Category Archives: Life and Art

Road of Life

The road of life is a well known metaphor for good reason.

painting of rural gravel road with blue sky, white clouds

“Roadside Roses”, original painting by Judy Leila Schafers, circa 2009, sold

Much like the rural gravel roads, life in my experience,  is full of twists and turns, ups and downs, a few puddles, ruts and bridges. Roads as a metaphor makes it easy to describe some of our challenges and our ultimate destination because life is a type of journey, a trip through a maze of sorts. Without roads, any journey would be more difficult to navigate.

Wondering and Wandering

Exploring these rather isolated byways on or near the family farm as a child, often lead to fascinating nature discoveries or some sort of rural relic. I remember finding abandoned homesteads, scrap metal graveyards and piles of cool looking rocks. There was often a feeling of wonder, excitement or mystery that came with those discoveries. To find a patch of wild strawberries in the ditch or groups of brightly colored wildflowers along the way always felt like a special gift. Not to mention the joy of cycling to a friend’s house on such a road. 

road of life, painting of muddy road in an autumn grain field

“And So It Begins”, original painting by Judy Leila Schafers, 5″ x 17, circa 2010, sold

Searching for a Masterpiece

There is something meditative about a sojourn down a lonely country road or a peaceful woodland path. The sights, sounds and smells can give one a new perspective and temporarily melt away life’s stresses. As an adult, I regularly take day trips along similar trails and forest pathways shooting copious amounts of digital photographs. Those country paths, well worn or not, often inform my work. I get excited about the thought of finding my next great painting just around the corner. What will I find if I take this route, or should I go the opposite direction instead and what lies on the other side of that hill? How can I possibly see all there is to see? What am I missing? 

road of life, rural gravel road in winter with stormy sky and spruce tree

“Just Over the Hill”, original painting by Judy Leila Schafers, 11″ x 22″, circa 2011, sold

A Tank Full of Gas

These quiet lanes bring me a sense of intrigue and excitement and I seldom worry about getting lost as long as there is enough gas in the tank and hours of daylight. I often neglect to tell my family where to look for me because even I don’t know which area will be explored next. Someday, this might not work out too well.  Being unsure of which road would lead me back home has happened on occasion for short periods of time. A modern day GPS helps!

rural gravel road in autumn at sunset, flanked by dense forest

“When Serendipity Smiles”. original painting by Judy Leila Schafers, 12″ x 20″, available, $650

We All Get a Bit Lost on the Road of Life

Sometimes it feels as though I am lost and I think this is true for everyone at some point. We can’t see over the next hill if we are currently standing in a deep valley. It sometimes feels like we may not find our way. The road has never let me down and eventually, somehow it always brings me home. As long and winding as it might seem, it has earned my trust. I believe it is for these reasons that the less traveled byways find their way into my paintings as a reoccurring theme. As I paint them, I explore them anew and contemplate the journey along the road of life.

“The Road Less Gravelled”, original painting by Judy Leila Schafers, 16″ x 12″ , circa 2010, sold

A Prolonged Harvest

The 2018 farming season was another challenging one.
 A prolonged harvest wears workers out. Even though it was a productive season, it was quite tiring and more stressful than usual.  Farmers tend to live in next year country and we are already looking forward to a better growing season in 2019.

blue sky, steel grain bins and augers
The current set up for the grain handling yard. It will no doubt evolve and become more efficient. Somewhere in this photo our son, Devin and helping hand, Jerry are unloading grain.

In the Nick of Time

We got off to cool start in the spring and once it decided to warm up, it sure did! Throughout the spring and summer there were prolonged periods of drought-like conditions, followed by just enough rain in just the nick of time. Because it was decided that we needed a few upgrades in our grain handling system and main workshop, we weren’t quite set up and ready for harvest. A few details got derailed such as the later than promised arrival of our new bins, which caused a delay in completing the proper set up of our grain dryer. But, like most business owners in a bind, interim solutions were found.

combine in a field at sunset during a prolonged harvest
I caught a ride in the tractor with Jilene after delivering supper one evening. Here you see Shane dumping the grain into the cart.

Would we Finish?

The nasty weather in September allowed Devin and Shane some time to get the grain dryer operating well enough to get through the season. That was something to be thankful for. But at times it looked and felt like we would never finish combining and have to get what was left of the crop off the field in the spring. This happens to many farmers, but so far, has not happened to us. Knock on wood…. We seriously wondered if this year would be the first!

red case tractor and red grain cart
Jilene on the tractor waiting for more grain.

