It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet.... As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye... ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. ~Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Morning after the Rain

"Where an I going? I don't quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-caps grow....
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow,
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.
Where am I going? The high rooks call:
It's awful fun to be born at all.
 Where am I going? The ring-doves coo: 
We do have beautiful things to do.
If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today."
 Where I'm I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the [buttercups] grow.
 Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

~from When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne~
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The rain continues. This morning, when there was a break in the weather, I pulled on my boots and grabbed my camera.
and walked up and over to an old mining area in the hills behind us. It was cold, wet and windy. I love being a part of the storm.
It was a sloshy walk but I was able to ford the creek and takes some nice photos of what we call "the place of old mining memories". I always expect to see a ghost or two but I never have.
Someone left an old wheelbarrow...
A wheel cover from an old tractor or truck...
This is hard to see clearly but it's an old bed spring under a fallen tree. I always wonder who slept here and why they chose to bring a bed with springs all the way down here next to the creek. It wouldn't be a bad place to sleep I guess. How nice to fall asleep listening  to the sound of the creek and the other voices of the night. Summer would be a nicer, warmer time to do this,  but you might wake up sharing space with a rattlesnake. Still... it would be nice to pitch a tent and stay up here over night.
The ghosts of miners past do not seem to bother anyone.. These ghosts must still be looking for gold and don't want anyone to know where they're digging. The only signs of their existence that remains are the implements and machinery of their efforts... foundations. rock walls, tailing piles, rusty old equipment and this big water tank.
It must have been a hard life but their hope for finding gold pushed them on. The only gold that I have found down there is this....
Tomorrow is the first day of Spring. There will be another storm moving in. The wind is fierce outside. The goats are already in their house....Brownie too. He still keeps his distance from the other goats but they let him into the house now, to eat, and they were all out in the pasture eating together this afternoon, even with all the wind. 
The first day of Spring... tomorrow... I'm ready.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

"... True art lies in a reality that is felt." ~Odilon Redon~

Did he say "FELT"? Yes, I know that Redon means something that is"felt", as in feelings not wool roving, but I'm sure that he probably wore something that was felted... shoes, a vest, maybe a hat. Maybe he recognized the similarity of meanings.
Did I use his words "true art"?  I'm I verging on having enough courage to call myself an artist? I don't know. I feel very vulnerable about calling what I do "art". Someone might say "You're just learning what someone else already figured out." Maybe so, but it's a beginning. and it's becoming  a passion.... I'm feeling this new creativity inside of me. It's a freedom of thought and ideas.  So... Can this be called "art"? I think it can.
If I could never use a camera or watch something magically turn into felt ever again, my life would probably be less for it. I might even have to take up reading. But, would I channel this new found feeling of creativity into some other form or function? Probably.  If we can't call ourselves artists.... what then? I have begun a journey of creative indulgence and we will see where it goes. I don't have a whole lifetime to do this but it's the process, like felting, that I find interesting. It's the "journey" not the destination, as they say.
So I'm sharing my artistic ventures with all of you because I'm learning to be an artist. Please indulge me.
This is a wood frame that I covered with some handmade fabric that I felted. I started with gray and purple roving and I experimented with adding ribbon to the wool when I felted it. Then, I cut it up and glued it to the wood frame.
 My friend, "C", in Sacramento, gave me the idea when she sent me a link to some felted frames. They were pretty but I wanted mine to be more dimensional so I cut some pieces and glued them on top of the felt to add depth and create a more organic look to the frame.
The latest "scarflet" was an experiment in using hand woven wool yarn  that was hand dyed and very curly ( from County Living in Amador City, CA.). I found this very difficult to knit. I used a simple garter stitch on large needles. The knitting in between the colorful fuzzy part is a combination of wool yarn and ribbon. . The ribbon is the same one I used in the felted frame. It's a gold, silky, open weave ribbon that was combined with two different green wool yarns and it was pulled tight in the felting process. I love this scarf. It's like wearing a beautiful lamb or goat kid around your neck. It is soft, organic and because of the sparkle in the ribbon and shine in the yarn, it looks very luxurious.
 Thanks to Sandy at Country Living, I have a very unique source of yarn and hand dyed roving that blows most yarn out of the water.
This scarf is a work in progress. I have recently added some crocheted edges to it so it looks a bit different now. This was what I would call a "sampler" scarf  because I did each section of it in different knitting stitches. It was a great opportunity to practice my stitches. One of my favorites is the one above, on the upper right. It's called an Andalusian stitch. It think it's beautiful and it's not difficult at all. Doesn't the sound of the name just make you want to try it.... ANDALUSIAN... such a beautiful word.
The clasp is a vintage leather belt cinch. The yarn is Lion's Vanna's Choice in Barley. Very inexpensive. It's 92% Acrylic and 8% Rayon so you can't felt this yarn but it's light weight, very easy to knit and I love the way it looks.
The other day I picked up this Love of Knitting magazine at the store and  saw this....
So I'm making a "Spring flowers" scarf. But I think, since I'm making this out of knitpicks.com wool yarn, that I will felt it. I love what the article's first paragraph says..
"Spring is just a flower away with this colorful and unusual scarf reminiscent of your favorite garden. Knit a posy or two... or a dozen... and sew them to the easy I-cord stem.  NO WEEDING NECESSARY!"
Isn't that cleaver. Very appealing to all of us who have been pulling weeds like crazy this spring or all of you who WILL be pulling weeds at some point. A flower garden without weeds....That's a wonderful idea.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zuppa di Lenticchi (Lentil soup)

