High summer insanity

Hi Everyone, 

Yes, I am two weeks behind here. Yes, I have tried several times to get a post written but my time has been limited. Very limited! Week before last I took the week off while Miss L. was away on a mission trip with our church so I could get a good start painting my kitchen and some other very involved stuff. Things do not happen here in grand and glorious sweeps. Our accomplishments come in tiny bits and pieces squeezed out of odd moments of time. Last week, well, the high summer season kicked in and Mother Nature rules.

I am going to give you bullet points and photos because I just don’t have the time at the moment for long thoughtful writing. Hopefully I can squeeze some in between now and September, but don’t be surprised if there are more posts like this over the next month. My apologies. Life happens.

  • Spark Plug got to go free from his 5 week confinement on Saturday. He’s happy for his freedom. I’m happy not to be hauling hay and water twice a day to the round pen.  ​
  • The 25 cucumber plants are producing PROFUSELY!
  • The pickle making is currently at least a part time job for me at the moment. 
  • Miss L. is taking a pottery class this week. It was supposed to be at a facility 15 minutes from our house. It got moved to a location 30 minutes from our house. Two hours a day of driving. 
  • I am dealing with some life aggravations that include disputing a medical bill. I suspect that alone will take several hours this week with phone calls and letters, plus a couple other time intensive problems to solve. 
  • We added 3 chickens to the flock yesterday.  We thought they would be teenage pullets. Instead, they are pre-teen pullets and much smaller than our new chicken run set up. They are so small they can get through the run wire. On one side are the grown hens who are not above pecking one of their own kind to death. On the other side is the pasture and the domain of the infamous chicken killing raccoon. And on the third and forth side awaits Sweetie Pie the Cat, who realized the new girls are the perfect snacking size. We have now rigged a containment center within the run, but it’s in the testing stage (and as they grow has the potential for escape) so I have to regularly go out to do a security check. Keeping chickens alive around here is a full time job!  
  • The tomato plants are heavy with little green tomatoes and growing faster than I can tied them up. Brace yourself for for a plethora of tomato pics and complaints in the very near future.
  • The yard needs mowing, the herbs need picking and drying and do I really need to mention laundry, cleaning and cooking?
  • I started some artwork two weeks ago and it just sits and taunts me right now. 

This is life in Crazyville at the moment. I’m just doing it like Nike tells us to do. Hopefully you will hear from me next week, but if you don’t, be assured I am buried under a pile of cucumbers and tomatoes. 

Go somewhere and have a relaxing vacation for me please. Have a great week! 

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Mother Nature always wins

Hi Everyone,

How is your week so far? I hope that wherever you are, you are safe, comfortable and dry. I don’t watch much in the way of news anymore, but what I have seen has been full of the power of Mother Nature!

Hurricane season has started with the first tropical storm coming up through the Gulf, other places have been flooded and then there is Hawaii. I have been strangely fascinated with the volcano eruption to the point I check on it daily. To paraphrase one local, it is both sad and beautiful at the same time. 

In our little corner of the world we have also been dealing with Mother Nature. Saturday morning was traumatic. D. went to feed the horses and chickens while I was walking the mutts. When he reached the chicken run he faced the horror of several dead chickens. Evidently raccoons found a weak spot in the chicken fortress. Somehow we had some survivors, but our favorite girls were gone. It was just awful. 

I spent the morning yanking weeds (my tried and true way of working out big, bad emotions) and sobbing over our girls. I cursed raccoons and everything else that constantly tries to eat our chickens. It’s a LONG list. Everything likes chicken. After three hours of this I had exhausted myself, gotten my herb bed in much better shape AND resigned myself that this is nature’s way. Everything has to eat. 

I sent D. a text to start looking for more chickens. He works part time at a livestock feed company. It’s not hard to find farm animals when you just ask every single customer buying chicken feed. He located someone by the time he got off work and we added 3 Rhode Island Reds to the flock.  Egg production is drastically down. Only two eggs in the past two days when we were getting about eight. Hopefully when our survivors recover and the new girls get settled we will see eggs again. If not, we may have to add more to the flock. We have a new arrangement with our neighbor that we will trade her fresh eggs for some fresh milk from her new cow.  I think I’m channeling Laura Ingalls Wilder again! 

