I’ve been spending a little time on oil pastels, and I am so pleased with how the one above turned out. I’m using a Sennelier oil pastel set. They blend beautifully, and there’s something nice about just being able to grab them and get to work on the couch without water and brushes. I did a little quartet of pieces below. I am anxious to do some more painting for sure, especially with the oil pastels. I like the soft pastels, but I haven’t figured out how to blend them without rubbing a hole in my finger tip. There seems to never be enough time to do everything I’d like to do.
Our garden is reaching the end. We have some cherry tomatoes that I’m not sure will ripen. And we’ve had these monstrous cucumbers.
Honestly I don’t even like cucumbers. They are slimy. But I did make three jars of refrigerator pickles and I think they turned out ok. It won’t be long before I start cleaning up the gardens. Some of the asters are still in bloom, but everything else is starting to look kind of dead. The temperatures have been in the 70s during the day and it’s been sunny and lovely out. It seems hard to believe that it’s nearly October already.
Painting #47 is the final of a trio of cats, painted in gouache. This one was the final painting required for the HSSCM Pet Portrait FUNdraiser. Sage is actually a shelter cat. I think the fur on the back turned out pretty good, and her eyes are good but not quite how they really are in person. Sage has gorgeous eyes. I feel ok with this painting. At a bit of a loss on what to paint now, but whatever it will be will take place in watercolor. I barely had a chance to play around with watercolor before I started the cat trio.
Do you ever get so tired you feel physically ill? Yesterday I lived life in dog years, and today I am suffering. I have yet another headache, but the tiredness is making me sick to my stomach. I feel like I could sleep for days and not catch up.
It’s been hot and humid again. Some of the leaves are changing early. We had a few Cherokee tomatoes out of the garden, and some cherry tomatoes as well. The cucumbers are just starting to come in, and I planted another round of arugula and radishes over the weekend. The flowers are looking pretty good.
Next week I am taking an online three-day course with MSU on gardening. A little bit of continuing education is good for everyone. Normally this would be an in-person thing and I wouldn’t consider going. I really prefer Zoom meetings, and COVID has been good for that. Calhoun County is up to a “substantial” level of COVID again thanks to the Delta variant. I never stopped masking so it’s not a big deal for me, though masks aren’t mandated here in Michigan anyway. Between COVID, the state of climate change and the environment, and political views, the best thing you can do for your mental health is observe and work to protect yourself. It is a scary time for humanity, though.
I’m done with Amazon. Their refusal to pay corporate taxes, the way they treat their staff members, and the horror that is Amazon Prime delivery services has finally ended it for me. So for me, it’s no more amazon. I’ll be paying more to place orders at independent stores and will be supporting hopefully the USPS (even UPS and FedEx are better than Amazon Prime deliveries). Today I ordered a book from The Book Beat in Oak Park, Michigan. Last week I ordered two from Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately we don’t have any great independent art supply stores around here, so I usually order from Blick. My favorite peanut butter is cheaper on Amazon, but I ordered directly from the company. And don’t even get me started on Etsy:
Anyhow, in July please consider shopping local or supporting independent sellers online. It can really make a difference in their lives! Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite local or online independent retailer.
It’s been raining a crap ton (over four inches in the past week). Everything is wet, inside and outside the house. Ants have moved into my office. But at least we haven’t had to water? Consumer’s Energy gouged electric rates daily from 2:00 – 7:00pm. That’s not an exaggeration. It was literally a 50 percent increase. When it rains forever, it’s pretty humid. And the only way to beat it back is using air conditioning. Which is now much more expensive. At least it’s not as hot as it is in the west right now.
I did start the summer reads with Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. It’s pretty good so far. Lots going on this week, and at this point I’m not sure how everything is going to shake out. In the meanwhile, try to breathe deep and appreciate the little things.
