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.

 

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

Hive work – Spring is coming

Outside the coyotes that live on Frenchman’s Hill are hollering at the full moon. They’re so loud I can hear them down cellar where I’m painting hive bodies under shop lights. We’re all waiting for spring. . .

hive deeps or supers

I’m making some changes to my beekeeping practices in 2013.

1. 10 frames in 10 frame boxes. I used 9 frames for years – the idea is to make the boxes lighter and easier to heft. “Nine-frame” adherents insist that the bees don’t mind the variation in the bee space; the precise distance between structures that bees require for their comfort zone. This year my partner is interested in helping out so I won’t be lifting 120 wooden boxes full of bees and honey by myself, and my experience suggests that the bees DO mind the extra space, perhaps especially in our Northern climate.

2. Full-sized, or “deep” supers. Hive boxes come in three sizes: small ones specifically for the honey harvest and meant to be rotated out quickly during the nectar flows in spring and fall, medium boxes for longer term honey cropping and extra living space, and “deeps”, the largest size, meant to be the colony’s living space. I’ve been using only small and medium – again for ease of moving them around. Deeps can weigh >150 lbs fully loaded with bees, larvae, and food stores. Unfortunately, nuc boxes contain large frames, and transferring a “deep” size frame into a medium hive body requires stacking boxes to accommodate extra length. It’s not an elegant solution. This year I know in advance that I’m getting 2 nucs from Abnaki Apiaries in Skowhegan and have planned accordingly – 2 large supers painted “vanilla” and ready to go!

2. Stencils. You’ll notice that both the supers in the photo are the same color of exterior latex paint. I generally throw a few strips of duct tape on one of the hives to differentiate it to the bee population, but this year I’m going to be more purposeful and plan a decoration, perhaps a stencil? Or this. Wow, there’s a lot of choices out there – now I feel very inadequate about all those years of duct tape!

Blizzard flag

There’s a blizzard warning up for our neighborhood come Sunday. I feel badly for R., who spent the day after a hospital stay plowing in blizzard conditions last weekend, and must be thinking about doing it again. He generally knows the storm is coming long before the rest of us. Here’s the broadcast transcript from the NWS:

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CARIBOU ME
425 PM EST FRI FEB 15 2013

MEZ002-005-006-011-015>017-029>032-161015-
/O.COR.KCAR.BZ.A.0001.130217T1100Z-130218T0800Z/
NORTHEAST AROOSTOOK-NORTHERN PENOBSCOT-SOUTHEAST AROOSTOOK-
CENTRAL PENOBSCOT-SOUTHERN PENOBSCOT-INTERIOR HANCOCK-
CENTRAL WASHINGTON-COASTAL HANCOCK-COASTAL WASHINGTON-
SOUTHERN PISCATAQUIS-NORTHERN WASHINGTON-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...PRESQUE ISLE...CARIBOU...VAN BUREN...
MARS HILL...MILLINOCKET...EAST MILLINOCKET...PATTEN...MEDWAY...
HOULTON...HODGDON...SHERMAN...SMYRNA MILLS...LINCOLN...HOWLAND...
SPRINGFIELD...BANGOR...BREWER...ORONO...OLD TOWN...AMHERST...
AURORA...DEDHAM...EASTBROOK...GREAT POND...ORLAND...DEBLOIS...
GRAND LAKE STREAM...MEDDYBEMPS...PEMBROKE...PERRY...PRINCETON...
ELLSWORTH...BAR HARBOR...BLUE HILL...EASTPORT...MACHIAS...
CHERRYFIELD...DOVER-FOXCROFT...MILO...GUILFORD...DANFORTH...
VANCEBORO...TOPSFIELD
425 PM EST FRI FEB 15 2013

...BLIZZARD WATCH IN EFFECT FROM SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE
SUNDAY NIGHT...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CARIBOU HAS ISSUED A BLIZZARD
WATCH...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE
SUNDAY NIGHT.

* LOCATIONS...NORTHEAST...EAST CENTRAL AND DOWNEAST MAINE.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...POTENTIALLY RANGING FROM 4 INCHES OF SNOW OVER
  FAR NORTHEAST MAINE UPWARDS TO 10 INCHES OF SNOW ACROSS SOUTHEAST
  DOWNEAST MAINE.

* TIMING...SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH MOST OF SUNDAY NIGHT.

* TEMPERATURES...13 TO 26.

* WINDS...NORTH 20 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 40 TO 55 MPH...WITH
  THE STRONGER WINDS AND WIND GUSTS IN PROXIMITY TO THE DOWNEAST
  COAST.

* VISIBILITIES...ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS AT TIMES.

* IMPACTS...POTENTIALLY HIGH TO EXTREME...WITH SEVERE BLOWING AND
  DRIFTING SNOW POSING THE GREATEST HAZARD WITH THIS EVENT RATHER
  THAN HEAVY SNOW RATES AND VERY DEEP ACCUMULATION WITH FALLING
  SNOW. SNOW AND STRONG WINDS WILL CREATE VERY HAZARDOUS TRAVELING
  CONDITIONS. BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WILL LIKELY CAUSE FREQUENT
  WHITEOUT CONDITIONS WITH VISIBILITY NEAR ZERO.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A BLIZZARD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR FALLING AND/OR
BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND EXTREMELY POOR VISIBILITIES.
THIS CAN LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS AND MAKE TRAVEL VERY
DANGEROUS. STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO OR YOUR FAVORITE
SOURCE OF WEATHER INFORMATION FOR THE LATEST UPDATES. ADDITIONAL
DETAILS CAN ALSO BE FOUND AT WWW.WEATHER.GOV/CAR.

