It has certainly been an enjoyable summer, in my mind. There are always difficult things going on in the world, that is for sure, but I choose to focus a bit more on the wonderful abundance around me. How can I make a positive difference in the world, if I let negative influences make me miserable? And so, it has truly been an very enjoyable summer! The balance of moisture and sunshine has been almost perfect in this area which is of concern every growing season. The gardens look great! Even with the weeds.
Paint Nights have been a popular activity in the last couple of years. I had been wondering recently, what it would be like to put one together. How challenging would it be? Could I pull it off successfully?
Using skills to help others
Approaching the Challenge
The best laid plans come together
I painted a couple of my design ideas, but was not thrilled with any of the samples that came from those efforts. Searching for another simple, but colorful spring inspired concept was challenging. One evening in my studio, I turned around and noticed the miniature painting on my windowsill which had been completed a few weeks earlier. Why not try that design with a few changes? The event organizers decided that this was the most exciting project I had submitted. The only problem was that it took me longer than 2 hours to paint…. I had to practice this painting 3 times over in order to find shortcuts and the best way to demonstrate the method.
A friend volunteered to come over and be my guinea pig. We had a great time and it only took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to coach her through it. That would have to do, it should all work out great! Little did we know that life would throw a slight curve ball the evening of the event….
Ways to lessen the stress
The curve ball arrives
No time to over-think
These Paint Night attendees were a tremendous group of ladies! After explaining our dilemma, they were really good about it. Our rushing through did lessen the enjoyment for some, and some did not get their painting finished the way that they had hoped, but it all worked out ok. Someone commented that there was no time to over-think anything! Many of them we so kind as to help pack up the supplies and bring it to my van. With their help it took only about 15 minutes to get out of the space so that the care taker could meet his next obligation. Once home, Jilene and I had quite the mess to sort through; a few hours of scraping paint and cleaning brushes!
Here are a few fun vacation photos in no particular order, from our trip to Arizona and Texas.
That’s it, folks! Hope you enjoyed the fun vacation photos!
Shane and I hit the road with our truck and fifth wheel trailer on January 28 and headed south for Yuma Arizona. It was plus 5 degrees Celsius when we left home but the weather got colder the further we traveled. He was hoping the weather would warm up much sooner. Fifteen hours later, Shane finally decided it was time for some shut eye. We had reached Idaho Falls around 1 am, where the temperature was minus 24 degrees Celsius and snowing! Maybe we were going in the wrong direction?
The furnace in the trailer was turned on and we both crawled into bed still wearing our clothes. I didn’t even take off my winter coat! This is not the first time we have slept in the trailer on a cold night. On one trip, we awoke to a snow drift in the bedroom of our trailer….on my side…. It was not quite as bad this time, but it still took me quite a while to warm up and settle in to sleep. As usual, Shane was snoring as soon as he hit the pillow. Parking in a truck stop over night has it’s perks. One of them being noisy diesel engines that can serve as an alarm clock. Thank goodness for my earplugs! We were up and on the road again by about 6 am.
Nerve Wracking End to a Long Day
The highways were in good shape and we made it to Lake Havasu City the next night. We thought we’d just camp out in the Walmart parking lot at the northern edge of town, since it was already 9 pm. It has become well known in RV circles that Walmart welcomes short term campers, so this idea is not unusual. But it is something that does not sit well with a growing number of municipalities. Shortly after we arrived, we were approached by a security guard who told us that we were not allowed to park there over night. He was very nice about it and gave us a card with info about other places we could stay.
One suggestion that the guard gave us, was to head north for a mile to find the entrance to a government owned free campground in the desert. It was pretty dark and we almost missed the driveway. Down a really curvy, narrow gravel road we slowly drove. With really huge boulders gleaming in the moonlight, crowding in on the narrow path, Hubby was getting a bit nervous. What have we gotten ourselves into? Even a pro trucker like Shane can’t necessarily turn a big rig around in a tight spot in the dark. As we went along this cow-trail, we noticed a few Rvs parked along the sides and managed to find a spot that was in a more open area to settle in for the night.
The Inspiring Winter Getaway Begins Here
The next morning, we were greeted with warm sunshine and the colorful desert wilderness. Shane and I decided to hang around for a few hours because it was so quiet and peaceful, but we had no food or water to speak of. A trip back to Walmart was in order; to gather a few groceries, water, and maybe look up a neighbor friend who was supposedly staying at an RV resort in town. Since we needed to fill our water tanks, we thought it best to find that RV resort and stay there for a night or two, depending on how much we liked it.
On the way out of this campground we saw how truly beautiful this place was. The rock formations and desert plants were so inspiring and it was fun to think about sitting in the desert and painting what was in front of me. An activity I rarely have time to do on the farm.
Are You Kidding Me?
Finding the RV resort we were looking for, we decided to check and see if there was room there for us, even though our friend had already left for Alberta. It was right on the shores of Lake Havasu and was a pretty nice looking place. We had never parked in an RV resort before and had no idea what it was like. Truck stops, Shane’s parent’s place in Yuma and Alberta campgrounds were about the extent of our glamping experience.
