welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I think I have a cat

Considering that right now there are 2 pigs, 3 dogs, 4 sheep, 5 chickens, and 6 geese living here, the last thing I need is another pet. However, sometimes what you think you need and what needs you are two different things. Normally, you could probably say that this is a "no cat zone" as defined by my three highly prey-driven dogs. Strays are hardly ever seen and never stay. But apparently one little cat has decided that living here might be worth the risk. He arrived two nights ago, nothing but skin and bones, hungry for food and affection, just a kitten, really. Sigh.... how could I resist helping him out? So I put him in the garage with bowls of tuna, milk, and water, provided a soft bed, a box of sawdust in case he wanted indoor plumbing, and propped open the door in case he preferred the big outdoors. It looks like he might stay. So far he has managed to fly under the dog's radar by keeping out of their fenced yard. I think they have their suspicions, though.

the Long's Park Fine Art and Craft Festival

The Long's Park Art and Craft Festival is held on Labor Day weekend every year.It is considered the #4 fine art and craft show in America. I went yesterday with a couple of friends and as usual, it was a wonderful experience. In addition to the art show, there is also a large area where local restaurants serve up their specialties all day long with live music to enjoy under a nearby tent. Overall the festival is a feast for the senses, with art, food, and music set amidst a backdrop of grass, trees, and water. I encourage you to go.

The 200+ artists set up their tents all around the pond in the shade of the trees. With such a wide variety of mediums and styles, the art was truly inspiring. To the right in the photo below, you can see a portion of one of the massive kinetic sculptures that were on display. When lightly touched, that giant ring would sway gently back and forth. Seeing the environmentally-sized sculptures reminded me once again that I want to learn to work with metal. Big pieces. Ones that would look at home displayed in my pasture or my woods. This is one of my goals.

Friday, August 29, 2008

signs in southern lancaster county

It's not everywhere you'll see a sign like this one, but what a kind gesture on the part of the farm owner! They weren't selling anything else, merely offering water for their fellow amishman's hot and thirsty horses on a hot day. Sort of made me wish I were driving a buggy so I could take advantage of this small kindness. 

"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a flower with the other... for the loaf feeds the body, but the flower feeds the soul." Chinese proverb

While many farm stands offer food for the body, here was one offering food for the soul. There is something so special about having fresh cut flowers in the house. A small beauty that brings so much pleasure. While I did have peonies and irises this spring, I didn't plant any cutting flowers for the summer. I think I will next year - maybe some zinnias and small sunflowers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

a woody sort of day

Free Mulch!

This heaping pile of mulch was delivered this morning courtesy of the power company. They were cutting back the trees under the power line in front of my house yesterday and kindly agreed to let me have it. After a bit of aging, it will be perfect for garden paths, around the base of trees, and in flower beds. So while I wasn't excited about the trees being pruned so heavily, at least some good came of it, and this mulch can go to work enriching the soil.

My winter's heat also arrived today - four truck loads of firewood. Since this will be my first full winter using the wood stove, I'm hoping I estimated correctly and won't need to use the oil furnace. 

I feel good about today's deliveries. The mulch will be adding to the health of next year's garden and the arrival of the fire wood is the first of my winter preparations. As a matter of fact, I almost don't dread winter, knowing the house will be toasty and warm.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This is a new little blackbird sculpture that I recently finished. Purely whimsical, with no greater meaning, it's a humerus little piece because you have to ask yourself, "Why would a bird need stilts when he can fly?"

Many of my pieces have small drawers. Some obvious as in this piece, but others less so. Opening the drawers often reveals a little surprise - a swirl of brightly colored paint, items embedded in resin, snippets of paper, or an unusual color combination. And the tiny little drawers make you want to find something special to put in them. Perhaps a trinket from your childhood, a beloved piece of jewelry, or even a tiny piece of paper onto which you've written a dream. Like learning to walk on stilts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

fresh eggs

Here at Tulip Tree Hill, there are three hens and two roosters who are on a seemingly constant search for insect delicacies. The hens provide me with an average of two eggs a day, more than enough for myself and for sharing. Fresh eggs from free-roaming, pasture raised hens are hard to beat. The yolks are orange rather than the sickly yellow of your typical grocery store eggs, and the flavor is more intense. And the roosters are great - waking up to the sound of a rooster crowing is far preferable to the mechanized sound of an alarm clock. 
They also take good care of their ladies. If they find a particularly tastey morsel, they will call to the hens and let them have first chance at it. If there is a threat to the flock such as a nearby hawk, they'll sound an alarm so the girls can hide while they stay out in the open. I'm not sure if their plan is to take on the hawk or to sacrifice themselves. Thankfully it hasn't come to that. Yet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

the garden

While the peppers and tomatoes are still going strong, the rest of the garden is winding down. I just picked the last of the beets for the year. Not enough to can, but enough to pickle and use for red beet eggs. Or, pink beet eggs. These are chioggia beets, a very pretty mix of pink, peach, and white. Perhaps they aren't as productive as some of the more popular varieties, but they sure are pretty on the plate!

Soon all that will be left is the field corn. Yes, field corn. Why plant field corn, you ask? Well why not? I have animals, they like corn, and I have the space. Actually the inspiration was from a couple of books I read by Gene Logsdon, whose work I highly recommend. I started wondering why pay good money for corn when it could be grown on my own land quite easily. And so I planted "Reid's Yellow Dent". It is an heirloom corn, open pollinated (which means I can save seed for next year), and not genetically modified by some scientists who think that just because you can do something, you should (but don't get me started!). I'll be saving some ears from the strongest stalks that produced two large ears each. This will be my seed for next year. By saving the strongest and most productive, I hope to maintain, if not improve my crop.

