Monday, July 6, 2009

Sweet Summer

Summer is finally here in every way... outdoor parties with family and friends, blueberry picking, sunburns, trips to the beach, the fruits of garden labor, summer evenings, lightning bugs, mosquito bites, fresh foods, live outdoor music, and more. As always, there are many things to do as we work to improve our home and lives, but summertime fun is the sweet reward for completing big projects!

It seems every year around this time I rediscover fresh, local warm-weather produce and my love of cooking; this year is no different. I’ve recently been inspired to try some new recipes, such as a no-knead bread and homemade butter. They are shamefully easy and there's nothing like a simple, delicious, and flavorful meal that has been made completely from scratch with fresh ingredients. It's soul food without a doubt. Up next: experiment with sprouting and discover what this area has to offer in local grains. Perhaps a 30 day Eat Local Challenge is on the horizon.

It seems all of my senses have been awakened after a cold winter and soggy spring. In addition to the flavors of summer, I’ve been sinking my fingers into the rich soil; lavishing in the sounds of buzzing bees, bird songs, frog chips, and fox calls; watching all the trees, shrubs, and flowers take turns presenting their unique qualities; while the scents of evolving blooms waft through the warm air. Even dirty hands and feet, the periodic itchy reaction to foe insects and poisonous plants, skunk spray, and fresh manure find their welcome role during this time.

Since moving from Baltimore to rural Pennsylvania two years ago (and starting this blog), seasons tend to affect me much more. We are not nestled inside, isolated from the elements, staring through insulated panes of glass at the outside world of fluffy white layers of snow or steaming summertime pavement. Instead, we trek through snow and rain to retrieve firewood, our main source of heat, and are well on our way to relying on the garden to sustain our bodies.

This is a conscious decision we've made to live life not easier, but more simply, and to be more in tuned with ourselves and the world around us. It's not an easy lifestyle, but a labor of love, and we are continually presented with the rewards of our hard work. In addition to feeling good about our decisions, we've cut our annual reliance on heating oil down by more than half, are working to maximize the yield from our garden in order to spend less at the grocery store, while entertaining other ways of saving $$ and reducing our carbon footprint.

My creative juices are also grateful for this way of life and for the summertime season. The daily patterns, forms, textures, and colors I encounter dance through my head and beg to be reinterpreted on paper, fabric, and in metal. I hope to share some of these projects with you, as I have been producing on a limited basis. Nevertheless, as you can imagine, the squeaky wheel gets the grease during this season of fun, flux, and abundance!

I hope you are enjoying all there is to partake in this summer!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Have a very Happy Mother's Day to all the hardworking, inspiring, loving mom's out there!

Although I don't get to spend today with you mom, I'm happy you have a nice sunny day to enjoy. I love you so much and look forward to seeing you soon! xoxo

Saturday, May 2, 2009

April Showers... Brought What?!

While I was occupied the last couple weeks (seriously, where did April go?), the yard and garden were busy doing what yards and gardens do. As usual, there are many garden projects in process such as planting, moving, and removal of all things large and small. It's easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about the limited seasonal windows. When I start to feel a little bogged down by all the projects, I find it recharges me to walk around and watch the progress of things, especially in the spring. Behold May flowers, "the march of the weeds," and some others that are moving along quite nicely... I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did taking them. Have a great spring weekend!

The sunny side of the house: lilac, ostrich ferns, woodland strawberries, herbs, azalea

Strawberries and the soon to be cutting garden: sunflowers, cosmos, and sweet william

Lavender varieties



Pumpkin and melon



Trees and shrubs...






Other plants and flowers...
Ostrich Ferns

Concord Grapes

Bleeding Heart


Wild violets

Thriving invasive's (at least they're pretty)...



Garlic growing along side many, many weeds

Monday, April 6, 2009

Weekend Treats Made Even Sweeter With Family & Friends

This weekend was pure food for the soul. I wish I could describe so eloquently as some, but I will do my best to put these moments into words and images...

Jim Norton, White Pearl Bracelet, 2007, Enamel on copper, pearls, 4" x 4" x .5"

It all kicked off with Friday night's opening reception for Bend, Mold, Cut, Join: Small Works in Metal. Juried by Ellen Lupton, the exhibition features pioneering art jewelry, vessels, implements, and small-scale sculpture that combine traditional metalsmithing techniques with a vision representative of the field of contemporary metalsmithing by utilizing innovative materials, techniques, and concepts. On exhibition through May 31 at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA), Bend, Mold, Cut, Join: Small Works in Metal is held in the main atrium of the DCCA and Alternatives Museum Shop, an elegant retail showroom featuring an eclectic collection of handmade crafts by artisans from the region and beyond. A must see!

Gorgeous flowers from H.B., by our neighbors, Sweet Pea's of Jennersville

Before going any further, I will mention that this weekend was also my birthday. Last year represented a more significant landmark so I was happy to have a quiet one this year. After all, I've never been one for odd numbers, so I call this the third anniversary of my 28th. Next year however, will be something different all together! ;) Nevertheless, despite my blasé attitude, I was pleasantly surprised by so many wonderful treats and well wishes. To my friends and family, thank you.

Yummy gingerbread cookies by Elizabeth, Aidan, Frances, and Paul -- thank you!!

