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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

oh my ears and whiskers!

"Oh my ears and whiskers how late it's getting!"

Do you know that line? It was uttered by the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland because he was late for a meeting with the Duchess. In the spirit of all things Alice, here is a looking glass I did for the show at City Folk which will open Friday, February 6 - just one week from tomorrow. For a tiny little preview, check out their web site. The opening reception is from 5 - 9 p.m. And don't worry about being late, the Duchess won't be there.

Addendum: After having this hanging in my house since yesterday, I couldn't stand it anymore and I took off the carrots. They just caused the whole piece to veer dangerously close (maybe/probably even crossing over the line) to a "ducks-in-bonnets" aesthetic, which makes me vaguely nauseous. For now I'll leave on the heart, but what I think the piece really needs is a scruffy vintage pocket watch. I may have to go to an antique store tomorrow or Sunday to see if I can hunt one up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

winter doldrums suggestion #4: visit a conservatory!

Suggestion #4: visit a conservatory on a sunny day
A wonderful treat for the senses in the middle of winter is to take a day and go to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. They have the most wonderful conservatory. According to their literature, it shelters 20 indoor gardens with 5,500 types of plants within 4.5 acres of glass-enclosed space. 

I hope you enjoy the following photos nearly as much as I enjoyed being there!

the lawn in the main building - sort of makes you want to take off your shoes and walk on it

the silver garden

phalaenopsis in the orchid room

a collection of orchids and bromeliads

a display of spring flowers


the tropical room

carnivorous plants, beautiful but deadly if you're an insect

Doesn't it feel more like spring already?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

making bread

"Without Bread all is misery." —William Cobbett, British Journalist (1763-1835)

My Aunt Ruth makes the best bread ever. Amongst all my aunts, uncles, and cousins, no one else can touch her. Several years ago she gave me her recipe and I've been making bread off and on ever since. It still doesn't quite match her level of deliciousness, but it's pretty good. It's your basic soft white bread, good with just butter or some home made jam - especially when it is still a bit warm from the oven. And since this recipe was freely given to me, I thought I'd pass on the love.

I use my KitchenAide mixer with the dough hook, but Aunt Ruth sure never did. So feel free to mix and knead the traditional way.

Aunt Ruth's Bread Recipe

Into a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups warm water (about 110°F).
Start the mixer on low speed and add the following:
1 3/4 tablespoon shortening (butter, lard, or crisco [ick])
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast that's been dissolved into 1/2 cup warm (110°F) water
6 cups flour, adding just one cup at a time.

Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking excessively to the bowl. I'll usually add 5 cups and as it's kneading only use as much of the last cup as needed. The dough should be soft and shiny and elastic. It's probably better to add too little flour than too much. Too little just means it will be a bit harder to handle. Too much and you'll ruin the texture of your bread.
When finished kneading, place in greased bowl and turn over to oil the other side. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down and let rise until double. Using oiled hands, divide into two, shape into loaves and place in greased pans. Let rise again until double. 
Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes, then 325°F for 15 minutes.
Remove from pans and allow to cool on racks.

If you're feeling feisty, you can exchange honey for the sugar. Also consider adding some crunchy wonderfulness to the mix. You'll want to add this stuff right before the flour. I've used as many as four or five of these at once. It turns a simple white loaf into something rich and hearty. But take note: these are my own additions, if you don't like them, don't blame Aunt Ruth. It's not her fault. 
Here are some ideas:
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup red and/or golden flax seed
1/4 cup white and/or black sesame seed
1/4 cup poppy seed
1/3 cup wheat berries (soak overnight first)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

city folk

Great news, folks! Starting in February, I will be represented in Lancaster, PA by the City Folk gallery. Gaye Cox is the proprietor and I have long admired her style at City Folk. She has the most wonderful mix of folk (and other) art, french antiques, and garden art and accessories. It's always a pleasure to look at the latest treasures she has found and displayed so artfully. 

Lancaster will be celebrating First Friday on February 6, from 5-9 p.m., and I hope many of you will come out and enjoy the festivities! I will have about eight pieces at City Folk, one of which is a mirror which will be a part of a special "Alice's Mirror" display Gaye has planned featuring several artists that she represents.

