A Wedding and Other Life Events

One week ago today this happened!


I will have to post more photos later because my photographer (also known as my son) has not finished editing them.  Everything went as planned except for the 95 degree weather that kept us under the pavilion most of the time.  It was relaxed and stress free with some quality family time that we don’t get all that often.

Now the wedding and the move is behind us. This coming week we will be on our annual mission trip with Appalachia Service Project.  I will try to at least post some photos from there but if you don’t hear from me then we did not have cell service. 

After ASP we are looking forward to life settling into some sort of normal. I am itching to get back in my studio and make things. It is summer so here the garden will be taking up some time unless the rabbits and lack of rain finish it off early while we are gone. Here is some of the summer beauty happening  at the moment.


You get short and sweet today.  We have had a week filled with paperwork and now packing. If I don’t get back here next week, I hope you have a wonderful couple of weeks.  

A little Spring glory

We have one month left before the wedding and life is one big deadline right now.  So instead of subjecting you to more of my complaining about packing, unpacking, organizing, sorting and floor tiling, today I am bringing you a visual of all the beautiful things that are happening here.

Spring is bursting out all over and I save my sanity by spending as much time outdoors as possible.  My photography isn’t great, but I hope you enjoy these anyway.

Please forgive the wonky layout.  I have yet to figure out how to get photos where I want them.

And the gardening begins again!
And the gardening begins again!
These will always be my favorite!
These will always be my favorite!
I went color crazy and planted every color of Impatients everywhere.
I went color crazy and planted every color of Impatients everywhere.
My irises did not get divided in the Fall so they are not as plentiful as usual.
My irises did not get divided in the Fall so they are not as plentiful as usual.
The roses are starting to bloom.
The roses are starting to bloom.
I don't know their name, but have always liked them.
I don’t know their name, but have always liked them.
Wildflowers, weeds, whatever you want to call them, are welcome if they bring some happy yellow with them.
Wildflowers, weeds, whatever you want to call them, are welcome if they bring some happy yellow with them.
Sage in full bloom.
Sage in full bloom.
Lamb's Quarters - I added a few of these to our dinner yesterday.
Lamb’s Quarters – I added a few of these to our dinner yesterday.
Red Clover - Why would you not like this?
Red Clover – Why would you not like this?

Hands

hands photo-1439920120577-eb3a83c16dd7

Most of us come into this world with two hands and ten fingers. Once the early infant discovery of our hands and their abilities is over we give little thought to the miraculous appendages that serves us so well in our lifetime. Now, at the age of 53, I am deeply appreciating what my hands have allowed me to do.

I do not know how far back the genetic disposition to arthritic thumbs and fingers go in my family, but I have seen my Dad struggle with it for many years. Since my late 40’s my thumbs have given me increasing pain and this year every finger has expressed its displeasure in the tasks I put upon it.  It is a rare day that there is no pain now.

All these 50+ years I have been blessed with the finest motor skills in my hands.  In one of my many retail jobs the jewelry department would bring me all their tangled, knotted necklaces for me to carefully unbind after they discovered I had the patience and motor skills to work the tiny chains apart. My hands have allowed me to make almost anything I wanted to make from pottery, clothing, embroidery, Halloween costumes to jewelry.  I have used them to repair my home and car as well as dig in the earth for my garden and train delicate tendrils of vegetables and flowers onto a trellis.

I have braided my daughter’s silky hair, buttoned tiny baby buttons and trimmed tiny baby fingernails.  I have doctored many scrapes and bruises on young knees and elbows, stroked the soft fur of many loved pets and chopped thousands of vegetables to feed my people.

All of this I took for granted.

No longer will my hands go unappreciated.  As a “Do-er” not a “Be-er”, I am struggling to learn how to sit with my hands at rest. No more can I mindlessly keep my hands busy while a movie or TV show is on.  No more can I ask my hands to move heavy tile for hours and expect them to be able to still knit scarfs that night.