We were asked by a friendly gate attendant to park in a special lot and go into the office. After answering some of our questions, the office clerk asked what year our trailer was. Shane told her that it was a 2005 model. “Oh… well, then we will have to inspect it first. There shouldn’t be a problem,” she said. What??
The manager returned from his inspection and told us that if we were only staying one night, then it was ok for this time only. If we wanted to stay in their resort again, the decals on our trailer would have to be replaced. They were beginning to fade and crack… After all, this is a five star resort….
Interesting. We had never heard of such a thing before!
Seventy-two US dollars a night seemed a bit steep in our opinion, so we decided to just try one night for the heck of it. We needed water, a shower and a proper supper anyway. Turns out, we didn’t think it was really worth it because the RVs were packed in like sardines, it was quite noisy and the promised internet was crappy to boot.
Shane and I decided that the desert was much more our style, even without hookups. So guess where we went the next night? Our friends would not have been the least bit surprised 😉
Mysteries under a blanket could refer to a few things….
You can guess what I am actually thinking about here. Nothing naughty….
I absolutely love the mystery that a fresh blanket of snow creates as it is laid over the varied contours of the garden, field and forest. Each snowflake joins together to form beautiful marshmallow-like shapes and hollows. These little vignettes evoke questions in my mind about what the snow might be covering. Is there a creature or two hiding under there?
Why else would I spend time in the dead of winter, searching for inspiration, while having to endure frosty fingers and a runny nose? It would be a shame to miss such wonderful things to contemplate: soft, yet frigid shapes, cold shiny crystals and diamonds, sculptural, temporary, ever changing, ethereal. And then one day, usually without fanfare, they are gone.
Such fleeting beauty is worth exploring and capturing on canvas. At least I am not required to paint it stationed outdoors in the sub-zero temps! I am not sure I am THAT dedicated…. The digital camera does a great job of capturing enough of the detail for me to work with in the comforts of my studio. My fingers are saved!
A Forgiving Process creating mysteries under a blanket
It is a fun challenge to create pillow-y soft looking shapes on a flat surface. Layer by layer, the canvas takes on a 3-D look. We generally think of it as white, but it always amazes me how much color can be found in snow. The colors will vary each day, location and time of day. All of the subtle arrays of hue take time to see, understand and add to the painting in just the right amount in the right place.
My aim is not to copy the photo, but to make my painting look ‘believable’. Put a layer of paint on the canvas and add another color or shape. Oops! I’ve made a mistake. I will then try to block it out with more layers and then enhance what’s working. Eventually something lovely is created through this push and pull process. Mysteries under a blanket are always interesting to think about and will inspire me for years to come.
This summer, we had the pleasure of participating in a momentous occasion with our family.
On August 27, our niece, Sabrina (Shane’s side of the family) married Damien on the farm where Sabrina was raised. It was a truly wonderful wedding, beautiful in all aspects, despite the cooler, rainy weather. The cloudy conditions made for great photos!
The site where Sabrina and Damien were wed is on the same piece of ground where Sabrina’s great grandparents had farmed. There is a lot of family history on this piece of land to which the Pastor referenced during the ceremony.
Harvest this year has not been typical, even though it is true that every year differs in one way or another. This fall has seen great yields but a lot of unseasonable rain which has made for some interesting and frustrating moments.
The whole growing season has been a challenge in that the first part was incredibly dry and the last half has been unusually wet! Shane was right. He said during seeding time, “Seed in the dust and your grain bins will bust”. In May, we actually thought that the old wisdom might be invalid this time around. But his prediction came true. Does that mean I should follow his advice more often??
One of the main frustrations is that there is a fairly significant rain every few days. When combining standing wheat, it is often difficult to tell where the ground will be too soft/wet for the big machines to maneuver without incident . Shane has gotten stuck on the tops of hills and has somehow managed to swath through lakes! I don’t remember if we have ever had to bring the big tractor into every field to pull out the combine a number of times each day. Now the guys bring the big tractor out to each field just in case! As you can imagine, this procedure takes a lot more time and effort than normal. At this rate we may not complete the harvest until mid to end of October. In comparison, last year at this time we were almost finished.
At the time I am writing this, the field work is about half complete. All of the grain that has been harvested has had to be fed through the grain dryer. Last year the crop came off dry and the grain drier sat idle. As a result of the wet weather, the grades for the quality of the crop for selling purposes has been at the bottom of the scale, which means that it is worth a lot less money. But on the up-side, the yields are fairly high, so I guess it all balances out.
Now while the guys are in the field, I am often in the garden doing my own harvesting. There have been a few light frosts, so I am still able to enjoy my flowers!! You may have somehow guessed that I love flowers.
A good portion of the produce from my garden is used everyday to feed the threshing crew. It takes a bit of planning and time, but it is so worth it because the food is much fresher and of great quality. This is such a satisfying and healthful thing to do for my family.