Soup's on!
We're doing "vegetarian" tonight. This is Lentil soup or, as my Italian grandmother would have called it, Zuppa di Lenticchi .
I have always gone to one of my favorite cookbooks for good soups. The Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Lo Pinto is my favorite. If you love Italian cooking, this is one of the best there is. I learned this from my Mom. She had the book before I did.
Mine is a pocket book addition and there is no additional writing in it. No added notes, no comments. I have changed recipes and tried different ways of making these recipes but I've never written the changes in my cookbook. I guess I'm not my mother's daughter when it comes to writing down the alterations to recipes.
Look inside of her old edition of the same book....
Every recipe that she ever fixed us is rewritten, commented on, added to and pretty well changed into a new artistic form by Jacqueline. It's amazing.
This is one page on making Rice Torta. It's incredible!
Mom should have written her own cookbook. There are versions here that would have impressed Julia Child enough to want to try an "Italian" cookbook.
There are pages upon pages of copious notes and revisions. There are even letters from my grandmother on how to make Gnocchi and Risotto Milanaise.
Seeing my grandma's handwritting brings back so many memories.
It's like she and my mother are standing there in my kitchen watching me cook. I can hear them say, "Now, follow the recipe but always taste what you are cooking to see if it tastes good. Add what you think it needs." I think that a good portion of dinner was eaten... before dinner. Tasting became a common prerequisite to eating dinner.
Grandma writes about the Risotto, "Italian way, add little broth. Keep it bubbly. As soon as absorbed add a little more, about a ladle and so on until cooked. Don't let it get soft. Add some cheese and serve."
The letter with the Gnocchi recipe in it says Gnocchi.. a la Grandma Fracchia.(That was her sister.) Then she says something about potatoes being salted and putting salt in the flour. She thinks it's too much salt so Mom should be careful. The "directions are not very plain".  These are not recipes that have been written down before, if ever. These are recipes that have been told to someone for many generations. Recipes that you had to learn by watching someone put them together. Grandma says "Jo gave me this [recipe]." Jo was my great aunt. Her sister. They got along with each other and my grandma didn't get along with everyone. 
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So I made Lentil soup tonight.
I went downtown to the grocery store and got some good, fresh bread to go with the soup. When I came home I walked into the house and it smelled like my grandma's kitchen. The fragrance was overwhelming. I expected Grandma to be standing in front of the stove with that old apron that looked like she never took it off and the flowery dress. The front of the apron dirty from the wiping of her hands all day long.
I remember the way she smelled, too..... like a mix of perfume, Cody face powder, dampness, celery and garlic.... and  I remember her telling me to" Stir the soup.", or whatever was in the pot on the wood stove.  She would sit down and rest while I stirred.
So, after I put the bread on the counter, I went over to my Lentil soup and I stirred the soup.
The memories were like tears.... the smell of soup cooking in my kitchen took me to all the kitchens of my childhood.
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And look what else I found in my mom's cookbook....
A little birthday card from my sister. I don't know why it was in the cookbook. Was it to Mom? Did she use it to mark a good recipe? She saved all the cards that anyone ever sent her and she dated everything. But this one is not dated. From my sister's handwriting I would guess it was when Sis was quite young. How sweet it is....marking the Salso Con Carne E Funghi (meat and mushroom sauce).
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Time for dinner. Got to go stir the soup and slice some bread.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"She can't stay out of the garden."

Farmlady's in the garden again. I can't get any sleep. The weather has been rainy one minute and sunny the next. I've been trying to get some shuteye in between the storms but she keeps coming out here.
First she came running out of the house yelling "Cutter! Don't dig in the garden!",because he was digging another hole in the dirt that she had filled for the third time. I heard her mumbling something like "I'll fix that dog." and then she started putting rocks around the tree so he couldn't dig in there. I'm trying to get some sleep and she's out there making all this noise.
 She got all excited about the Iris that were going to bloom. I heard her say..." They're almost ready".... like she was baking cookies or something
 Then she dug up some places and planted flower seeds. I thought I heard her say that she'd had enough yesterday... but no, she's out here again.
Finally, she picked some parsley and went back into the house.
A few minutes later she was back outside and started packin' dirt into some planters
.... and she's singing a song about "Tis the gift to be simple, Tis a gift to be free,   'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be."..... I don't know what that was all about.  What's the matter with that lady?
I think she needs a Valium. I wish it would rain so she would go inside and let me get some rest.




