Sunday, June 27, 2010


A couple of weeks ago I noticed that my orchid plant, sitting on a side table, looked lonely and out of place. I asked myself where orchids grow in nature - they grow clinging to trees. The orchid needed to be elevated above the table.

Right away I thought of using the vase Carol made in a ceramics class and gave to me. The vase has always cried out for a hat.

The lady has two faces, like one of those awake or asleep rag dolls.

Here's where synchronicity comes in.

That afternoon a birthday package came for Dennis. It was a book from Pia called Kleider der Natur, translated as Clothes of Nature. Amazingly, the book is about people in Africa who routinely adorn themselves with paint and plant materials.

The young woman on the cover certainly can hold her own against my orchid lady, but some of the people pictured in the book seem a bit threatened.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


In human society "volunteer" refers to someone who gives her time to do good works. Maybe she sorts books for the Friends of the Lawrence Public Library book sale, or signs you in at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

In the garden, "volunteer" refers to a plant that springs up from seed dropped by a plant introduced by the gardener the previous season. In this picture of our garden, taken this afternoon, volunteers abound.

The tallest plants are volunteer sunflowers, which dwarf even the sweet corn. Volunteer potatoes sprang up among the green beans, broccoli, corn, and shallots, even though Dennis had cultivated the soil to smithereens. In the foreground, among the shallots are volunteer dill plants coming into bloom.

Why do we leave them? They are inconvenient and untidy. Well, who would have the heart to chop down those elegant, towering sunflowers? The potatoes are a no-brainer; they consistently out-produce the ones we plant each spring. As for the dill...

Black swallowtail butterfly larvae! This is one of several who are munching away on the dill plants.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mad About Chinese Take-Out

This carton was full of kung pao chicken when I lifted it by the handle. The handle pulled out of the carton and slid through my fingers, impaling the hook three-eighths of an inch into the pad of my middle finger. For a moment I stared in horror, then realized that no one else was home and I would have to pull it out myself. So I did. It hurts like the dickens.

Two days ago I got in my car and pulled the seat belt across my chest. Before I could click it, a bee, which apparently had been sitting on the belt, stung my neck. That hurt like the dickens, too.

What next? I'm going to be on the look-out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Raspberry Festival

Our black raspberries began ripening five days ago, just a handful at first and then more than a gallon. Here's Dennis with today's picking.

Kathy came for sewing today, bringing sweet potato salad and pana cotta for desert. We covered each panna cotta serving with fresh-picked raspberries and topped it with three teaspoons of the raspberry syrup I canned last summer.

Panna cotta is a lovely, light summer dessert. It's made with buttermilk, lemon, gelatin, and a little sugar. It marries perfectly with fresh berries. Recipe available on request.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Daily Rain, Daily Bread

It's raining again. Mercy, the rain just keeps coming - more than four inches in the past week. But here comes another thunderstorm. Annie was desperate to get in the house. (She's become a wimp since she lost Kazak.)

At only a little after 5:00 p.m., it's so dark outside the fireflies are flashing. Usually they don't begin until eight in the evening! I wish I had the equipment and skill to photograph the fireflies against dark green grass, but I don't.

In the kitchen bread is rising

For several weeks my wrists were out of commission and I couldn't bake bread. I tried many different commercial brands of bread, bread from grocery store bakeries, and bread from two of the better Lawrence bakeries. Not one filled the bill. They were too light and fluffy, or too dense, or too chewy and quick to dry out, or just plain weird tasting. Last week I was able to resume baking, and this is the result.

It's eighty percent whole wheat, with a little honey and canola oil. I'll send you the recipe if you want to try it.

Art Progress

I've made some progress on Grandmother Spider. But how to attach her legs? I don't know yet.

Going To Seed

Remember the cold frame lettuces? (May 9, Cold Frame Gardening.) Here's one of the four remaining plants. I'm letting them go to seed. This one is buttercrunch, a bibb lettuce. It looks very different from what we think of as lettuce. It's going to get downright ugly. I'll post a photo when that happens.

The thunderstorm has passed now. After just an hour there's another inch-and-a-half in the rain gauge. Rain, rain, go away. Come back some hot July day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Birthday Celebration

Dennis turned 66 today. Carol, Zander, and Grant came this morning to celebrate. Zander has lost his fear of Dennis and, as you see, they are connecting. Carol brought the bouquet of flowers cut from her garden.

Dennis found some amazing information in his new chicken book.

A good time was had by all.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today's Gifts

Today's first gift was the will to put on my walking shoes and hit the road with Annie. I would rather walk on the beach, but finally settled for our gravel road. The air was heavy with moisture, the sky overcast. We walked to the Timberline Acres sign and checked out Gwen's Winesap apple tree. She doesn't use them, and generously allows us to pick the fruit. It looks like a good crop.

After our walk, a big thunderstorm rolled in. Annie had to hide out in the house for safety.

Two hours and three-quarters of an inch of rain later, I ventured outside. Right away I spotted a second gift, this newly opened coneflower with several additional flowers forming. Coneflowers don't form buds, they just grow from small to large.

By the garden fence I spied the third gift, the boundary between wild and semi-tame – ripening raspberries, larkspur and daisy fleabane snuggling up together. Fence decor by Cleo is almost completely concealed by raspberry canes.