There are long standing activities that I am questioning now. My signature is no longer as pretty as it was, closer to a doctor’s scrawl, so writing is limited.  The crochet hooks may be retired soon.  Knitting is less painful, though even that will be pared down to what I truly enjoy making. My jewelry making supplies are likely to be given away after I squeeze out a few more pairs of earrings and my long time plan to learn the craft of stained glass work probably is not going to happen.

Is there a positive side to the aging process?  I am finding that though there is a mourning process as the children leave the nest, the face in the mirror looks strangely different and the body parts become more vocal about their distress there is good in the transition.

Like the cleaning of a cluttered, heaped up closet it is cathartic to pick and choose the most important elements of your life.  What do you truly love to do?  What sooths the soul? What brings a smile? What brings the most good to you and others?

I can still paint and draw.  That makes me extremely happy and I am finding that the limitations of my hands are making my artwork better.  Now instead of getting sucked into the vortex of detail that has been my nemesis, I am forced to be looser and more expressive in my work.  I now question what is most important to be done before I tax the strength left in my hands.

I can still hold a baby and the hand of a toddler.  These are becoming increasing joys as D’s kids have kids and I look forward to the possibility of my own grandbabies in the future.  I can still hug and hold the hands of those I love.  As each year brings the loss of more special humans and animals in my life, a simple touch is precious and golden.

I can still play in the dirt and tend to the plants.  As long as the spot is large enough, sunny enough and nourishing enough the plants do not complain about how unwieldy my fingers are.  They respond to my energy and my commitment more than my finesse.

My hands have given and given and given over the decades.  They are asking for more gentle treatment and appreciation now.  They will no longer let me take them for granted and I concede they deserve better.  There are still many things I want to do and would like their cooperation for another 50 years.  From here on I will thank them for their service on a regular basis, listen when they ask for a rest and appreciate what they are willing to do with me as we head into our next half century!

Photo credit

Patience required

Life seems to require an ongoing, endless supply of patience.  I’m sure there is something right now that you are having to wait on.  You would think that as the decades fall behind you that patience would get easier.  Maybe it does to a small degree, but overall it seems to be just as difficult at every stage of life.

There are huge “patience required” problems such as waiting for medical test results, medium level problems along the lines of trying to sell a house and the average low level patience trials of traffic, slow service, etc.  Often all of them are happening at the same time!  Why is it surprising that we are all walking around stressed?

First apartment, here she comes!

Today I have a list of low level stressors that are just aggravating the heck out of me.

  • A pile of boxes waiting to go to a recycling event tomorrow, but I still have to wrangle more out of the storage today.
  •  Another pile of boxes that are part of the “slow move” that I keep tripping over.
  •  The one room that still is not finished with the tiling. I have soooo much more to do and this one is taking forever.
  •  Several client jobs that are on hold until decisions are made or meetings rescheduled.
  •  A landscaping project that is on hold until a large water trough can be moved.
  •  Flowers and herbs that need to be planted, but we have a cold snap at the moment so it’s too cold to plant.

There are a few more, but I will not bore you with all of them. Then I remind myself that there have been many times where my patience was required for the HUGE level items.  Yes, I have waited for the medical results.  I have waited for payments from clients while wondering how the bills were going to be paid.  I have waited to hear from kids who were driving alone at night for the first time. Why, after all of these big ticket issues do I continue to let tiny day to day things try my patience?  I should be in Zen mode most of the time!

Bad Bob

Last week I did discover a new method for relaxing that surprised me.  I took a break from tiling floors and wandered out to the barn where D. was doing some work.  As always Big Bad Bob was there offering his equine help.  He was a muddy mess so I got the grooming bucket and intended to just clean him up a bit.  An hour later we had three spiffed up horses and I was the calmest and most relaxed I had been in months!  I don’t know if it was the concentration required (you don’t want to brush a big horse in the wrong direction) or the big, warm creatures who let you know when they appreciate a good scratching or exactly what the combination was, but it worked wonders on me as well as the horses.  I think Bob, KC and Christy will be looking better on a more regular basis from now on.

Well, it’s time for me to head out and face more tiling adventures.  I hope you all have a wonderful week.  Don’t let the little stuff get you down and if it does, find a horse that needs detailing.

