Impatience

Hi Everyone,

I hope all is well with you and yours this week. Anyone else sick of winter yet? Here in North Carolina we had one of those Spring teaser days this week. I spent the entire day outside working on projects. It was a glorious 60 degrees with sunshine and too good to waste inside. No regrets for thowing all my indoor projects aside. We are back to grey and gloomy with impending rain now. Typical February weather for us and extremely depressing.

Today I started on the fox painting above. In case any of you wonder how and why I pick my subjects, they are almost completely random right now. I have many personal photos that sometimes become paintings, but in the case of the fox, I used a website called Paint My Photo. Photographers upload their photographs and give permission for artists to use them as reference material. I have several files of images that I like saved and when I need a subject I just go and look through them until one them says, “paint me, paint me!”

Eventually I plan on doing more series and maybe have some deeper thoughts added in, but for now, under my current situation, I just paint random things that make my heart sing a little. I am drawn to the non-human creatures. You get direct and honest feedback from animals as long as you learn their language. Laid back ears on a horse, a donkey or a llama is a warning that they are not happy. A certain twitch of a tail will tell you the same thing about a cat.

I will digress a moment and tell you a quick story. Our horse Cinder is an absolute sweetie and everyone who meets him loves him, BUT he quickly gets bored and finds mischief. Day before yesterday I watched him pester our horse, Asher. Asher is the Alpha here and was trying to nap, but Cinder wouldn’t let him. Everytime Asher dosed off, Cinder poked him with his nose or nipped at him. Asher finally got fed up and chased him off. I thought that was the end of it.

Yesterday morning I was walking the dog before dawn and noticed Cinder standing in the pasture alone while the other equine were in a group by the barn. I told DH that it looked like Cinder had been excommunicated. He said, “funny you should mention that, something happened between Asher and Cinder last night after feeding.” He went on to explain that when he let them out of their stalls after their supper there was no usual calm strolling out of the barn. Instead Asher immediately threw his head (dominate posturing) and chased Cinder out of the barn, nipping at his rear.

It seems that Cinder’s antics had gotten on everyone’s last nerve and he was temporarily kicked out of the heard for a day. I was in the barn last night for feeding and Cinder wouldn’t even come into the barn. He’s usually the first one in. It took some persuading on DH’s part to herd Cinder into his stall and those big, brown eyes were very sad and confused. Things seem to be better today. Like I said, animals keep it honest and direct. Cinder will probably behave better now…for a while anyway.

Now back to the fox. I’m painting this fox today and I kept getting a glare from the overhead light on my reference photo. Then I couldn’t get my canvas to stay still. Did I mention that I’m now painting on our guest bed? Only slightly better than trying to paint on my lap in the living room. I can only use acrylics right now because I have no where to let paintings dry if I use oils. I have a love/hate relationship with acrylics and after using oils this summer I am finding the fast drying time of acrylics very irritating. All those feathers and fur I’ve been painting lately would probably be easier with oils.

Attic studio in progress

I am SO ready to get to work in my attic. I daydream of having my easel set up ALL THE TIME. Lighting that I can control. Tables I can leave my mess on and not have to clean up to eat dinner or have a guest over. Supplies that I know where they are and not have to hunt through a dozen mystery boxes.

“When will your attic be done?” you ask. I have no idea. This is where we are right now. I started priming the drywall last week, but I haven’t quite finished and I can’t set up my easel until that overhead piece goes in, then the lighting. It’s a little bit of torture having to work one bit at a time. No, it’s a lot of torture. I have the vision, but we are no where near it yet. Sigh.

I am not going to stop doing what I’m doing. It’s taken me a lifetime to squeeze out the small amount of time I have right now to do this. I ain’t gettin’ any younger here! I will admit though that this is the most impatient I have been over something, maybe ever. You might want to say a prayer or two for DH. He has to live with me.

Have a great week!

Christel

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.

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! 

Tomato soup anyone?

No, you are not on the wrong blog.  Yes, I have deviated a little from the artsy stuff, but still in the realm of creativity.  Cooking is creative, especially the way I do it.  There has never been a recipe that I could follow exactly.  Come to think of it I don’t follow patterns or instructions exactly either.  I digress.  Back to the soup.

You know all those garden pictures you have been seeing here? IMG_2225 August garden

This year’s garden has done well.  Only our corn did not make it into the freezer or jars.  Why was that you ask?  Because a marauding band of masked thugs attacked our cornfield and left in in ruin. raccoonsAfter jars and jars of plain tomatoes, tomatoes with garlic and basil, and salsa we were running out of ideas of what to do with all the tomatoes.  We still have many jars of spaghetti sauce left from last year.  We were beginning to contemplate how to make tomato dog food.  Then I remembered my favorite Roasted Tomato Soup recipe.  It takes some time to make, but it is SOOOOOO much better than the canned stuff in the grocery store and you know what you put in it!.  So here is my recipe for you to try.  You don’t have to can it like we did.  It took forever to do the canning, but I will thank myself in February when we have this with a grilled cheese sandwich and I am wishing I had all those fresh ripe tomatoes laying around.

Tomato soup

Just remember, I consider recipes as guidelines.  Taste this as you make it and add or subtract what you like.  Sometimes you need to add a little sugar if the tomatoes are really acidic.  Most of the time if you let it simmer for a couple of hours after you put it through the blender it mellows out, so wait before you add any sugar to see if you really need it.

Roasted Tomato Soup

2 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes halved, seeded, cored
1 med. onion cut into equal slices
2 garlic cloves
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 T olive oil
3 cups chicken stock (I use veggie stock)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and thyme on foil covered baking sheet (use a deep one, these get very juicy), drizzle with olive oil and toss. Roast for two hours (I rarely go this long, less time doesn’t seem to make much difference).

Cool tomatoes, discard skins, put into stockpot (with garlic, onions and thyme) add broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaves and season to taste. Blend until smooth and creamy. Stir in cream if desired. Simmer 10 more minutes.

I usually make a small vat of the stuff and prefer basil instead of or in addition to the thyme. In the winter I usually use tomatoes I froze during the summer.

 

Raccoon photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/28994435@N05/10164296833″>Lake Merced 76</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;