Gertrude is traumatized
The new girls

So we now have upped the fortifications of the chicken coop and run. It has locks like a New York City apartment and everything except concertina wire around the top and bottom. The things we do for eggs around here!

In continuing our struggle to balance our lives with allowing the wildlife theirs, we finally got a permanent fence around our garden. It still needs a few posts and the gate, but it will slow down the annihilation of our veggies. Again, everything has to eat…including us.  Now we just need to get one more door on the feed and tack room to keep the critters out of the horse, chicken and cat food.  We have a big ol’ compost pile. Why can’t they just eat there. Free food, every day, no work (killing or destruction) involved!


You know that you are crazy country people when your Saturday evening fun consists of pulling up chairs to watch the hens work out their new pecking order. Luckily this time there was only some chest pounding, wild flapping and minor head pecking involved. Last time one girl needed some doctoring for a few days until it all settled down. I also had to don my chicken wrestling clothes just in case the new girls couldn’t figure out that the little red house was where they had to sleep…behind all those shiny new locks to frustrate any especially wiley raccoons.

On the art front, I am delivering portraits this evening. I have several works in progress including this sneak peak at something different. Hopefully next week there will be several “reveals”.  


Be safe out there. I don’t think Mother Nature is very happy with us right now.

Fixin’ it

Hi Everyone,

I hope life is grand in your world. Now that it’s Spring and the flowers are blooming and the bees are buzzing it’s pretty grand here. 

We have half of our garden planted and half of the garden fence that we have had plans to put up for three years finally underway. The rascally rabbits will have to find food elsewhere soon. I helped D. plant 56 tomato seeds a few weeks ago, then, unbeknownst to me, he planted another 50! We have 84 in the ground with the others on standby in case we lose some of the 84. Every year he is convinced that we are going to lose half of the tomato plants and we NEVER do. Brace yourself for lots of complaining from me in July and August when every waking moment is spent canning tomatoes. Oh, and the whole row of cucumbers that will have to be pickled if they all come up!

Since I can once again only show you a small detail of the two portraits I’m working on I thought I would talk about something I have decided to do and my guess is that I am probably not the only one who needs to do this. Can I get a show of hands from all of you who have items in your life that you love and/or use constantly but either need repairs or tweaking to make them better? I see you. It’s a life thang. 

Now that I have tweaked my work life a little more to have some more time and space, I have decided that at least once a month I am going to fix something that needs fixin’. I have jewelry that I love that needs repairing, my binder of “most used recipes” that needs to function better, a planner that I REALLY need to use but needs some tweaking of the pages to fit my life better, clothes that need mending, etc. 

I have been making do for years and it’s just pitiful. I’m surprised the recipe binder is even still holding together. You would think that I would fix something that I use several times a week! I decided to start with this necklace though instead of the binder first. Why? Because for about a year I have reached to wear it and realized I need to replace the wire that holds it to the leather, then I mentally fuss at myself.  I got this necklace on a trip to Charleston SC with my daughter when she had a job interview and didn’t want to make the long drive alone. On that trip I got to catch up with a friend from college and, along with her daughter we went to a craft fair where I got the necklace. Not only do I really like cool rocks, this one goes with almost everything in my wardrobe and I have good memories attached to it. To me (and I know my taste is a bit quirky) this is one of those William Morse things that is both beautiful and useful. 


Ideally I would like to fix about one item a week but some of them are going to take some time. Just for kicks and grins I will share the before and afters. I suspect this could easily be a year long project. I have been making do for a long time with many things and in the season of self-care that I have declared for 2018 this could cut down on my frustration level. 

Here is a detail (and boy, are these portraits detailed) from one of the portraits (it’s sideways, sorry) and the other is a sketch I did this morning. More self-care. I gave myself 45 glorious minutes out in my garden to just draw and enjoy the sights and sounds before I started my work day. 


 

Have a lovely week and give yourself the time to fix that one darn thing that is driving you nuts. 

It’s wild out here

Hi Everyone!

I’m late. I’m late. I’m late. I had big plans for this week. We all know how that goes. 

