removed those and then slid the active frames all the way to the outside wall on one side. Then there was just enough space to drop in the four active frames from “Pistachio” – it was a tight fit – against the other hive-box wall, with a section of newsprint between the two, formerly separate, colonies.

Merged frames

There were crowds of bees in the air during this maneuver, but I didn’t get stung and everything seemed to settle down rather quickly. I put on some sugar cake and buttoned everything back up with a Styrofoam box feeder on top (for a February syrup feeding). I left the Pistachio hive open, but empty of frames, figuring that workers might still be returning to that box. I may have sacrificed the field bees with this move, because the guard bees from Vanilla won’t be inclined to let them in.

Later in the day I found a moderate amount of activity but no fighting or new corpses. I imagine there will be some evidence tomorrow as the hive cleans itself out. I reduced the main entrance to provide more security and closed the top entrance loosely with grass that the bees can push away if need be. There were guard bees behind the reducer and they repelled a wasp while I watched, so that’s a good sign!

hives after merging

So now we wait and see – pretty much the gardening motto around here. I will no doubt be driving up to Skowhegan to Abnaki Apiaries next spring to pick up a new nuc hive, and return the boxes from this spring. Onward!

Studio Update, 2.0

John Atkinson’s crew has been busy all week working on the studio under balmy blue October skies. They added square casement windows to R’s space on the first floor, and installed the front door.

studio construction front door

The water-table is pressure treated lumber and needs to stay unpainted for a year. The board and batten siding is stained “Colonial Gray” – there won’t be another trim color because the building is just too small for that much detail.

board and battenThe interior of the first floor. . .

studio interior. . . already looks more like a room with the door on! I came home yesterday and found that the big windows on the left had been installed – very nice, very huge. I guess I need another post here once I grab some photos during daylight. For now, a view down the driveway from earlier this week:

studio driveway