&&

Favorites from garden season 2012

January’s garden is buried under hard-packed snow and the ground is hard as iron. Subzero temps this week have collapsed any remaining evidence that there were swaths of green in those beds this summer, but. . .

we’re nearly through January, the 2013 seed order is on the way, and Spring will be here, well, soon enough. As a reminder, here are a collection of favorite plantings from the 2012 season – a hedge of pink mallow in front of the tomatoes.

mallow hedge

Prostrate astilbe growing in a shady, wet site with gunnera and a royal fern,

creeping astilbe

and bouncing bet (Soapwort) sprawling over the hot, dry alpine garden.

bouncing bet soapwort

Elder-Flower Fritters

elder blossomsThe Western Mountains Alliance is working on a project called the Maurer Meals Fruit Cookbook. They have had a great response for the usual suspects like apples and berries, but are looking for recipes for under-represented fruits that are also available in Maine such as chokecherry, elderberry, nanny-berry, kiwi, and many others.

I’m contributing my grandmother’s recipe for elderberry blossom fritters. We have 4 productive elderberry bushes around the yard and make juice, cordial (by adding brandy to the concentrated juice)  and dry the sweet purple berries to use as “raisins”. The flowers are also very tasty but most of the recipes I’ve seen include too much of the stem and woody growth, which is slightly poisonous and can make sensitive people nauseous.

The elderberry bushes in my yard bloom in early May. Pick in the morning when the flowers are fresh, and choose large, platter-like blossom clusters when they are fully in bloom. Use an open bowl or cloth bag because they will immediately start to wilt lose fragrance in plastic. Keep them in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to make the fritters, then strip the blossoms off the stems as thoroughly as possible (a few small stems won’t hurt anything).

Elder-flower cordial, or water, is available in specialty cooking or liquor stores. It has a fragrant, faintly citrusy aroma and flavor that really adds a lot to the fritters. I’ve never tried to make it – maybe next year! I’ve successfully substituted orange-flower water in this recipe, and I think rose-water would work as well. I’ve also tried using the juice concentrate with disappointing results – the fritters taste good but they turn a dark purple color that is less than appetizing!

  • 2 beaten eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sparking wine or seltzer water
  • 2 tablespoons elderflower cordial
  • 1 cup elderflowers
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Pour enough oil into a deep fryer (I have a “Fry-Baby” that takes 4.5 C and works well for this recipe) or a large, heavy pot to come up to a depth of 4 inches or so. Turn on the fryer or turn your burner to medium-high and bring the oil to 350 degrees.

While the oil is heating mix all the other ingredients into a large bowl. I use a flat whisk to minimize lumps. The consistency should be thicker than pancake batter, but not so thick that it will completely hold its shape if scooped. If it is too thin, add flour, too thick, more champagne or seltzer.

Drop about a tablespoon of batter into the hot oil for each fritter. It is important not to crowd them, so you’ll have to cook the fritters in batches. I can fit 4 into the Fry-Baby. After about 30 seconds or so, if the fritters have not floated to the surface of the hot oil use a chopstick to dislodge them from the bottom of the fryer or pot. Fry until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels as you cook the rest of the fritters. When slightly cooled, I like to put 4 at a time into a small paper bag with confectioner’s sugar and a few extra blossoms and shake gently to coat.

The same bush loaded with fruit in early September,

Elderberry, Sambucus

Winter gardening

I only needed two pieces of equipment in the garden today, but I think these are the best of their kind: Deer Scram and studded Muck boots.

Deer Scram and Muck Boots

Muck boots come in lots of variations, but these have high, water proof, insulated uppers and metal studs all over the soles. Very punk-culture and very handy for navigating the packed-down, frozen paths on our hill.  I think I picked these up through the awesome folks at Sierra Trading Post a few years ago, but their inventory comes and goes – I don’t know if this particular model is still available. If you find them I can guarantee you’ll never slip on ice or snow again. You’ll have to take them off before you go back inside because they’re holy terror on floor boards, but it’s totally worth it.

Deer Scram is another great invention – powdered deer and rabbit repellent so you don’t have to use a sprayer in sub-freezing temps. This afternoon I followed deer tracks out of the woods and into the gardens to broadcast powder wherever it seemed I could head them off, paying special attention to particularly attractive targets like the cherry trees. It seems to discourage the deer establishing pathways where I don’t want them to go – and where they wouldn’t intrude if the electric fences were on.

Meanwhile, the structure of the garden becomes more evident in the snow – a good lesson for the gardener/designer. This is the start of a willow deer fence that should be fully trained by 2014,

Willow fence

and the withy holding back the south slope improves in size and density every year.

Willow withy retaining wall