My plan was to finish up the painting that is in progress and start a new one. Sounds simple, right? Well, Monday work started pouring in. Yes, I’m in the process of “retiring” (loud laughter here), but I’m not there yet and am both phasing one business out while phasing another one in. It’s complicated. I also have four logo designs in the works and they take up some time. Now I haven’t had a logo to do in about two years (Seems folks can get them online for $5 now. Don’t EVEN get me started!) and unfortunately none of these are paying jobs. One is for myself,  one for my daughter, one for a church event and one for our local beekeeping association. They still have to get done sometime soon though. 

Then one of the dogs stuck his nose somewhere that he shouldn’t and had some sort of allergic reaction that required some doctoring on my part on and off for a couple of days. 

I had to stop working to handle some of the remaining estate stuff for a while, then D. comes home Thursday afternoon dragging the flu with him. While he is in bed with chills and nausea, Miss L. and I are on horse care duty normally handled by D.  Then, wouldn’t you know it, these people I live with want food. Every. Single. Day. Oh, and the four legged ones are even more demanding than the two legged ones.

Did I mention that the element in the oven died? Yep. While waiting on the new one to arrive I had to revise every meal plan for the week. Oh, and our last dryer died this week (D. and I had two of everything when we got married. Not anymore.) so call me Laura Ingalls Wilder as I haul the wet clothes to the clothesline. I don’t mind it in the summer, but it’s FEBRUARY! 

As D. began to recover from the flu he got bored, but wasn’t up to functioning yet, so he begged me to go get his trail cam so he could see woodland creatures (Deer. Assessing the post hunting season deer population). So, Miss L. and I don our fanciest muck boots and head down the muddy pasture, through the woods, cross the mighty Raccoon Creek to retrieve the precious trail cam, ford Raccoon Creek again without dropping precious cargo, slip slide back up the pasture trying to reach the safety of soggy yard. We almost made it. Two feet from the fence Miss L. was sucked in by Carolina red clay. I had to hold onto to the fence post and lean as far as I could, stretch out my hand to grasp hers and pull her to safety without falling into the mire myself.  Finally the trail cam was delivered to the anxiously awaiting D.  

Was I done then? Nope. Mr. Anti Technology wanted to see the pictures on my big computer screen. Sigh. Finally he was happily settled in watching lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! Ok, it wasn’t that exciting but we did get to see crows, squirrels, fox, rabbits, raccoons (they don’t call it Raccoon Creek for nothing), coyotes and lots of deer.  We are pretty sure a bear wanders through occasionally so maybe one day….

Finally dinner was done, cleanup was done, clothes brought in from the line in the last tiny bit of remaining light and I thought I was done. Then this weak voice comes from the bedroom. “Did you plug the fence back in after you fed the horses”? DANG! No. Bob the horse takes every possible opportunity to escape when the fence is off and I did not want to wrangle horses in the middle of the night. So once again I don my lovely muck boots, grab a coat and a flashlight and head to the barn. Before I get to the fence I hear Sweetie Pie the cat rattling around in her big bag of cat food that once again she has knocked off a cabinet for a feeding frenzy. As I rounded the corner to yell at her I realized that Sweetie Pie was at my feet and the rattling was still going on. My flashlight caught the glow of two beady, guilty eyes attached to a big ‘ole possum less than two feet from me. 

Mr. Sickly had to turn his own fence on. 

Have a great week! 

Stuff

Hi Everyone!

I hope you have had an excellent week.  We are still thinking of all those folks in Texas cleaning up from Hurricane Harvey and now are watching Hurricane Irma starting to roll in.  Both of my kids are at the coast and we are putting together supplies here in case we need to have another evacuation hurricane party like we did last year during Matthew.  Mother Nature does not cooperate with life plans and I feel for all the people who are trying to decide what moves to make to protect lives and property.

Once again I can’t say that this week has included much artwork or creativity for that matter.  I did ship a print to Australia yesterday.  That was fun.  Guess I’m officially an international artist now (I hope you heard the chuckle I made typing that).

What I have been doing is sorting through yet more and more boxes from my SIL’s estate.  Much of it also comes from my husband’s Mother and his grandparents and even great-grandparents.  Where probably 75% has been general current clothes and household items the other 25% has been some vintage and antiques items that have been interesting to find.  I thought I would include some photos of what is currently laying around my house as we decide what to do with all of this STUFF.