Saturday's treat came in the form some very sweet cards and emails, some delicious and very unexpected cookies (they taste even better than the look, if that's possible!), and one of my favorites, Ray LaMontagne, who we saw live at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia. Having waited for this show for several years, I would like to report that the entire experience was everything I had hoped it would be, but things were unfortunately dampened (literally) by some very rude, yelling, beer-throwing patrons. LaMontagne, was however, as spectacular as expected.

The garden, an ongoing project, but making progress: Maria weighing down the rake while H.B. drives the tractor... faster! faster!

Sunday brought more good vibes in the form of some hard work in the garden with the assistance of our friends, Maria and Boris. I don't think I could put into words how much we appreciate the company and heart they bring to our little corner of PA. Maria, with your wisdom and spirit, Boris, with your humor and curiosity; your presence makes every task so enjoyable, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

A gift, lace made by Maria's grandmother

So many good memories, thank you all!

Anthropologie: everything they're cracked up to be

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This City Girl's Country Garden

Hi! This will hopefully be the first of many regular posts regarding this year's vegetable garden, which is already underway. Nevertheless, we all know how these things go, so I will reiterate, "hopefully." Now the challenge remains documenting my blood, sweat, and tears on this here blog.

Heirloom tomato sprouts

Just a little background: I am a city girl, turn rural since moving up from Maryland to Pennsylvania in 2007. Truth be told, the biggest transition when moving here -- after coming off of apartment living -- was learning to maintain an OLD farm house and property while also dealing with the COLD winters. With a lot of help from one great guy, I have learned the ropes. Being close to so many of the things I love, I've embraced the changes fairly well. There really isn't any other place I'd rather be and this new lifestyle has afforded so many new and exciting opportunities.

Strawberry plant, one of many

Made even easier living where we do, eating fresh with a conscious eye on the things I put in my body is very important to me (although, I'll be the first to admit, I'm not perfect). Since moving to PA I was finally able try my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share last year with great success. I love everything CSA's stand for: supporting the community, local food minimizes carbon-footprint, trying new organic veggies not usually on the shopping list, and consuming in-season local produce is great for the body and immune system, just to name a few.

Cilantro ready for the herb garden

I also planted my first garden; a modest 4' x 12' elevated frame on the south side of our barn with all the basics including herbs and tomatoes. Combined with sprucing up the grape arbor, planting blueberry bushes, and pruning the apple and pear trees in our orchard, I've learned a lot and am taking the volumes of future experience in stride. Needless to say, we had more than enough fruit and veggies to go around last year. Considering the expense of an annual CSA share (although not unreasonable spread across a season) along with an interest in getting my hands dirty, I decided to forgo the membership and expand the garden in 2009.

The site of the new garden with fresh compost (and dreary weather)

The calendar now says it's spring, the frosts are fewer, and everything is starting to show signs of life again; waking up to the daily convention of birds, crocuses popping their purple heads up, and tree buds swelling are just a few of the rapid reminders of the impending warmth. Everything is coming out of hibernation, including me! I've planted some early seeds indoors and we've spent the weekends clearing, cutting, pruning, and burning. These are the first of many steps to create a garden (and then some) that supplements all of our produce for a good part of the year. It's not going to happen overnight, or this year, but the process is the adventure. I hope you enjoy this journey with me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What I'm Watching

I recently watched Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy working with time, a documentary about the landscape sculptor who installs works of stone, ice, wood, leaves, and other natural materials into the environment. While familiar with his transitory environmental installations, I had not been exposed to the man behind the work prior to watching this film. As an artist who is inspired by organic forms and who is also interested in enjoying and preserving the environment, Rivers and Tides was an interesting watch.

Although the film felt a little slow at first, the speed had the benefit of slowing me, the viewer, down. Besides the inevitable collapse of a number of works, there is no drama, climax, or plot to this film. Rather the quiet journey with Goldsworthy enables the viewer to place him or herself into his world to appreciate the many subtleties and thoughts he shares as he observes, studies, and reflects upon the evolution of his work.

I wasn't far into the film before I found myself thinking about how Goldsworthy's experiences, materials, and ethics were significant to my own work, which brought me to write a list,

Four (or more) things to learn from Andy Goldsworthy:

  • Work is temporary: minimal environmental mark, non-materialistic, isn’t intended to last
  • Innovative use of materials: connections, combinations (including with surrounding environment), materials and environment are clearer with use of simple design
  • Subtle: blends with surroundings, can exist without being discovered
  • Work ethic: must work for self identification, takes work "to the very edge of collapse," always learning, always making, always playing

These are all interesting things for me to think about, especially when considering jewelry and how it relates to the body. While I doubt I'll be making and selling any temporary jewelry, making work that has minimal environmental impact has more of an interest to me.

His earnest interest in learning about the materials also plays a large part in Goldsworthy's endeavors. An expectation of deterioration (especially when pushing organic materials as close to the edge as he does), facilitates his journey of creation, allowing him to make without needing to have a tangible and permanent object as a result. As an admittedly sentimental person, I find this concept particularly enchanting and liberating!

Goldsworthy is a delight in this film. Introspective, open, and playful, he is always learning and evolving. I recommend the film Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy working with time, to anyone who has an interest in contemporary art, design, and the environment.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Winter Warmth

Here are some images from my chilly wintner wonderland. It wasn't until moving up to PA that I think I truly felt the effects winter. There's something about this drafty old farmhouse that makes me bundle up in a quilt and hunker down in front of the wood stove. My creative juices also seem to flow differently during this season of hybernation... a little more subtle and quiet, this is the time for reflection, making plans, and seeking inspiration... and there is so much inspiration out there.