A Further Prolonged Harvest

There were lots of late hours and lots of time off due to rain and buckets of snow and winter-like cold that just did not want to loosen its grip. Shane was finally able to get the canola finished on October 24 which is two to three weeks later than most years.

Even after all of that, we still did not know if the harvest was complete. There were still 130 acres of fava beans left in the field. They were just not ready to combine even after a hard frost, which usually does the trick. Now in December, they are still in the field and will remain there until spring. One of our neighbors may be able to use them for feed, but it is more likely that they will be worked into the soil.

country kitchen full of household items
This is what the kitchen looks like during harvest. This is after I had delivered meals to the field and was just about to do the dishes.

Even though we did not get all of the crop off of the field, we are beginning to recover and have since moved on to other things. We are sure hoping that next year we will not have to face another prolonged harvest!

Putting on a Show

Despite the very late and stressful harvest, all the parts and pieces of putting on a show came together. A shout out goes to my kids and some friends, who played a big part in making it happen!

 putting on a show, large room with paintings placed on the floor around the perimeter

My daughter Jilene and her boyfriend Oso, hung the paintings for me while I went to the salon for a much needed haircut and other errands.

Hands  Off!

They did a fabulous job, and I requested a couple of small changes when they were almost finished. We laughed about that because I had mentioned to them earlier that I was taking a hands off approach. They were in charge of arranging the display and I was not going to get involved. Came really close, but couldn’t totally help myself!

ready for putting on a show, large room containing artwork and furniture and a person seated on a chair

Time to Celebrate

The night before the opening, I sat down and took in the scene before me. It felt good to acknowledge all of the accomplishments that had taken place in the two years previous. It’s always a satisfying feeling to view the studio once most of the work of putting on a show has been done; a good point to sit back and celebrate all of my team’s and my efforts before guests come through the door.

room filled with people and artwork on the walls

Good Neighbors Help in Putting on a Show

The weather cleared up just enough and just in time for guests to feel fairly comfortable navigating the winter-y roads. The area had been hit with freezing rain and cold temps the day before. A concerned neighbor had brought us a large bag of ice melt to spread around on Saturday morning. Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness, Glen! Other neighbors and friends, Yolande, Alice, Hedy and Pascha, brought goodies for the table. More friends, Julie, Karen, Oso, Devin and Jilene, helped with handling sales, refreshments, greeting guests and various other tasks. All of the help I received made a huge difference in my being able to enjoy the weekend and focus on my guests.

room filled with people and furniture

New and Long Time Friends

Seeing everyone who came through my door was fun and heartwarming.  It was such a pleasure to connect and visit at least a little bit with each person and I am grateful for all of the support they gave me by attending and also purchasing artworks. I was surprised by the number of new people who dropped by because of friends who had shared the invitation!

grandmother and grandson smiling
My mother-in-law, Marian and our goofy son, Devin.

Many memories were made and even better, all sorts of surprise reunions took place during the weekend! In some cases it had been over 20 years since we and some friends had seen each other. A few relatives on both sides of my family   were also able to re-connect.  I have come to understand that this is what it’s all about. Making connections with others through the sharing of art and hosting or attending these kinds of events is good for the souls of all who participate.

a woman standing beside several paintings hanging on the wall
After the first day was over. Photo thanks to Oso Steen.

After All is Said and Done

Over one hundred and ten people attended my show and twenty one original pieces (mostly miniatures) found new homes. Even though this tally is quite a bit less than in previous years, I am glad we made the effort of putting on a show. I am planning to do another summer event in 2020 with many new paintings and items to show you. I am also looking forward to all of the stories that will be created through the process.  It’s time to get painting!

Harvest 2016

Here are some photos of harvest 2016.

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.

Here, Shane is unloading the combine hopper full of wheat that was grown on the home quarter.

Here, Shane is unloading the combine hopper full of wheat that was grown on the home quarter.

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??

It looks like this could be an all-nighter for Shane....

It looks like this could be an all-nighter for Shane….

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.

Truck is waiting for more canola seeds!

Truck is waiting for more canola seeds!

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.

The most satisfying way to garden, for me, has been to include flowers in the vegetable garden.

The most satisfying way to garden, for me, has been to include flowers in the vegetable garden.