I would hate for you to miss out on my other pile of STUFF…the peas that are begging to be shelled and canned.  This may be the first year EVER that I have looked forward to winter!

IMG-4838

Wishing you a great week.  Stay safe those of you on the East coast.  We will have you in our prayers.

Beans, barns, bees and boredom

Hi Everyone!

How has your July been? Do you feel summer winding down? It has been hot and miserable here for the past couple of weeks. Midday is spent inside. 

This week we decided to enjoy a good dose of boredom around here. Last week was an awful mess of traveling to appointments that resulted in nothing more than frustration, disappointment and stress. Now it’s a waiting game for the attorney and government entities to accomplish something so we can move forward. Boredom has been a good tonic.

Our garden is producing high levels of green beans this year and the tomatoes are putting forth a good effort. Miss L got to try her hand at picking beans. I’m pretty sure she enjoyed it about as much as I did at her age. She also got to see the canning process while Danny canned the first 14 quarts of beans. She was keeping track of the pops the jar lids made as they sealed. We are also consuming green beans frequently at meals.  Last night’s dinner was green beans, potatoes, creamed corn, fresh tomatoes and biscuits. It just doesn’t get any better than that!!

I have been checking on my bees more and feeding them now that most of the blooms are gone. My goal is to get at least two hives through the winter this year. It’s sad to admit that, but with colony losses of 40-50% on average each year now in most places in the United States, you have to brace yourself and hope for the best. I have one hive I’m already concerned over and keeping a close eye on. 

Our keets are having issues. We have lost three of the 16 and have 2 more that aren’t doing well. After some research we think there is a possible vitamin deficiency so Miss L and I made an emergency grocery run for wheat germ and vitamin E this morning. Hopefully that will help. 

It seems like a combination of heat and boredom are making our hens cranky. They can’t free range anymore due to the Thing In The Thicket that has snatched a couple of their coop mates. They seem to be protesting with a decrease in egg prodution. 

I am almost done with the barn drawing commission. I hope to have the finished picture on here next week.  Sooooo close but I can’t show it to you before I show it to my clients.  The boredom and heat have allowed me the time to put in several concentrated hours on it. 

We have enjoyed walks, time with the dogs, cat and some crafty time this week.  Danny has been able to work with Bob several evenings. Books have been read, movies watched, etc.  It has been GOOD!  Next week could get crazy again and August will bring school shopping, soccer and school faster than I’m ready for. I’m going to enjoy one more weekend of “boredom”. 

Hope you find some boredom this week! 

Death, taxes and CHANGE

Hi Everyone,

Yes, it happened again. My post day got away from me last week. I did start it, but before I could finish the day was gone and we were well into a busy weekend.

We are slowly settling into new routines all around.  Mine seems to be the biggest struggle right now because of the overwhelming amount of paperwork and appointments I have to make in the process of settling J’s estate and getting Miss L’s benefits and other life stuff in place. Yesterday was an entire day of driving to different meetings only to arrive home late in the evening feeling like I only made two tiny drops of progress in a ocean of red tape.  

Danny and Miss L have worked out a complex schedule for who gets to sit in the King Chair (the recliner with the best view…outside to watch horses for Danny, the TV for Miss L) what day. I just stay out of that whole thing. They seem to enjoy the debate process!

The food buying and meal planning is also under adjustment. Our health nut food ways are not completely pleasing Miss L. She has the family genetics for an amazing metabolism and she does not waver on her likes and dislikes. I am compromising on allowing some junk food and she is attempting to try new food. I will admit that I have missed Kraft Deluxe Mac & Cheese. 

Sweetie Pie, the cat, had been stuck in confinement while awaiting her spaying surgery. Unfortunately that was not sitting very well with her and she jumped at the chance for escape while Miss L and Danny were cleaning her crate. The surgery appointment got cancelled and we are hoping that the now invisible Sweetie Pie does not appear in the future with a crate load of kittens. 

Princess Dinah, the dog, it adjusting very well and we are slowing introducing her to my pups. She will be getting her surgery next month and if the budget allows, a professional haircut. Her Princess title isn’t matching her wild child look at the moment. 


The chickens have had to give up the free range life as the Thing In The Thicket has increased its chicken consumption. We lost two of our little girls in the past two weeks. There will be an upgraded chicken coop in the Fall. 