It seems I am working on a lot of things and not getting a ton accomplished these days. I have found May to be a strange month. The weather was either much too hot (90 degrees!) or much too cold (frost predicted for Memorial Weekend!). I came down with a bad case of hives of unknown origin and have been on a course of steriods that initially had me feeling AMAZING but now has me feeling the sickest I’ve been in a very long time, both mentally and physically. I am hoping June turns out better all around.
I did finish another baby blanket. This one is for a girl; the nursery theme is pink, blue and gold dinosaurs. The blanket is Bernat Softee Baby in navy and pink, hdc waffle stick with an L hook. I think it turned out ok. Now I’m working on what I hope will be the final baby blanket for a long time. It’s again in Bernat Softee Baby, but in navy, light blue and gray stripes. I’ve switched from British mysteries on Britbox to British gardening shows in an effort to relax and de-stress. I wish to be as zen as Monty Don’s dogs.
Mom and I did the greenhouses and the cemeteries. Mt. Hope did manage to raise Jeanette’s and Alberta’s stones. What a difference! I was very pleased to see them. I have planted the vegetable garden and it’s coming along well. I put in six new perennials in the monarch garden at home, plus all the annuals. It will be a pain to have to cover them for frost this weekend. We’ve had almost no rain at all. Bob and I planted 30 pines and dogwood trees at the shelter at work. You can see a video of my garden on my YouTube channel here.
Mom and I took an online course on Udemy from Nick Stewart on painting with fountain pen ink. I haven’t had enough time to really get into it. I love the idea and I love the way his look, but so far I’m not having much luck. Maybe I’ll have more time over the holiday weekend?
We are doing a FUNdraiser at work with pet portraits in June. People will pay $20 and submit a photo of their pet. In return, an “artist” will create the pet in drawing, painting, fiber art, etc. The original image and the artistic image will be posted up online and people will vote for the best representation. The artist could win a $50 gift card. The person who made the donation will receive the original artwork in the mail. Most of them will be done by Board members and volunteers, so they won’t be professional. Some of them might look like the work of a toddler. But it’s all to raise money for the shelter pets. I did this quick study (less than an hour) in gouache to show what could be expected. This is technically painting #41, since I’m not counting the few postcards I did for National Postcard Week. This isn’t really a finished work, but it is my first attempt at an animal.
It is really looking and feeling like autumn now. And it actually is autumn by date as well, so there you have it. The temperatures this week are going to be a little bit below normal. We’ve actually already had our heat on a few times this month. I have long winter bike pants and other bike supplies, so I do hope to be able to bike another month at least. But not in the ice or snow. Will we have snow in October? It’s not unheard of.
Last weekend I cleaned up the vegetable garden. We had a good overall crop of tomatoes this year, and some carrots, green beans and cucumbers. The peppers did well, as did the tomatillos. As such, I decided to make a batch of salsa verde to end the season.
Broil the tomatillos, jalapenos and some garlic for 15 minutes or so until blistered. Then blend it all up and you’re good to go. It keeps for about a week, maybe two, in the fridge.
I put in a cover crop for winter, but the birds were treating it like a birdseed buffet so I’m not sure anything will come of it. The flower beds should hopefully last another few weeks.
I had a little bike accident that involved a flat tire, sore shoulder and nasty road rash. When I stood up, I apparently had tiny liquor bottles stuck to my leg (yay, Battle Creek!). And since my tires were old and shredded, I had to order new tires. In the meanwhile, as I wait for the new tires to arrive, I’ve been walking at lunch hour. It’s a very small tour of Battle Creek. And very hot for walking. If you’ve seen a sweaty, scowling individual walking around, it could be me. Photos from recent walks:
We are reaping the rewards of our garden, with adult monarch butterflies and a second round of monarch caterpillars.
We’ve pulled a few cucumbers, green beans and cherry tomatoes, plus romaine and parsley from the garden. And the monarch beds are really filling in. I’m pleased with how it turned out this year for sure.
Haven’t had a ton of time for reading or painting or sewing or crocheting lately. When I do seem to have time, I’m way too tired to attempt any of it. I did manage to read this Barbara Delinsky book, which was a fun summer read. I have another fun read sitting on the table waiting. And I do have a sewing project on tap! It is amazing how fast the summer is going already. What are you working on this summer?