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.

This is what I gleaned from the garden in one afternoon. There is lots more coming!

This is what I gleaned from the garden in one afternoon. There is lots more coming!

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.

Another one of my favorite planters. I will miss them all greatly.

Another one of my favorite planters. I will miss them all greatly.

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….

No Place I’d Rather Be

Here is the inside of the old van before renos began. It is dark and dated and had some water damage.

Here is the inside of the old van before renos began. It is dark and dated and had some water damage.

There is no place I’d rather be than in my studio when there is snow on the ground, unless it’s somewhere tropical.

This winter, I decided to skip the annual trip to Yuma, Arizona, and encourage my husband Shane,  to go on his own. For about 30 years, with the exception of a few, we have always made this drive together, spending anywhere from three to 8 weeks at his parent’s acreage.

I felt that it would be much more beneficial for everyone if I stayed behind. Shane could come and go without concern about my timelines, get his much needed holiday away from the farm. The drive was something I really needed a break from.  Shane is a trucker and is very destination oriented, after all.  This way, I will have LOTS of time to get caught up with farm paperwork, paintings that clients are patiently waiting for and begin preparing for my summer solo show!

Of course I am delusional in that respect, always forgetting how slowly I move in the winter months….  Spending time in the cozy studio during these crisp days just feels so good and I get lost in every brushstroke. Before I know it, the month is gone.

My long list is currently a little over half complete. It contains everything from neglected household chores to farm paperwork to helping my daughter get prepared for her new adventure. This last item is a fun and challenging, time consuming project. We are helping her renovate an old camperized van in which she will live over the next year as she takes courses on the West Coast. It is turning out to be a lot more work than expected. We are having to figure things out as we go along, and don’t really know what we are doing. Good thing her skilled brother helps as much as he can and her innovative Dad will be lending a hand during the next few weeks. It’s starting to come together and it’s going to be amazing once it’s all said and done.

We are excited for her as she sets sail at the end of February! In between office work and Jilene needing assistance, I am also working on 2 commissioned paintings. I shall write about that process in my next blog post.

Here, the van renos are about half way done. Still lots of work to do, but it is laready lighter and brighter!

Here, the van renos are about half way done. Still lots of work to do, but it is already lighter and brighter!

 

A Lovely Difference

This is how the front yard appeared a couple of decades ago.

This is how the front yard appeared then, a couple of decades ago.

There is a lovely difference between my gardens now compared to 25 years ago.  I remember looking out of our oversized bedroom window more than 2 decades ago, thinking how boring the view was with the flat, patchy looking lawn. And thinking that I did not want to look at the uninspiring road in front of our house every day, not to mention having the increasing traffic be able to peer into the large windows of our home.  All it took was a couple of decades of healthy labour, a lot of mistakes and a desire to create something beautiful, that I could get lost in. At that time, there was no inkling of how a garden could inspire a wide array of paintings let alone a number of garden themed exhibits!  Above and below are a couple of photos of the front yard from that era. I hope you can come to my ‘Art And a Country Garden’ event and see what a lovely difference an ever evolving  vision can make.

The east side of our house with the old cedar siding. I had begun to create a few flower beds. This was taken in 1994.

The east side of our house with the old cedar siding. I had begun to create a few flower beds. This was taken in 1994.

Impressions of Costa Rica

Looking up in the back yard at the house in Costa Rica. The temperature was generally around 29 C

One of our early impressions of Costa Rica. Looking up in the back yard at ‘our’ house.. The temperature was generally around 29 C

In late January 2015, my husband Shane and I left North America for the first time in our lives. We were looking for a much needed rest, a break from the great white north and all of the concerns that running 3 businesses entails. It was a better decision than we could have imagined. For over a month we had nothing scheduled and only ventured out when we felt like it. Often we discussed the idea of certain excursions only to have them pre-empted by a good part in a book, or a drawing to finish! Or a much desired nap. Shane had only read one novel in his life. On this trip, he read five more!  Time felt like it had slowed right down to a manageable pace. We had never experienced any thing like it.

A friendly farmer who lives up the mountain on the same road as 'our' house.

A friendly farmer who lives up the mountain on the same road as ‘our’ house.

This is not to say that we only lazed around, though. Local people showed us their favourite spots, assisted us with some minor challenges, showed us how to identify and prepare foods found in the jungle, introduced us to some of the neighbours.  We drove down obscure country roads, explored many a beach and nature preserve.

