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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

love is in the air

Jack with his friend.

This morning while feeding the animals, I looked out in the pasture and witnessed the strangest and yet most endearing display of affection. Jack, the shetland wether and this young, previously unattached goose have apparently taken up together in a gentle, though odd love affair. Nuzzling and rubbing each other, they seemed quite content to let others of their own species go about their business, while they kept company. When I went back out with camera in hand, Ms. Goose seemed a bit shy of flaunting their relationship in front of the paparazzi even though Jack had no such qualms. And you can see him here gently rubbing his face against her shoulder while she coyly looks away. Very sweet.

Monday, February 23, 2009

winter doldrums suggestion #8: visit the American Craft Council show in Baltimore!

suggestion #8: look at great art!
One of my favorite things to do in the last couple of years is to go to the American Craft Council show in Baltimore. The largest juried indoor craft show, it is held at the Baltimore Convention Center and this year will run from Friday, February 27 - Sunday, March 1. Over 700 artists will be exhibiting jewelry, furniture, clothing, home decor, mixed media, and more! Materials range from glass to ceramics, wood, fiber, metal, and almost anything you can imagine.

Check out the web site for more information, and if you have a free day this weekend, GO!

Friday, February 20, 2009

seed-buying for 2009

Okay, so I went a little crazy. My only defense is that I kept finding more interesting plants to try. I mean, how can you not love a Thai Golden round melon that's supposed to yield six pound fruits that look like a pumpkin but taste like a combination of pineapple and papaya? Or Chinese Red Noodle Beans, the pods of which are 18" long and deep red; a cucumber that looks and tastes like a lemon; and a pumpkin shaped like Cinderella's coach? Then of course there are so many wonderful heirloom tomatoes in all shapes, sizes and colors who can resist them? Not me. And what about mustard? Several years ago I found a recipe for and made my own grainy mustard. Now, I've found three different varieties and hope to try out that recipe once again, but this time with seeds I've grown myself. Then of course, there is lemongrass, basil, dill, hot and sweet peppers, lettuce, spinach, beets, cabbage, and carrots.

My real downfall was when I decided to pick out just a "few" flowers to plant. Of course I had to have sunflowers (do you have any idea how just many varieties of sunflowers there are, for crying out loud?), sweet peas, bachelors buttons, hollyhocks, cosmos, and zinnias.

There's more, but it's ridiculous.

My only hope is that I can keep up with the garden this summer.

Monday, February 16, 2009

winter doldrums suggestion #7: visit the tropics

suggestion #7: go see the tropics show at Diddywopps & Keeffers

Tami of Diddywopps has arranged a group show of about 20 artists centered around the theme of the tropics. It runs from February 19 thru March 30. An opening reception will be held Saturday February 21 from 6-9 p.m. Everyone is welcome and invited to come and join us for the opening - it should be fun and a good break from the cold weather while being surrounded by tropically-themed art*. 
*(I also hear there may be caribbean-themed music and umbrella drinks, but it's an unsubstantiated rumor.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

maple syrup

Today I am boiling down my first ever batch of maple syrup! Wahoo! I am using a standard grill-type propane tank and an outdoor cooker (like a turkey fryer). I started it outdoors because apparently the steam contains quite a bit of sugar and that's not really something you want all over everything in your house. Unfortunately, it wouldn't boil. Maybe too cold out there, or too much wind, but anyway I brought the whole contraption into the garage, and so now we have boilage! Yeah, the garage might suffer from a coating of sugar, but really, who cares? It's a garage. I started out with 10 gallons of sap and am down to three. By the time it's done I expect it to yield about a quart. A side benefit of doing it in the garage is that now it is warm, steamy, and smells slightly sugary out there. Sort of like a confectionery sauna. Mmmmm, nice.

Perhaps next year I'll do it out in the wood shop. After all, there is a small wood stove out there that really cranks the heat out. I could fortify myself with a thermos of coffee, a good book, and some sculpture projects to work on. You know, that sound so incredibly appealing that I may just have to do it next weekend!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

happy valentines day!