Floors and bees

Happy Friday!! It is a rainy one here.  Good thing I just have TILING on my To Do list today. Yes friends, I actually stuck tile to floor last week! Check it out.

floor 2Here is what I have learned so far if any of you happen to want to tile your own floor.  1) It is not hard.  2) It IS tedious.  3) It IS messy.  I am still quite the novice at this and have not started cutting tile yet.  If you notice in the picture I just got the whole tiles down.  Today’s challenge is to test the cutter out.  I have a manual cutter and hopefully that will work for the most part.  There are a few pieces that will have to be cut lengthwise and I’m 99% sure my cutter will not do those.  Bless my friend Helen. She has a wet saw we can borrow.

floor 1

My goal is to get all the cut pieces down and mortar set so by Wednesday I can start the grout process.  I need this first room done before we can move on to the rest of the house.  You know, that whole move stuff out of one room so you can do the other room process.

All artwork is on hold probably until July.  There simply is no time.  It is all I can do to keep up with my design work right now.  Gardening season is upon us and D. is chomping at the bit to get seeds in the ground.  I am throwing a box of stuff in the car every trip up to D’s in my attempt to make a SLOW move this time.  My last couple of moves have been fast and stressful. Now that process is reaching critical mass and we are having to make more and more decisions on what stays and what goes and how fast can it go.

Next week my town is having a recycling day.  I am dropping off a carload!  The next weekend the theatre company I work for is having their annual yard sale.  Guess who will be dropping off a TRUCK load?  Can you tell I am beginning to feel a little overwhelmed???

With all this going on I have avoided thinking about spending any time drawing or painting and started distracting myself with gardening ideas.  Too much time on Pinterest will make you crazy.  I started studying medicinal herbs, and decided to expand my herb garden this year.  That started me thinking about my future bees and how to help them.  That lead me to studying permaculture and now I have another whole list of projects for the farm.  Someone please take my ipad away from me or slap me when I am on Pinterest or YouTube!

beephoto-1437514805204-ae0a51951572

Soooo, about those bees.  I spent Easter with Mom & Dad.  Dad got me the bee hive for Christmas and has it put together now.  It’s time to get the bees for it.  The plan was to hopefully get a split from one of his hives.  No such luck this year so I told him to go ahead and get me a nuc when he and my brother-in-law pick up their order next week. Then I asked him when we can get the bees settled in their new home.

Dad sort of hesitated and replied “Well, I need to keep them here for a little while so I can keep an eye on them and make sure they are alright.”  Ok, I have to admit that my thought at that moment was…”Dad, I got your grandchildren to adulthood without losing, starving or maiming them, I think I can handle some bees.”  I refrained.  MAYBE I will get bees these year.

Since I have been slack for the past couple of weeks about including some environmental information I will recommend the documentary Vanishing of the Bees.  The link take you to the website, but you can watch it on Netflix.  We need the bees.

Have a wonderful week and go plant some flowers for the bees this week.

 

Flooring photos by yours truly.

Bee photo credit.

 

 

Creative drought

Do you hear that sizzle?  Smell smoke?  That’s my brain.  It’s fried.  Not much going on up there all week.

The emotional and social overload from last week mixed with several days of non-stop home remodel planning has left me in a small creative drought.  Because of my work as a designer I don’t really get the option of turning everything off, but luckily I haven’t had any heavy duty design challenges this week.  I can crank out business card designs in my sleep.

Thankfully this isn’t a creative desert.  Those are bad.  I just need a short break to focus on day-to-day routines and some mindless work to get back in the groove.

So what do I do when I find myself in a drought?  Strangely enough I usually find myself cooking.  Those near and dear to me find this amusing.  Why?  I don’t really like to cook.  That doesn’t mean I’m a bad cook.  No one goes running to Olive Garden when I pull out a skillet. They actually come home from distant lands and ask for my cooking and I have won a chili cook-off in my time.  I just do not enjoy having to feed myself or others every single day.

