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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Joy's antiques

Joy's has to be one of my favorite places to look for odds and ends for my sculptures. They have such an assortment of interesting things, and best of all, good prices! The last time I was there, I bought marbles, toy truck tires, a top, some wooden thread spools, and a rocker. I've gotten old rulers, frames, pie tins, keys and keyholes, door hardware, tins, shoe forms, casters, crystal chandelier prisms, and many other bits and pieces, some of which have made it into my work, others still waiting to be included. Sometimes I go with an idea of what I want, but other times I just wander around, open to finding something unique and interesting. I am looking at form, not function. The possibilities of what something could be, not what it is or once was. Looking at everything in a new way, without preconceived notions. It's fun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

meadow tea

Now you know when I saw this sign, I just had to stop. If you haven't tasted meadow tea, you're missing something. Cold, slightly sweet and very refreshing, it's one of my favorite summertime drinks. And home made root beer isn't much like the mass produced stuff you can buy. Both these beverages bring back memories of childhood summers that seemed to stretch on forever. Now that I've been reminded of it again, I'm going to try to find some meadow tea to plant for myself (after all, I do have a meadow). It's different than the mint teas you can find in garden shops and I've never seen it for sale in any of the local nurseries. I'll have to ask around. And yes, I bought a half gallon jug of each.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Soaring Heart

The dove is soaring from a heart which has been nurtured and has grown rich and full. Its key is attached to the trunk of the tree by a chain and so can never be lost. The base is a box that contains a tiny drawer and perhaps could hold the secret to the key...

This sculpture is about hope, joy, possibilities, and living life with a full heart freely shared.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I have a love/hate relationship with bees. As a kid, I was phobic about them - running and screaming if one came near me. As an adult I've learned to coexist. Where's the love? The honey. Raw honey has considerably more and better flavor than after it's been cooked and processed. So serious thought is being given to keeping a hive of honeybees. Tomorrow night there is a meeting of the local beekeepers group and I plan to be there to learn if beekeeping is really an option for me.

Here's something I made earlier this year (it is at Diddywopps & Keeffers Gallery in Monkton, MD). A small side table, the bottom is enclosed with glass, and the top is decorated with a poem which was the inspiration for the piece*. The table itself is crafted of tulip poplar wood and finished with black milk paint and a hand rubbed wax. The hive is paper mache covered with strips and bits of old dictionary pages, then coated with beeswax. The bees are made from paperclay with resined paper wings and hang from fine black wire. The "honey" oozing out of the hive is tinted resin.
* "Again, let us dream where the land lies sunny,
And live, like the bees, on our hearts old honey,
And from the world that slaves for money --
Come journey the way with me."
Madison Cawein

I love this poem. It speaks to my soul.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

starting out slowly

As I've said, I like trying new things. Exploring, learning, growing. Writing the "amber waves of grain" post started me thinking about how I am when starting something new. Generally, I'll research it, then dip my toe in. See if the water's fine. If it's enjoyable and is a fit, I'll either keep it as is or expand upon it. And if it's not pleasant, getting out is easy since not a lot has been invested (either financially or emotionally). This applies to pretty much everything I do. Knowing this about me might explain a lot to the people who question why I initially do things on such a small scale (such as a tiny patch of field corn that only yielded 1 bushel or taking my time before approaching a new gallery). 

Some examples of this would be:
Art - I am trying ceramics as an additional medium for my sculptures. I'm pretty excited about what it adds to the mix and will pursue it further. 
Farming - Animals I have tried and not enjoyed were ducks, turkeys, and now pigs. Ones that I liked enough to expand upon are chickens and sheep. While I love the geese, one pair is enough. Non-typical garden crops would be the forage turnips, field corn and now, wheat. I'll be continuing the turnips, expanding the corn, we'll see how the wheat goes. 

What new things are on the horizon? I want to add metal-working (bronze, maybe welding, etc.) to my sculpture repertoire. Future farming ventures may include expanding the garden, adding an orchard, and maybe, just maybe, bees.

Sometimes when trying and incorporating the new, you have to let go of something old, perhaps dear, in order to make room. At times this letting go can be wrenching because it's been a part of your life for so long. Mostly it feels good, almost a relief. When the time for something has come and gone, rather than hanging on with all your strength, it can be quite freeing to let it go and move forward. It unclenches the chest and makes breathing a little easier. And it truly does free you up to be able to see and be open to even more new possibilities.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

amber waves of grain?