Monday, February 9, 2009

winter doldrums suggestion #6: grow something

suggestion #6: grow some sprouts!
What's not to love about fresh sprouts? I especially love alfalfa sprouts. The problem is finding some in the grocery store that are fresh and not half wilted or dead looking. Taking the matter into my own hands, I decided to try to grow my own, because seriously - how hard can it be? There's a great resource online to get you started. The company is called "The Sprout People" and their web site address is www.sproutpeople.com. You can get everything you need there from seeds to containers in which to sprout them. More seeds than you can imagine. I decided to start with some that I knew I liked (alfalfa and mung beans) and also one that would be new to me, at least in sprout form (peas). I also got three lid/screen combos that will fit on wide mouth jars to do the sprouting in. You could also go to your nearest health food store for the seeds and just use canning jars and rings with some cheesecloth. This doesn't have to be an elaborate or expensive proposition. 

So hit back at winter and give it a try - truly fresh alfalfa sprouts on a salad or sandwich, or mung bean sprouts in a stir fry are great!

Friday, February 6, 2009

First Friday In Lancaster

Not to belabor a point, but if you get a chance, try to get out to First Friday tonight. Galleries are having openings and shops are staying open late. Many times there is street music and everyone strolls down the sidewalks talking and laughing. It's like a giant block party. I'll be at City Folk so stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

the making of a toucan

Diddywopps is having a multi-artist show in February with a tropics theme and so I decided to create a piece called "The Toucan's Flight".

Please excuse the poor photo, but I finished him just in time to deliver him, but without leaving myself any real time to take a good photograph. However, along the way I took photos of the various steps taken to create him and so here is a little photo essay...

Several pieces of tulip poplar were glued together to make a block of wood thick enough for the bird's body.

And another piece of wood was planed thinly for the wings. The drawing was transferred onto the wood.

The rough shape was cut out on the band saw,

and further shaping was done on the belt sander.

A dremel was used for final shaping and to add the wing and feather texture as well as other details.

A base coat of gesso was painted on and sanded, then wire legs and feet were attached with epoxy. After the epoxy cured for a day, the bird was painted, then given a hand-rubbed wax finish. 

Now onto the tree which will hold the suspended toucan in mid-flight...
Holes were drilled in a branch and heavy aluminum rods were inserted and epoxied in place. The rods were then wrapped with multiple aluminum wires which make up the smaller branches and leaf outlines. About 17 wires were used.

The wire branches were then almost totally covered with epoxy to add stability, thickness, and texture.

Then the leaves were covered with old dictionary pages using matte gel medium, wrapping the wire with the paper.

One of the last steps, and the last one that I took a photo of, is wrapping the branches with matte gel medium and tissue paper. This completely covered up the wire and epoxy, providing a nice texture and smooth surface to paint on.

After that, the branches and leaves were painted with multiple layers of acrylic mixed with matte medium and matte gel medium to achieve the look I wanted.

Finally, the toucan was hung from the tree with thin black wire to give the look of him swooping through the branches.

Monday, February 2, 2009

winter doldrums suggestion #5: go antiquing

Suggestion #5: spend some time in an antique mall
Winter is the perfect time to go antiquing because there's absolutely no guilt about being indoors on a perfectly nice day. Yesterday morning I went to Renningers Antique Mall in Adamstown, PA. The place is huge and I knew I'd be able to find good stuff there. That's my haul in the photo above. Not sure yet what I'll do with most of it, but it'll get used somehow. I especially like the red-painted turned wood knob-type thingy. 

I did end up using one of the watch faces for "The White Rabbit's Mirror". I made a new heart - this time out of wood - and painted it red, then attached the watch face to it and hung it by a chain to the frame. Much better than carrots and the ceramic heart that I originally had. Still a bit sweet, but not quite so cute