This big little guy made himself at home and took care of a few critters for us.  He stood still and let me draw him.

This big little guy made himself at home under the eave and took care of a few critters for us. He stood still and let me draw him in my sketch book.

Many people in Costa Rica are concerned about the animals and there are several rescue and animal sanctuaries, conservation parks  in the area.

Many people in Costa Rica are concerned about the animals and there are several rescue and animal sanctuaries, conservation parks in the area.

We saw lots of wildlife, but did not come home with any great photos of it. My first and most unpleasant encounter with wild-life were the cock roaches because I had left a sealed bag of nuts in the kitchen. Always having despised beetles for some reason, I freaked! I learned quickly how to not give them any reason to come around. Shane sensed my angst over these critters and kindly ‘handled’ them for me. We had poison dart frogs join us on the patio and cute little lizards visit us in the house. They were no bother. We had heard there were dangerous snakes in the bush, but thankfully only saw one tiny yellow snake during a walk in a National Wild life park. Dogs were as ubiquitous as I imagine the sacred cows in India to be, often lounging in the middle of our path, not caring to move. So we drove or walked around them. Three of them befriended us and would not be discouraged from hanging around.

There are a great many rivers and creeks in the area. I never did get to see a proper waterfall, though. Something saved for next time!

There are a great many rivers and creeks in the area. I never did get to see a proper waterfall, though. Something saved for next time!

Saying that it is wet there, is quite an understatement. The air is wonderful and sweet most of the time. But we did not enjoy crawling into bed and feeling like the sheets were wet. The jungle takes ‘rainy day’ to a whole new level. We tried to measure the rainfall amounts, but it came down with such force that it would bounce right out of the bucket… and it was not even the rainy season yet! We were amazed and pleased that we received only a total of 6 mosquito bites while were were there.

The vegetation is amazing!

The vegetation is amazing! The rainy days still exhibit a lot of colour and texture.

We thought it would be quiet out in jungle country. I was amazed by how boisterous the atmosphere was! We really enjoyed the howling monkeys and the strange sounding birds, but the almost daily chainsaws and gas powered weed eaters were not what we expected. The almost constant chirping of the cicadas, the ginormous fig tree dropping its fruit on the uninsulated tin roof and the animals or birds scuttling about on same tin roof in the middle of the night added quite a bit to the decibels. It often sounded like someone was trying to break in. We did get used to it after a while.

I was fascinated by the heliconia, a large, fleshy type of flower that grows wild everywhere. There are many different varieties!

I was fascinated by the heliconia, a large, fleshy type of flower that grows wild everywhere. There are many different varieties!

Orchids! These grew much differently than I ever expected. They were almost shrub-like.

Orchids! These grew much differently than I ever expected. They were almost shrub-like.

The variety of plant life there is absolutely stunning! I don’t think I could ever tire of seeing our house plants growing in the ditches and hillsides. That was the first thing I noticed, loving plants and flowers the way I do. I also noticed that the forest is constantly shedding, almost like it does in Alberta during the autumn season. Shane said that it seemed like it was an exceptionally gorgeous fall day because of all the leaves that were falling.

Typical mountain road. One of the many drives we took with our little rented 4x4. You can see how dark the shadows are.

Typical mountain road. One of the many drives we took with our little rented 4×4. You can see how dark the shadows are.

It is very dark in the jungle at night and quite dark on cloudy days as well, especially inside the house. Living so close to Edmonton, we don’t get the same level of darkness at night. Because of the huge trees there is also a lot of shade. It took me a while to get used to the darkness, that was something I had also not expected.

This was taken near the Manzanillo conservation area. The brown color comes from the tannin released by the vegetation in the fresh water streams run into the ocean.

This was taken near the Manzanillo conservation area. The brown colour comes from the tannin released by the vegetation in the fresh water streams that eventually run into the ocean.

The beaches are the loveliest I had ever seen, not that I have seen very many. Each one differs in the color of water, or the color and type of sand, the strength of the waves, the scenery and the type of people who hang out there. Some of them, the locals liked better and some were filled with a greater proportion of tourists. Many beaches were wild, ungroomed and there was no one around but birds and butterflies.

I loved the shapes and colors. Perhaps it will inspire a painting someday!