Well not quite, it will be more like a ripple, really. Today was spent preparing a new garden bed and planting it with hard red winter wheat. By late next summer if all goes according to plan, it should be ready to harvest. Nearly a year of waiting. The build-up of expectation should be pretty intense. Hopefully the harvest will go smoothly and threshing it will be as easy as I've read about. I'll get back to you next July or August about that.

Someone asked me, "Why wheat?" My response was "Because I can". And while that's part of it, the reasons go a lot deeper than that flippant answer. Deeper than combining the enjoyment of making bread and growing things. The real answer? I love trying something new, exploring options, experimenting, and constantly learning. And what a sense of satisfaction that comes from creating - even something as simple as a wholesome and rustic loaf of bread from your own wheat. If approached from a place of quiet appreciation the things we create have the ability to nourish a small part of the soul. And add beauty to our lives.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

pondering life

Just 12" tall from tip of wing to tip of toe, this little lady is a part of my more recent explorations into adding ceramics to my mixed media arsenal. Rather than being mounted on a base, she is "free-sitting" for placement on a shelf or mantel. Supported by a tiny wire, the bird illustrates her fleeting thoughts as she ponders the single egg in the nest on her lap. 

After she was bisque fired, I applied a wash of black iron oxide and then wiped most of it off, with the iron staying in the nooks and crannies. She was then fired a final time, with the result being a very matte, organic feel, rather than smooth and glossy. While made of stoneware, her hair is wire, her legs swing freely, and she is subtly tinted with oil paint. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Micro-Eco Farming

I just finished reading this book. While somewhat lightweight, it is also interesting and inspiring. It explores the emergence of "micro-farms" - farmers that are operating on tiny acreages and achieving high yields using organic and sustainable practices.

It is inspiring me to think about what and how I could, and perhaps should be growing things.
What: Heirloom fruits and vegetables that might have fallen out of favor due to their inability to be shipped or held for long distances and times, but which could be perfect for local consumption.
How: Restoring the health and balance of the soil, thereby increasing the health and nutrition of what we eat. Specifically, I'd like to try adding organic amendments to the soil. I found and purchased greensand, but would also like to source rock dusts and kelp. They contain micro-nutrients that can be lost due to poor farming methods and which chemical fertilizers can't replace. I plan to add the chicken litter this fall as well as allow the pigs a week or two in the spent garden to play cleanup. They can eat the vegetable remnants while spreading their own manure. After they are done, I'll broadcast turnips which the sheep can eat in November and December - while also spreading their own manure.

It will be a challenge to see just how much of a difference can be made in the health and productivity of the garden.

I'm pretty excited. But then it doesn't take much.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

open studio tour preparations

Preparations are underway for the second annual "Southern Lancaster County Artists Open Studio Tour", scheduled for November 1-2. Last year we had seven artists in six locations participating, with everything from oil and watercolor painting, to pottery, sculpture, photography and textile art. The turn-out was wonderful and I don't think any of us had more than a few moments each day when we didn't have guests! The feedback from the tour goers was wonderful, with everyone having fun going from studio to studio. I hope to add a few more artists this year and have an even greater turn-out. You can stay up-to-date on tour preparations at http://tourthestudios.blogspot.com

Monday, September 1, 2008

bacon anyone?

"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."  Winston Churchill
No, I am not a vegetarian. I like meat. I do not, however like the idea of eating meat that came from a "factory" farm or confinement operation. I believe an animal should be treated with compassion, dignity, and respect even if it is destined for the table. And so this year I decided to raise a couple of pigs on pasture. I thought that if I enjoyed their presence here, I'd do it every year. One for me and one to sell. Unfortunately, although I like pork, I don't think I care much for raising pigs. No bucolic, peaceful scene for them. Pigs are demanding creatures with lusty appetites. I have never met an animal that enjoys its food quite the way a pig does. They are no-holds-barred, all or nothing eaters, and God help anyone or anything that gets in their way! I know now where the saying "eats like a pig" comes from. Wow. 

Although they are being raised primarily on pasture, I supplement with a small amount of grain as well as table scraps, and garden waste. Below you can see them enjoying some spent sweet corn stalks that I cut from the garden for them.