In the meantime, check out her web site at www.cityfolkonprince.com.

City Folk is located at 146 North Prince Street in Lancaster, on Gallery Row.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

what it was...

For all those of you just dying to know what that thingamajig was from last Wednesday's post, it is a tap to collect sap from maple trees. There are eight maple trees here on the hill and it occurred to me that I could try my hand at making maple syrup. So after researching it on the web, I decided to go for it. All I had to buy was the taps and so am able to start out small and affordable. My best estimate is that I can expect 6-10 gallons of sap per tree, which should boil down to about 7 quarts (combined total). This estimate might be off because most of the trees are not sugar maples, but silver maples which have a lower sugar content and therefore will need to boil down further. This is all an experiment and a learning experience and I could fail miserably, but we'll see how it goes - I'm pretty excited.

Congratulations to Margie of Resurrection Fern, who was the correct guesser. She'll be receiving a bottle of syrup as soon as it's ready. BUT, for being good sports and playing along, Bonnie and Michelle will also receive a little something.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

a new kiln!

Okay, so it's used, and it's on the smallish side, but it's new to me and bigger than I've ever had before, which isn't too hard since it's my first one. Tami at Diddywopps offered it to me - for free - since that's how she herself came to have it. Apparently it's been handed down several times from artist to artist, and somehow that makes it even more special. 

What's really great is that I'll be able to experiment with ceramics without having to conform to any one else's schedule. I can fire as much and as often as I like rather than having to wait weeks to see results. Good times!

Thanks, Tami!

Monday, January 19, 2009

winter doldrums suggestion #3: bring home cut flowers

suggestion #3: buy yourself a bouquet of flowers

Do this for yourself! A simple bunch of flowers - or even just one - can brighten a room and your whole day. When I was a college student, my apartment was right across the street from a florist and so fairly regularly, I'd go and buy the cheapest bunch they had. For several years after graduating I'd treat myself to fresh flowers, but unfortunately somewhere along the way, the habit died. Too bad, really.

So let's not let practicality rear it's sterile head and interfere with the joy of fresh blooms! Go out and buy some flowers!

*the pot above was made by Amedeo Salamoni, a neighbor, potter, artist, and fellow participant in the southern lancaster county open studio tour.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

do you know what this is?

Can you guess what this is and what my next hare-brained plan might be? I ordered a dozen of these today and hope to start using them in mid-February. Make a guess in the comments section. I'll select randomly from the correct guesses and the winner will receive a free gift that relates to the above item (if all goes according to plan, that will probably be in March - if my plan fails and nothing comes of it, I hope you'll be understanding.)

Amendment: Since almost no one is guessing due to probably not having a clue what this doohickey is, here is the new deal - if there are no correct guesses, then the winner will be picked from all those who've given any guess at all.

Further ammendment - Margie of Resurrection Fern guessed correctly and so the game is over.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

new at etsy

I just finished adding the honey dippers to my etsy store. Botanically-inspired, they are just a bit of fun and whimsy while still being practical. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

winter doldrums suggestion #2: visit the pennsylvania farm show!

This is one of the friezes on the older portion of the farm show building complex.

Suggestion #2: visit farm animals and eat good food
What's not to love about going to a farm show in January? Until Saturday, January 17, the Pennsylvania Farm Show is being held in Harrisburg. As stated on their website, more than 400,000 visitors are expected, with the chance to see almost 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 270 commercial exhibitors! Every year there's a giant butter sculpture, a sheep-to-shawl competition, and a huge food court that showcases some of the state's most delicious products. My favorites in the food court would have to be the chocolate milkshakes, the deep fried mushrooms, and the lamb stew. The potato donuts are pretty good, too.

Of course, I enjoyed all of the animals being exhibited, especially the poultry. There were, of course, also cows, pigs and sheep - the sheep that were there on Sunday were just the market lambs - who looked like supermodels compared to my rather short and stout babydolls. Even Jack the shetland bears little resemblance to those long-legged ladies. Apparently the wool breeds will be there later in the week.

I also got the chance to watch part of the draft horse hitch competition - very impressive. Can't begin to imagine what it takes to feed animals of that size. 