We are especially watchful in this area where a copperhead snake bit Dennis last summer. A hoe hangs on the fence as a handy weapon, if needed.

Next came the gift of seeing the pod-laden pea vines still glistening with raindrops.

At that point I came to my senses, realized that I hadn't protected against chiggers, and fled to the shower.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Work in Progress

This mask will be my interpretation of Grandmother Spider, an important personage in Native American myth.

Constructing a gourd mask involves many steps. Adrian helped me shape the gourd. I've drilled holes for her eyes and made her hair (not shown). Now I'm making wire forms for her legs, which will be covered with papier mache. At the top of the photo are her glasses. Logan helped by clipping off the bridge wires so the lenses can be close together. I'll have to learn how to solder in order to join them in a way that fits her eyes.

This project started many moons ago. Now that hot weather has arrived, I've resolved to finish. It helps to have strong young hands to do the hard work.

We Have Flowers, Too

The flower garden is in a pink and blue phase. Lilies, hollyhocks, and two kinds of campanula.

I love the delicate veins and shading of a hollyhock blossom.

Have you noticed how nature favors color coordination between host and insect?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pea Picking

The first peas are more pure, more perfect than any to follow. They were delicious in creamed peas and new potatoes last night.

Every first picking is special – the first strawberries, the first broccoli, and so on through the summer and fall. As the season rolls on, we tire of the special, which becomes mundane. The end of strawberry season is near. No one is enthusiastic about picking them, but we can hardly wait to pluck the first "black cap" raspberries, which will be ready soon.

The seasons arrive at different times, like characters in a Robert Altman movie. They both overlap and miss each other entirely. Some come again and others disappear for a year. Inevitably a crowd scene will come, when many things ripen at once and the harvest basket is a rainbow of color, texture, and shape.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Yes, I'm feeling displeased and discontented. I've lost my focus.

Is it because my beloved Gulf of Mexico is turning into an oil cesspool?

Is it because the Catholic Church won't allow women to be priests but permits male priests to violate the innocence of children?

Is it because Republicans, who used to be nice guys like Dwight David Eisenhower, have turned mean-spirited and irrational?

Is it because of the ever-widening gap between the wealthy and the impoverished in the U.S.?

Is it because the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the right to own our politicians and our government?

Is it because young soldiers are dying or coming home with terrible brain injuries incurred while fighting a war we never should have started?

Is it because many of our brightest college graduates are heading for Wall Street instead of Main Street?

Is it because the few products now made in America are often shoddy and disfunctional?

Is it because our streams and rivers are toxic with agricultural, industrial, and mining waste and run off?

Is it because polar bears soon will have no place to live?

All of these and more distress me. Not one of them can I change or prevent. The only solution is to live a simple life and, like Candide, tend my garden.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Annual Scourge

The chigger is a tiny mite
Who packs a whallop in her bite.
Her gentle stab cannot be felt
Until it makes an itchy welt.

She hatched out on the sixth of June
And bit my leg that afternoon.
Now I'm afraid to go outside
Because a mite would bite my hide.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kitchen Scraps Recycled

Everyone laid an egg today except the little hen, the one at the bottom of the pecking order. She lays little eggs.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Little Chickens

Dennis and Annie visited the little chickens last evening. The twelve little chickens, all pullets, are nine weeks old. In order to allow them to go outside without being attacked by the old hens, Dennis and Grant built a fence to divide the chicken yard and rigged up a temporary fence around the main door, giving access to the the little chickens' side of the yard. At first the little chickens were afraid to venture out more than a couple of feet, but now they roam freely, scratching for worms, dusting and chatting.

Annie finds chickens fascinating and is very helpful in rounding them up when they fly the coop.

The little chickens follow Dennis around like goslings after a goose. He says this is because he talks to them a lot. I suspect it is also because he provides their food and water.

The Barred Rock hen in the foreground is one of the old hens from last year's flock. She is the smallest of the seven remaining hens and at the bottom of their pecking order. Somehow she has been getting into the little chickens' side of the yard and seems to prefer their company. She mingles quite peaceably with the little ones, unlike one of her sisters, who snatched an opportunity to peck a little chicken on the head.

Incidentally, the little chickens are red sex-link, which is a cross between a red chicken and a white chicken. They are supposed to be great egg producers.

Postscript: Now the little chickens number eleven. A careless person (me) didn't securely fasten the gate. Six escaped but only five were retrieved.

Post-postscript: When Dennis closed the chickens in for the night, all twelve little chickens were on their roost. Even though we both counted chickens several times earlier, we somehow miscounted. We're both relieved. I had spent the last hour saying, "Mea culpa." When creatures are in our care we grieve when one comes to a bad end. Now we are rejoicing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thyme in A Basket

Such a tiny harvest after standing on my head cutting for twenty minutes! Thyme leaves are small to begin with, and even smaller after they've dried. Then the leaves must be stripped from the stems before storage.

Spread out on a tea towel, the harvest seems even more sparse.

Sometimes I wonder why I'm willing to spend so much effort, but the taste and smell of freshly-harvested thyme convince me that I'm not completely nuts.

How do the commercial growers do it?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

After Work

The jeans tell the story. I thinned a row of beets yesterday.

Dennis did all the hard work. It wore him out.

Annie attended the photo shoot this morning. She misses Kazak and has been accorded special privileges as a comfort. We hope a new companion will show up soon.