And of course I always have a hard time saying good bye to my flowers, which generally look their very best just before they freeze off. Most years I am trucking planters on and out of the house or covering and uncovering them every day. This year, I have decided to be a little less concerned about it and just let nature take it’s course. I will be overwintering some of the plants, but a lot less than last winter. I think….. maybe….
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Reprinted with permission from The Free Press.
Many people who attended my Art And a Country Garden event commented that the food was amazing again this year. The only item I baked were the chunky-monkey banana cookies, which have become a recent family favorite. As promised, below are some of the recipes you asked for. Enjoy!
(photo Thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
Curried Carrot Soup (prepared by Yolande Stark of Tipi Creek Farms) This was the orange colored cold soup served in little canning jars.
2 Tablespoons butter
1 pound chopped carrot,
1 chopped onion,
1 large shallot (optional),
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 heaping teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3 cups broth
Saute above ingredients until soft. Puree in blender until creamy.
Add 1/2 cup coconut milk and 1 1/2 – 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice to pureed soup.
Serve warm or cold, garnished with seasoned, roasted pumpkin seeds, fresh cilantro or fresh parsley (all optional)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
1/4 cup quality cocoa powder
12 ounces chocolate chips
1/3 cup tapioca or arrowroot flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla
extra chocolate chips for topping
chopped nuts or dried fruit (optional)
Melt together chocolate chips and butter. Let cool and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well but don’t over beat or brownies will be rather dry. Spoon into greased or parchment lined 8″ x 8″ pan. Sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top of batter, instead of icing later. Bake at 350 F until done in the center. Try not to over bake. (if over baked, let cool until just warm and cover pan with plastic wrap overnight, sometimes this helps to restore moisture) This recipe can easily be doubled and frozen.
After cleaning and chopping rhubarb, put into large pot and cover with 6 or 8 inches of (filtered) water. Bring to a gentle boil for about 5 minutes and then simmer for about 1/2 hour, stirring once in a while.
Let cool for about 1/2 hour. Use a fine siv/colander/cheese cloth (whatever you have) and strain out as much liquid as possible. If you don’t want rhubarb solids to appear in the final juice, strain a second time through a cloth.
Otherwise you can just sweeten to taste with any sweetener you desire.
My Oma made this every year, and as kids, we LOVED it!
Here is the banana cookie recipe I developed which may be easily modified to suit your taste:
I will be guessing here as I never measure these ingredients out.
The trick is to make the dough a very thick consistency.
They also freeze well.6 ripe bananas mashed (I use the mixer)
3 heaping cups of shredded coconut
1 or 2 eggs (optional)
1/2 cup coconut oil melted (or avocado oil or butter or a combination)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Cinnamon to taste (optional but will make the cookies taste sweeter and less need for sugar)
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
Stir in pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, hemp seeds, protein powder ( I use hemp seed powder of pumpkin seed powder)
Throw in whatever you can think of!
Bake at 325 – 350 degrees F for about 20 mins to 1/2 hour? It really depends on how much coconut flour you have used.
Here is a chance for you to to re-visit my Art And a Country Garden event. Or, if you didn’t make it, then you might enjoy a look at the highlights.
It was a big relief that the weather co-operated for most of the weekend which, of course, helped the attendance to be about as good as last year.
39 new artworks were created for this show along with several new magnets. The Walter Foster art instruction book was also finally available. My good friend Julie, who had worked with me on this event since April, helped to organize and hang the paintings, which took us over 4 hours. It was quite a challenge for us to decide which pieces to group together and which ones would not be included in the exhibit. As always, I was surprised that there were plenty of artworks to fill the space!
I believe these two are counting the blackbirds in the painting “Song of the Red Wing Blackbirds” for the scavenger hunt. (photo Thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
Woohoo! Lots of visitors! This is always so exciting to see. (photo Thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
When the weather was nice on Saturday, this made an interesting addition to the garden. However, a storm blew in during the late afternoon and my quick thinking helpers rescued it from the wind and rain. I had forgotten all about it sitting out there! (photo Thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
A new, enthusiastic friend shows off her copy of the Walter foster art instruction book that I had contributed to. I hope everyone who purchased the book gains lots of helpful painting tips from it! (photo Thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
On Saturday afternoon, I demonstrated a few painting techniques in front of a small audience. I had prepared 2 canvases with the same painting earlier in the week so as to show the progression of the techniques I often use for close-up nature scenes. (photo thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
Since the weather was not conducive to outdoor performance, Alison sang and played guitar for us in the studio Sunday afternoon, which was very enjoyable for all. (photo thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
It was so wonderful and amazing that people came from as far away as Barrhead, Sherwood Park and even further to see the show. How very cool is that?! (photo Thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
Karen and Barb, generously lending their time and efforts to help me out! In all, at least 20 different people had pitched in in preparation before and worked during the event. Here’s hoping I can repay them all, or at least play it forward. (photo Thanks to Memory Roth Photography)
Hopefully, you enjoyed this little report and are inspired to attend in July of 2018!