So if you live anywhere near Harrisburg, PA, I'd encourage you to get out there this week and immerse yourself in the agriculture of Pennsylvania!

*Photo montage above: Narrangaset turkey, draft horse hitch, the crowds, frieze detail, canned goods in competition, angora rabbit, bee display, market lamb, red deer, historical display, old english game hen who was the supreme grand poultry champion, boer goats.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

look at what I found in a seed catalog!

Now you know what this means, don't you?

Friday, January 9, 2009

a trio of little paintings

I just uploaded these three folk-style paintings to my new etsy shop. So far, there's not much in the shop, but I'll keep adding items as I get a chance. The etsy shop is meant to be an outlet for the small things I make - ornaments, little paintings, etc. However, the galleries will still be the only place (other than my annual open studio) where the mixed media sculptures will be available. I have a real good relationship with each of the galleries that represent me and they work hard to promote my work, so I won't jeopardize that by competing with them online. However, if you're curious, you can always see recent work on flickr, and if you can't live without something you see, let me know and I'll put you in touch with the gallery. 

At any rate, in between the larger, more intricate and detailed pieces, I like to do small things that don't take a lot of time and are a break, mentally, from the mixed media sculptures. This gives me a chance to explore new color combinations, techniques, mediums, and subject matter. This isn't serious stuff, folks, just good fun.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

making it through to March - suggestions for the winter doldrums

Winter seems to me to be a dead sort of time. Almost like everyone and everything is in a kind of suspended animation. People and animals huddle in their homes and shelters, sleeping more, going out less, some just trying to get through it. Certainly, I start to miss the life and vibrancy of growing things - green grass, blooming flowers, budding trees. Warm thunderstorms, humming bees and the trilling of spring peepers. It all seems so far away.

January is the worst, in my estimation. At least in December we have Christmas and New Year's to look forward to, and in February, you can almost convince yourself it's nearly March, which means it's almost spring. Know what I mean?

In January and even February, I look for ways to brighten my outlook so starting today and in the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing them with you. If you're like me and can hardly wait for spring, perhaps you'll enjoy some of my suggestions.

Suggestion #1: start planning your garden!
To get through these coldest months, an enjoyable activity is to start planning the spring planting. Seed and nursery catalogs have arrived, so armed with graph paper, pencil, and lists of desired plants, I sit down and spend a quiet evening or lazy weekend afternoon making planting plans. And for all too brief a time am transported to a place that's warm and sunny, where the air smells of freshly turned dirt and the birds are singing with the joy of being alive.

Monday, January 5, 2009

the "crow" rocker

I found this rocker at Joy's Antiques and snapped it up because I'd been looking for either a chair or a rocker to work with. After cleaning it up a bit and adding the green and yellow bands of color, I topped it off with the thread-pulling crow and spool, then finished it all with a hand-rubbed wax. Right now it's living in my kitchen next to the wood stove and it makes a nice place to sit when you want to warm up. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

a foretelling or predestination?

I've been thinking about what makes us like the things we do. Perhaps the things we're drawn to were ingrained in us at a very young age. This photo of my brother and I was taken when we lived in Michigan. Growing up, we would travel to Indiana to spend summer vacations at my grandmother's farm. I adored the sound of roosters crowing in the morning, flowers growing alongside vegetables in the garden, and playing in the barn. After moving here a few years ago, one of the first things I did was get my own poultry, with sheep following soon after - and I still love the smell of a barn full of fresh hay.

So, do I enjoy chickens and sheep so much because I was exposed to them at such an early age, or did I love them from the first, because that's just how I'm made? 

I could go either way on this one. 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

new year's day with pork and sauerkraut

I don't know about other areas of the country, but here in southeastern PA, it's the tradition to have pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. Supposedly it will bring good luck in the coming year. But for me, this year, it's symbolic of much more. The pork comes from one of the pigs raised last year here at Tulip Tree Hill, and the sauerkraut was my first foray into cabbage fermentation. I am oddly proud of my freezer full of meat. Canning and freezing produce is sort of old hat for me, but raising my own meat is still a kick. It feels wholesome and right.