Monday, March 14, 2011

Being Productive in the Garden

I HURT THIS MORNING!!
My legs, my feet, my arms, my hips.... Everything hurts. Why is it that working in the garden all day brings me such great satisfaction..... and so much discomfort? I got out of bed like an old lady this morning. Oh, wait a minute. I am an old lady.
Yesterday was one of those wonderful Spring days here in California. I think I could live inside of a day like this 365 days a year. The breeze was cool, the sun was warm and the soil was soft. My love affair with my garden begins again.
This is where it started. I went to WalMart the day before and got a bit carried away.
The Pansies were so beautiful. They just shouted "Springtime!!" from the shelf outside the store. So I came home with a flat of them. Actually, it was a half flat for $5. That would give me the color I wanted for my dreary containers. And, of course, I had to get some soil amendments to liven up the old dirt in the pots and add some compost from the veggie garden composter.
I got a little carried away with the flower seeds.
COSMOS~PORTULACA~CLEOME~ZINNIAS..... The American Seed Co. has these beautiful packets of seeds for .20 cents a piece. I don't know how they can sell a package of seeds for .20 cents. I'm guessing that there aren't as many seeds inside (I will count them and see) compared to the Burpee packet that costs $1.50. and the Burpee brand says that they are a "select variety" from Holland. At .20 cents a packet I can buy a lot of seeds, different varieties and it feels like I'm getting a real deal.
I do buy the Burpee brand for seeds that I can't find elsewhere, like the Zinnia called Envy. It's a beautiful CHARTREUSE color and huge. It's a $1.50 also. Sometimes you just have to splurge.
I also bought a few packets of American Seed's "Cottage Garden" seeds. I love them. I throw them into my planters and it's like a surprise later on to see what comes up. This wildflower mix gives the garden a lot of color with very little effort. I'm into the "Cottage" look in my garden.
So, yesterday morning, I put all the new garden supplies into my wheelbarrow and spent the day in the garden.
I planted those Violas everywhere.

And now I have color all over the front garden. It looks wonderful!
At some point, and this is becoming a ritual behavior, I take my gloves off because I can't feel the soil. I don't know why. I just love the feel of the soil and packing it down with my bare hands.
I haphazardly throw them down somewhere because I'm "in the moment" with my garden.
But I have Carl. He is Little Mr. Opportunity incarnate. He always finds them.
And I always think that he will leave the gloves alone, especially when they are in plain sight on the porch.
But NO.....
 He always grabs one glove. ALWAYS!! and runs away with it.. It's our game. If I didn't like this game I would put the gloves up on a table  where he couldn't grab them. But I don't. Because this is a game, you see, and Carl would be so disappointed.
I run after him, calling his name and telling him to give me the glove. Like I said.... it's a ritual. A bit of comic relief. It's what we do around here to entertain ourselves.

So, back to the garden. I love that feeling of dirt under the nails.
I never regret taking my gloves off. I will always have hang nails and cuts in the Springtime. It's OK. It's tradition.
It was not the planting of violas that  made me feel like I was a hundred years old this morning.
It was this corner of the garden.
This is the cause of all my pain. It wasn't enough to plant some flowers in pots. I also spent the rest of the day redoing the area near the entrance. Now that I look at the photo I realize that it doesn't look that much different for all the lifting of rocks, raking of debris, moving of garden art and transplanting of a few perennials. But I wanted to clear everything away from the flowering Pear tree because I read that having too much mulch or plants that get watered a lot right up against a tree can weaken the tree and make it vulnerable to diseases. When I removed everything, I saw that there was mold all the way around the bottom of the tree. So I felt really good that I did this.
It looks nice and I feel better about the tree. Cutter, my sweet puppy, proceeded to dig a hole in the new spacious plot of dirt, which he thought I made just for him. Then, I realized that I may have to put a little fence around the area to discourage the pups from this favorite activity. Digging is not a "ritual" I wish to encourage .
All in all it was a very productive day.
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Brownie is recovering slowly except that the other goats are ostracizing him. They won't let him into the goat house. Last night I went out there because I heard him making goat complaints and there he was, standing in the rain, crying and complaining. Bart was guarding the doorway and blocking Brown from going in.
IT WAS RAINING! and DARK.  I tried to push him in and every time he tried, one of the goats would push him back out.
BAD GOATS..... even Murph' was part of this betrayal. I'm so upset with them. I know this is normal animal behavior but it stinks.
Finally, with encouragement, Brownie pushed his way into the goat house and I went back into my warm house.

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So, this morning I woke up feeling like I fell down a mineshaft and survived. It's not raining. I should be out there finishing the planting of seeds.... but I'm not. I'm rubbing Aspercreme into my feet and hands. I'm laying low for the day. I'm writing this post and  not much else. I feel really old and sore today. I can identify with Brownie. Maybe I'll sit and read a book. Yea! I said read a book... or maybe I'll knit something.... or felt.... or bake some cookies.... or....