I loved the shapes and colors in this scene. Perhaps this photo and many others will inspire a painting someday! Soon.

Even my husband, Shane finds many things photo worthy. He is usually more into items of a mechanical nature.

Even my husband, Shane found many things photo worthy. He is usually more interested items of a mechanical nature.

Overall, our trip to Costa Rica was one of the best things we have ever done and left quite an impression on us. It probably added a couple of years to each of our lives! It will be interesting to see what effect it will have on my art practice.

Christmas Under the Palms

My in-laws, Herman and Marian

My in-laws, Herman and Marian

Yuma Sunset, short but sweet!

Yuma Sunset, short but sweet!

I was surprised to find this insect in Arizona in January!

I was surprised to find this insect in Arizona in January!

Herman and Marian celebrated their 56 Anniversary

Herman and Marian celebrated their 56 Anniversary

My in-laws, Herman and Marian

My in-laws, Herman and Marian

Evening bon-fire with an 'aurora borealis' touch

Evening bon-fire with an ‘aurora borealis’ touch

red-dune-bugAs you well know, this time of year is busy with all kinds of excellent distractions!
we were among those that celebrated Christmas under the palms in Yuma Arizona with some of the family.

Travel Gremlins

I wondered why I had been so nervous before leaving.

Turns out the travel gremlins were out to get me! Getting on a plane by my lonesome was not so easy for a newbie solo traveller such as my middle-aged self. Not being able to print a boarding pass at home prior (nor at the airport upon arriving there) was a wee premonition of things to come. I arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but driving into the wrong parking lot and having to call someone to guide me to the right spot really set me back.

My itinerary (which had been changed by the booking agent weeks before) read that my flight was with Air Canada. Underneath in small letters it said ‘operated by United Airlines. I had no idea what that meant, and being a bit bleary eyed (at 4 am) and out of breath in a bustling room bursting with hurried travellers, I stood forever in what was surely the right line (according to someone I had asked)…. Wrong!

Run, quick! Find the kiosk for United Airlines at the other end of the building was the advice. Waiting again, only not as long this time and my pass was finally issued. “Quick, run to the security check” they said as they nudged me in the right direction…. all goes well through security, pat down and all. Then hurry and get in line for US customs. Phew…. the clock is ticking but I think it might work out ok. Flight leaves at 6 am and it is now 5 am. Panic may not be necessary. Next thing I know, an officer scans my passport again and tells me it is invalid. What??!!

Ready to faint, I envision showing up at home later that morning having missed my flight. Five minutes later the officer says their information was incorrect. I am ok. Except the lineup for US Customs is 7 rows long with only 4 agents open. The longest hour in my recent memory slowly crawls by…….   Finally… the customs agent asks how I am and I can barely utter an ok because my throat is so dry and I have to use the wash room fairly urgently at that point. He looks at me a bit crosseyed and asks where I am going and what I am doing. Good thing he seemed to be a nice guy in a decent mood.

It is quite a distance to the gate after customs when you are late. Almost breathless, I run as best as I can with all of my luggage and coat dragging behind me, thankful that I at least packed fairly light. It is after 6 am. The plane should be leaving. I notice that I haven’t heard a final boarding call which might be a good sign that I will still make it. But of course, my assigned gate is at the very end of the airport. I felt better seeing that there were quite a number of other ticket holders waiting to board. I will make it!!

After speaking to the agent, she tells me that I don’t yet have a seat and asks me to step aside and wait. A bit deflated, I think, ‘What next’?? She tells me after everyone else is on board that it is lucky for us that the Captain was late. By this time this whole situation is quite laughable. I was the last passenger to board the plane. But at least I made it. I figure that I got all of the travel gremlins taken care of in one swoop. The rest of the trip will be a breeze!

Sneaking Away

Looking through the photos of my paintings, I noticed that many of them would never have come into being had I not taken the time to sneak away from the harvest hustle and bustle. Some of the photo references were taken as I took the scenic route home after getting parts for the harvest equipment.  A few of these little detours took longer than they should have….. It is so easy to get lost in the beauty of the moment!

Lamina Mosaics1Moment of hope.2jpgOn My Way Hometimes past2 These are paintings that were done a few years ago, but many of them have only been seen by small audiences.  Each one is a gift to me that brings back memories and I hope you enjoy them too!

Have you ever had the inclination to sneak away at a moment’s notice? What interesting things did you find or learn?