I have no idea why I find myself in the kitchen when the other creative outlets are blocked.  Maybe it is the visual enjoyment of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Maybe it is the chance to experiment with new recipes or flavors.  Beats me. Most of the time I resent the fact that I have stop what I am working on to feed myself!

Another drought buster is working in the dirt.  This doesn’t help much in the winter, but now that Spring is warming up and the plants need tending I am all in.  My favorite?  Weeding!  Yes, I’m crazy, but for some reason there is an instant gratification in yanking those suckers out by the roots (I worry myself sometimes). If you find yourself in a drought brought on by some anger issues this is the best.  Heck, it might keep you out of jail.  I know, I know, weeding is in the same category as laundry and dishes. They just keep coming back.  Tearing your clothes or breaking dishes in the throes of a meltdown is an expensive habit though.  Weeding is all good.  Your yard and garden look good, you have gotten a dose of vitamin D and exercise and you have extinguished some demons.  Ok, you might need a manicure afterwards. Is that a bad thing?

There.  I have given you a couple of options to combat creative blocks/droughts. Another is to go take a long hike.  Nature cures many ailments.

desert

But what if you find yourself in the Sahara Desert of creative blocks?  I have only had a couple, but those couple actually lasted years. They are very, very bad.  I feel your pain if that is where you are.  You crave a creative outlet.  You need to express something, but not a drop is coming out no matter how hard you squeeze.  You try to move forward but produce only the blandest most pitiful work.

I have only found two solutions. Time and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. They work together.  If you haven’t heard of The Artist’s Way go to Amazon and get it (no affiliate).  If you do creative work and you haven’t reached a desert yet, be prepared.  No, this is not a short cut out of the desert.  It takes time.  Most deserts are the result of serious life issues.  Sometimes it is an illness, bad relationship or tragic event.  Often they are a culmination of several such events at one time. You did not find yourself in the desert suddenly and you will not get out quickly.

Take the time to go through Julia’s program. It is a healing process and you need it. You will find out things about yourself you need to know. I do not recommend just waiting out the time in the desert.  I’m pretty sure Julia Cameron was put on this earth to write her book for us.  You don’t usually work through the issues just waiting. Often artists find themselves in a bottle of alcohol or pills when they try to wait this out.

So what am I going to do this weekend to end the drought?  Tonight is some quality fire pit/grilling/nature time.  Saturday we will be at my bonus daughter’s horse show most of the day with a little floor tiling prep and stall mucking time.  Sunday is supposed to be raining and that calls for a Sunday afternoon nap! I should be in good shape by Monday.

I hope you have a lovely drought free week.

Photo credit

Our apple adventure

Yes, this week I am officially late getting my post done.  If I can survive October, possibly November will be a tiny bit less busy.  My design/print work has been steady this month, there has been all the work at the farm trying to get ready for winter and home improvement projects going on as we gear up for remodeling Danny’s house. After weeks of non-stop work, including Sundays which is normally my true day of rest, Danny and I decided we needed to have a day off.  We had a wonderful second annual chicken stew with his family, but the preparation wore us out.

When we started out with our garden a couple of years ago we decided we wanted to keep it organic and as much as possible use heirloom varieties of plants.  There is an unused pasture on the farm that has been designated as the new orchard.  Danny went online to research heirloom apples and came across Big Horse Creek Farm here in North Carolina.  He decided to order several varieties of apple trees from them.  They can ship the trees, but since we were less than two hours away we decided to pick them up instead.  Easier said than done!  Ron and Suzanne usually have their trees at the West Jefferson Farmers Market on Saturdays.  We haven’t had a free Saturday in months and Danny works every other Saturday.  We asked if we could pick them up at the farm and they told us they had a very difficult driveway to navigate.  Danny assured them that his Ford 250 was up for the challenge and after a few more emails to coordinate times we had a plan.

That is the back story of what turned out to be a wonderful day off this week. Our plan was to head out Wednesday morning to West Jefferson and check out the town. Neither of us had been there before.  We like exploring antique/junk shops so we stopped along the way to poke through all sorts of antiques, pretend antiques (you gotta watch out for those) and just plain old junk.  Fiberglass surf boards sitting in a NC mountain town “antique” store look very odd.