My plan is to steal a few ears for myself and try my hand at making cornmeal. (Think fresh cornbread with a bowl of chili on a cold winter's evening.) I only planted a small patch this year. Next year I'll plant more. Maybe I'll even plant some kidney beans for that chili.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stay at Home

"In my view, art is not what we see, but a way to focus our vision to make others see what we feel." 

I completed this sculpture in time to enter it in the Lancaster Museum of Art's open show at the end of May. And while it didn't win any awards, I did get some nice feedback on it. A mixed media piece, it is crafted of wood, wire, paper, calligraphy, ceramic, resin, found objects, and acrylic paint. 
Earlier this year, I came across a poem by Longfellow which brings to mind the mixed feelings of being torn between the safety of the known and the exploration of new horizons. This sculpture is my attempt to illustrate overcoming the struggle, breaking free of the fear and soaring into the unknown.

Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest,
For those that wander they know not where
Are full of trouble and full of care;
To stay at home is best.
Weary and homesick and distressed,
They wander east, they wander west,
And are baffled and beaten and blown about
By the winds of the wilderness of doubt;
To stay at home is best.
Then stay at home, my heart, and rest;
The bird is safest in its nest;
O'er all that flutter their wings and fly
A hawk is hovering in the sky;
To stay at home is best.  Longfellow

Saturday, August 16, 2008

farm stands

One of the things I love about where I live is the abundance of locally grown fresh food. There is something special about preparing and eating produce that was just picked that morning at the peak of ripeness. There is a rhythm to the seasons that can be enhanced by the appreciation of seasonal foods, if you'll let yourself feel it. And since I can't grow everything myself (nor do I really want to), I enjoy supporting the local farmers. This morning I stopped at a stand not far from my house for the best Red Haven peaches. Later, I'll make peach pie and home-made ice cream (from that fresh milk I bought). Maybe that's what I'll have for dinner. Yum.
Fresh Peach Pie
4 Cups peeled and sliced peaches
3 Tablespoons Clear Jell (or instant tapioca)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1.5 Tablespoons butter
Mix everything except the butter in a large bowl. Allow to sit for 15 minutes while you prepare the crust and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use your favorite crust recipe*. Fill the crust with the fruit mixture, dot with the butter, add a top crust, pinch the edges, cut some steam vents, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 50 minutes. 
*I have to say that the Pillsbury rolled up pie crust in the grocery store's refrigerated section is really quite good, so for any of you who don't make pies because making a crust is a hassle, you no longer have any excuses!

Home Made Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup sugar or honey (I like honey best)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups half and half or light cream
6 large egg yolks
Combine cream and half&half in saucepan and bring to a simmer.
In the meantime, combine egg yolks and sugar/honey in a bowl and whisk together.
Whisk 1/2 of the hot cream into the egg mixture a little at a time.
Pour egg mixture into pan with remaining cream.
Stir constantly over low heat just until slightly thickened, remove immediately from heat.
Pour through strainer into clean bowl and add vanilla.
Chill until cold or overnight.
Freeze in an ice cream maker and serve immediately as soft serve or store in freezer for up to a week.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I love dogs. If I were ever forced to choose just one animal to share my life with, it would be a dog, no questions. Asking nothing more than to be at our side, a willing participant in anything as long as we can do it together, dogs are our partners. There is nothing like the feeling of "knowing", the wordless communication, the simple and quiet pleasure in each other's company. 

I love being in the company of a good dog.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

clay, fresh milk, and covered bridges

On Thursday afternoons, a group meets at the Octorara Art Association to work with clay. This is a medium I've been exploring in my mixed media sculptures and so today I headed off once again to go play in the mud. Along the way, I pass a dairy farm with a sign advertising fresh milk, cheese, eggs and beef. I'm used to seeing stands selling baked goods or produce, but this is a bit unique, so I decide to stop in. What a find! Not only do they have whole raw, unpasturized, unhomoginized milk, but they also have grassfed beef! Imagine, milk that the cream actually separates from. The way it was meant to be. I immediately bought a half gallon with thoughts of home made ice cream and butter. From this one jug, I can have heavy cream, half and half, whole milk, skim milk, or any combination thereof. What flexibility! Maybe next week I'll stop in and get some of their cheese or a nice cut of beef for dinner. mmmmmmm.
On to the art association. The clay group was great as usual, with a lot of friendly chatting and also some work getting done. I'm working on a set of earthenware checkers in the shape of eggs on nests. I'll post a photo when I'm done. Next to the building where we meet is the Octorara creek. All summer a construction crew has been dismantling, improving, and rebuilding the covered bridge that crosses the creek. As you can see, they are almost done. There aren't that many covered bridges left and it's nice to see one being preserved.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Welcome to Tulip Tree Hill, a small (micro-mini?) farm and art studio. Named for the tulip poplars that grow in the woods, the farm consists of 4 acres of pasture, garden, and woodland. Here I raise Old English Babydoll Southdown sheep, bantam chickens, American Buff Geese, and for this summer only, 2 Tamworth cross pigs. The other half of Tulip Tree Hill is my art studio in which I make mixed media sculptures. And while I would love to keep body and soul together with just these two ventures, that isn't possible, so I also work from home as a freelance graphic designer. My companions in all of this are my 3 Standard Schnauzers - Dora, Ava, and Big. 
This will be a place where I share updates on my journey as an artist as well as the ups and downs of attempting to increase sustainability on my little piece of the world.