Our oldest horse, Christy, carried her last rider this week when she gave Miss L her first riding lesson. Christy’s hip is causing her lots of pain so Danny decided to let her enjoy a rider free retirement. Now Bob is in major training to take over Christy’s job. 

I believe the quote about death and taxes needs to be changed to, “the only thing you can count on in life is death, taxes and CHANGE.”  Lots of change sometime. None of it bad here, just different and all of the elements of the quote are in play with our changes. A death brought about the changes and those darn taxes will be paid at the end of all the paperwork!

I have gotten a good start on a commission piece and hope to show at least some of it next week if not the finished piece.

Embrace the changes this week!

Get lost. Slow down. Change directions.

sunflower 2016
My sunflowers are enjoying the heat. They are at least 8′ tall and still growing!

I hope you all have had a lovely week. It has been a typical July week here. Hot as Hades all day with a late afternoon thunderstorm that hopefully cools the air a little. Often it doesn’t. Sometimes the air is so humid and thick after a storm that it feels difficult to breathe. You would think you could squeeze the juice out of it. My poor bees are spending more time on the outside of the hive than inside. I’m thinking I should get a tiny air conditioner for them. No, I do not spoil the creatures that live with me (much).

The past couple of weeks have been spent getting settled, finding my way around and meeting people. If I counted correctly, this is my tenth move in my lifetime. Most of my moves have been within miles of each other, but this is the third move to a completely new area. My first major move was as a newlywed to a different state. My then husband was working third shift, the company had put us up in a hotel until we could find a home and I knew no one. I couldn’t stay in the hotel room during the day while my husband was trying to sleep, but I had no where to go.

This was before cell phones and we had two not-so-great cars. So, I did what any bored, fearless (you have that in your 20’s) young woman would do. I got my car keys, filled the car up with gas and proceeded to drive in and out of town until I was hopelessly lost, then figure out how to get myself back to the hotel.  Honestly, it was a huge adrenaline rush. Sometimes I barely made it back before my husband got up to go to work.  By the time we moved out of the hotel three weeks later, I rarely got lost. I found all the important places (Town Hall, library, the MALL) and lots of scenic areas of the countryside.

I have been using this same technique with slightly more common sense this time.  Lately our vehicles have been just as bad (except for THE BEAST, our F-350 pickup that I LOVE to drive), but I do have my cell phone and AAA card with me now. I found the library. People seem to think that libraries are not important anymore. I beg to differ. The bulletin board alone was a wealth of information. Local events and services that I had not been able to find online were on the bulletin board.  So, I have the library, found the arts council, town hall, pharmacy, car mechanic and our local state park for hiking. Hey, not a bad start for two weeks of being lost!

ghost flowers 2016
I discovered Ghost plants on our way to pick blackberries this week. They are such an oddity with all the color this time of year.

The harder adjustment I am having to make is the pace of life here. I’m pretty sure it was the same way when I was growing up out in the country but I wasn’t aware of it. EVERYTHING is slower. I have been in Surburbia for twenty years. I have worked two jobs for about twelve years. I shuttled two kids to thousands of practices and events for eighteen years. All that has come to a screeching halt. I often find myself standing somewhere in disbelief that there is nothing on my To Do list that HAS to be done immediately. Trust me, I’m not complaining, but after decades of rushing around and working under endless deadlines, it is disorienting.

Now that I have said that life has slowed down, just this week events have fallen into place for D. to start a business he has been planning for about two years. Originally he was going to start it next year after he retires, but an opportunity presented itself that was too good to pass up. This means that for about four months I will be back to working two jobs again as we start this while he is still working full time.  I will fill I the details as this moves along.

blueberry jam 2016
More slow stuff. Making blueberry jam.

I need to mosey on now to finish tiling these floors (they WILL be done by the end of the month!).  I’m going to leave you with some hard earned wisdom. If life is a little boring or drab, or the creative juices have quit flowing (they do sometimes), literally get in your car, on your bike, take the bus, use your feet and go get lost. The change in scenery and the adventure will do you good. Don’t use the GPS. Use your God given instincts!

zinna butterfly 2016
Just one of the hundreds of butterflies that have been visiting my zinnias this year. I have never seen soooo many in one place before!