Next we had lunch at a restaurant in West Jefferson that had some good reviews (Boondocks Brewing).  There is a well known restaurant called Shatley Springs that we considered, but most of our home cooking is the same type of food so we wanted something different. Then it was time to head out to the Big Horse Creek Farm.

When Suzanne said their driveway was difficult, this is what she meant.

This is the bottom of Ron and Suzanne's driveway where we decided to go into four wheel drive.
This is the bottom of Ron and Suzanne’s driveway where we decided to go into four wheel drive.

One and half miles, up the mountain.  We took it in four wheel drive all the way up and all the way back down later.  Danny loved it.  The drive was well worth it for the view and the chance to meet the Joyners.  I don’t think we would have had the opportunity to get to know them if we had picked up the trees at the farmers market.

Ron's observatory
Ron’s observatory

Notice that small structure with the domed top. My first thought was “that looks like an observatory” and yes, it is Ron’s observatory.  Suzanne told us that they have virtually no light pollution up there and can only see three distant lights at night so it is perfect for Ron’s astrophotography. You can see some of his photos on their Big Horse Creek Farm Facebook page.

Then I noticed their solar panels.  I hope eventually we can add solar power to the farm so I asked about those and Ron and Suzanne have been completely off grid since 1997 (correct me if my memory is wrong, Suzanne).  No power runs up the side of that mountain. They also have a wind generator.

IMG_2602This is the view over their orchards so the panels have a perfect south facing open area.  I would never get tired of looking at those mountains.

IMG_2601

After that we talked about how they built their home and the other structures on the property themselves, chickens, deer hunting, gardening, collards and crowder peas.  I think the topic we discussed the least was apple trees!  It was a lovely visit and we might have to add on to our orchard to have an excuse to go visit again. Here is the link to their website, Big Horse Creek Farm.

Our original plan was to pick up the trees then head back to Danny’s, saddle up Christy and Bob for an afternoon of horseback riding.  We spent so much time with Suzanne and Ron that we did not have enough time left to get back and ride so we decided to explore the back roads of God’s country.  I have been blessed to visit most of this country and there are many beautiful places, but this area is the only one that I have found that I would up and move to in a heartbeat.  Here is an old farm house we drove by in our travels.

IMG_2604

What a gorgeous Fall day to explore.  My only advice is to plan a trip, but don’t stick to the plans too tightly.  You never know who you might meet or what you might see that will be worth spending extra time with.

Wishing you a wonderful, adventurous week!

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/33721019@N00/1593122120″>mellow fruitfullness #1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Summer crazy

Isn’t summer supposed to be when life slows down a little? If so, I need to rethink my scheduling. I have a commissioned piece going (I can’t show you that one until after Christmas), my two everyday jobs, a donation piece in the works (more about that below), a HUGE pile of stuff I want to finish and get on my Etsy shop before the holiday shopping season starts and I’m trying to visit my kids one more time before their schools start up again. I’m running out of time!!

August garden

Top off that list with all the garden harvest that has to be canned (all those peas have to be shelled first) and I’m wondering when I will sleep in the next couple of weeks. I DO NOT look forward to winter, but am looking forward to eating all this food instead of growing it, hoeing it, picking and canning it.

Now, more about this…

Old Chair
Lovely isn’t it? Well, it probably was 35-40 years ago, but it has seen some life since then. I wish I had a photo of it before I painted it. Yes, I painted it. It was frayed and didn’t match anything I owned. It was a hand-me-down piece to begin with. It is solid and sturdy. In my mind, too good to get rid of but I didn’t have it in the budget to upholster it or even slip cover it. If only I had had my new sewing machine back then I might not have taken a paint brush to it.

So, why am I showing you my pitiful chair? Because now I am going to turn it into a beautiful art chair (I hope) to be auctioned off at a fundraiser for our local women’s shelter. I will keep you updated. Wish me luck!