All photos by Christel D. Huttar.

The bees are here!

Welcome to the farm honeybees!  My Dad finally deemed the bees ready to move to their new home and made the trip out yesterday.  Here he is setting up the hive.

Dad and beesWhen I was little I was Dad’s bee assistant.  No, I did not get the official beekeeper’s veil, but stood nearby enough to fetch and carry as needed while he worked the bees.  Then, when the honey was ready I helped clean the racks after he cut the honeycomb out.  I learned early on that you get the most bee stings two ways.  First, going barefooted outside.  Bees love clover and we had clover in the yard.  Second, picking up sticky honey racks before looking to see if any bees were still trying to save their honey.

People get frantic when a bee is buzzing around.  They need to know that unless a bee thinks she is in danger they do not want to sting you.  Why? Because she dies afterward.  Just stay still and the bee will move on.  These industrious creatures have more important things to do than go around terrorizing innocent bystanders.  More important things like pollinating plants that make your FOOD.  They don’t do that for us. They are making their own food, but it happens to be a well designed by-product of their work.

So Dad situated the hive and we all went into the house for a visit.  When it was time to go we walked out to check on them and were happy to see they were already hard at work.

As evening fell they headed into the hive for the night and I was anxious to see how they were doing this morning.  All my reading up on bees said to situate the hive facing East or South.  Well, my Dad plopped the hive down facing West.  I suspect after 60-70 years of beekeeping Dad has decided that the bees aren’t really very picky which way their front door faces.  Sure enough, I got out to check on them as soon as possible and here they are starting to wake up and go to work.  D. and I speculate that our bees just get to sleep in later in the morning, but work later in the evening this way.  You know the rush hour traffic is probably avoided with these work hours.

first day beesOne more thing off this Spring’s To Do list! Dad said I need to walk by the hive every day.  I’m not sure if that is just so I can check on them or for them to get used to me or both.  I do know that sitting near them yesterday listening to the hum of busy bees brought back long buried childhood memories of warm, honey sticky days with my Dad and I’m glad he was the one to get my bees off to a good start.

 

Photos by Christel Williams

And a little more education

Happy Halfway Through February!  If you read last week’s post you know that I do not like the month of February.  By now I am getting cabin fever and needing Spring badly.

I’m running behind today so this might be short depending on how my morning goes.  Last week I talked about how I seem to be using YouTube often to learn new things.  No tuition required!  That has been continuing into this week as well.  I have been studying how to install tile.  I will let you know how that goes in a few weeks. Prayers requested.

Here is a little watercolor painting I did last week. It is actually a jungle illustration.  I can show you the finished product in March.

Jungle background 2

What else have I done this week? Oh, I fixed one FABULOUS dinner with a honey sriracha sauce.

I IMG_2762have been leery of taking on Asian cooking since a seriously botched Chinese dish about a decade ago that my children still laugh about.  It was so bad that we actually ate grilled cheese sandwiches instead.

Something that has been increasingly on my mind is the state of our planet Earth.  I have no desire to get into the politics of the environment, and I am not a member of any environmental group, but my intuition is ringing loud and clear that we are very likely on the tipping point of saving or destroying ourselves.  I believe the Earth will recover from our selfishness and arrogance, but we probably will not.

My kids have called me their “hippy momma” forever because I have always been the recycling, vegetarian, food-growing kind of gal.  It just seems to be in my DNA to make my lifestyle as earth friendly as I reasonably can.  Not to say I can’t do better.  I am always looking for little tweaks to improve.  So, starting next week I am just going to add to my posts ways to make small lifestyle adjustments or pass along some information that might be a light bulb moment for someone to take action toward healing our home.

We can pass laws and clamor for corporations and governments to do something to stop ruining our earth, water and air, but it will still come down to human beings taking responsibility for their actions each and every day to stop the destruction of ourselves.  No more ignoring the signs of things to come.  Poverty and suffering are only going to get worse if we don’t clean up the water, air and dirt. I have no control over wars starting or ending and am not even sure that the vote I cast in an election counts, but each little effort I undertake at least makes my tiny minuscule drop in the ocean one better drop.

Aren’t I just a ray of sunshine today? Oh, go out and hug a tree.  You will both feel better.

Have a wonderful week!