My hideaway

Generally I am a creature of habit like most human beings. Most of my days have a rhythm that I don’t think much about and the day to day chores get done on a regular basis. I have a crazy quilt way of making a living that even has a schedule I can predict most days (more about that in another post). Lately though I have noticed a shift in how certain things are getting done.

Maybe it’s my age (I’m not telling! Well, maybe later.) and I’m needing more quiet to concentrate.  Maybe I have been running on warp speed for too many years and the engines are wearing down.  Maybe I am craving my country roots after almost 20 years of suburbia.  Whatever it is, I have found that I have been escaping my suburban townhome more often to do my thinking.

I happily work in my newly converted (from post-teenage boy room) studio space at my townhome when I need to get the actual work done, but for the thinking, new ideas, planning, zoning out parts of life/work I have begun to head to The Farm.

morning

Later on I will give you more information about it, but just know that when I escape it is a 45 minute drive from where I live to a rural area with a different culture from my town. At The Farm I tend the garden with my boyfriend. My goofy city dogs come with me and pretend they are cool country dogs though I don’t dare let them off their leashes.  They have no “forest smarts” as opposed to “street smarts” which they don’t have either.  I would rather they not end up as coyote food!  We have three horses at The Farm as well, though we don’t get to spend as much time with them as we would like.  Not that the horses are complaining.  They get their daily food and hay and get to spend their leisurely days in the cool woods with a lovely spring running through it, without having to earn their keep by toting a couple of humans around.

Bob

I am writing this post at The Farm now. I should really give it a more creative name. Maybe in the future it will get a proper title.  The Farm is down a dirt road with only two neighbors so there is no traffic noise.  The rare, unknown car makes all animals and humans alike run to see who is stirring up the dust.  Occasionally a rooster crows and there is a strange anomaly where we can hear a distant neighbor’s radio fairly clear on certain days. A dog bark. Birds, lots of birds. Crickets and tree frogs. What is missing? Traffic noise, neighbors talking, someone else’s TV or music set too loud.

I did not realize just how much constant sound surrounds me until I started spending time at The Farm.  It took some getting used to. At first I was stir crazy and didn’t know what to do with myself.  Now, I swear my blood pressure drops when I get here.  I take my time weeding my flowers and herb garden that migrated here over the past three years. The garden is constant work this time of year, but there is something grounding about tying up tomato plants and hoeing weeds. The horses seem to enjoy my visits with them and don’t mind my picking their daisies.

garden

Yes, I drag my ever present smart phone and    computer with me to The Farm, but I use them differently.  I’m much more focused here.  I don’t have six browser windows open at once, jumping back and forth between them.  I open one for some research and the software I need for a job. I don’t check social media constantly here.  Why I do it at home, I don’t know.  All I do know is that what I accomplish here is much more fulfilling and concentrated.  Most of us don’t realize how much our environment affects how and what we do.

Bee

To wrap this post up, I would like to let you know that I just took the dogs out for their night business.  Lightening bugs. I have missed lightening bugs.  You don’t see them much where I live.  Bats.  I have not missed bats!

 

 

We now interrupt this art for…

Knowing that I will still be exhausted from vacation (when you see my vacation photos in my next post you will know why) I thought I would go ahead and schedule one more ahead of time to give myself a recovery week.

Spring is my favorite season because I have survived another winter, but Summer is my second favorite because of….

bb and beanscukes garden squash

Summertime is a constant juggling of work, art, gardening, canning, EATING, travel, cooking, EATING, etc.  The garden is hot, dirty, back breaking work every year and somewhere in the middle of it I wonder why I do it.  Then on one of these mornings,

morning when it’s not too hot yet and all I can hear is a rooster crowing or a dog barking and the birds singing I remember.  It’s peaceful in the garden.  You can’t rush tying up the tomato vines or picking the beans because you will damage the plants.  The dirt smells good and so do the vegetables. Nothing, NOTHING, tastes as good as a ripe tomato you just picked and eat warm right beside the vine it came off of. No bread or mayo necessary.

Then again in the middle of February, when I am just sure that Spring will never arrive, I can make a blackberry cobbler, remember that hot afternoon picking the blackberries and taste Summer again.