The monarch beds are doing well, and these chonky caterpillars are eating the milkweed leaves like crazy. Soon they will be off to begin their metamorphosis.
It’s been crazy hot and we haven’t had rain in well over a week I think. But it’s a lovely Michigan summer just the same. You have to get in your activity in the morning before it gets too hot, and then stay in the air conditioning during the rest of the day. I don’t mind it at all. Much better than the cold.
It is feeling much more like summer these days. I did finish the monarch garden, with the exception of edging as I am still waiting for that to ship. With COVID-19, everything is taking forever to ship. The governor opened the State of Michigan today, and everyone is walking around like there never was a virus. I’m kind of surprised that there are still shipping delays at this point. Mom is also working really hard on her garden and it’s looking great. We haven’t had much rain, so we are having to water nearly every day. I’ve also been biking regularly, and have put in 125 miles so far.
This is my latest gouache painting and reference photo from an old Sunset Magazine. Again, I wouldn’t say I’m showing improvement, but I am enjoying the process so that is something.
This old abandoned house has been catching my eye. I expect it will be torn down this summer. It was built in 1911. All of the windows are gone, and it’s owned by the Land Bank. J. Charles Lee, superintendent of the Battle Creek Box Company, resided in the home up until his death in 1931. Mr. and Mrs. John Swainston were listed as owning the home in 1937, Mr. and Mrs, David Stebleton in 1939, and Mr. and Mrs. Victor Soules were listed as living in the home in 1942. The home was owned by the Fox/Black family (Jessie Fox (mother), Viola (daughter) – died 1990, Gerald (1973) and later Lillian Black) from 1946 until it was lost to the county treasurer in 2019. It looks like Lillian had been living on Highland Blvd from 2016 – 2018, when she passed away. It is likely this house, 466 Capital Avenue NE, has been empty since 2016.
Like everyone else, this week I have been struggling with the state of our nation, racism, and the horrific death of George Floyd. When I watched the video, I was instantly reminded of the video of the beheading of Nick Berg. I felt physically sick. The only thing to break the COVID-19 news cycle since March, and instead of being the uplifting SpaceX manned dragon capsule launch it was the horror of another police brutality event.
I tried to get some painting done this weekend. In fact, I finished these two small studies, referenced from old Sunset Magazine photos. I’m not thrilled with either one. I will count them both as more practice, as certainly my thoughts are that I will improve with lots of practice over this year. Maybe painting is the only good thing that will come from 2020? I find such a peace in it. And I really do love working with gouache.
In other news, this year we are putting in a new garden around the vegetable garden. It’s a monarch way station. Here are the first two sides papered off. So far I have them both planted and mulched. I am waiting for my edging to come in so hopefully I can get that done this next weekend, then paper off the third side and see about planting that as well.
Ah, June at last. The weekend was exceptionally cold, dipping to 43 this morning. But it is supposed to warm up now. This morning the sky is bright blue. The lilac outside the shelter is blooming. I’ve been biking some here and there and hope the weather will allow for more now that it is June. I’m still having great difficulty concentrating on reading, so I’m not sure I will have an official summer reads program but will update with the books I am reading. Is anyone even out there any more?
Thought it was well time for a garden update spring 2016. Things have been growing quickly! I planted radish, carrot, beet, lettuce and arugula seeds on May 6. Planted all the flowers on May 21, and the cemeteries and vegetables on May 25:
We had our first squash blossoms and the start of peppers on May 29:
And by May 31, things were really starting to look good. It’s been a fantastic year for hostas for some reason.
The Siberian Irises are in bloom, and the salvia looks great.
We had our first white globe radish out of the garden over the weekend and should be able to start pulling them regularly this week, along with the arugula. I did some supplemental lettuce planting, and added more beet seeds where they all didn’t come up. We have the start of tiny tomatoes and a good four peppers coming. It’s been hotter than normal, with lots of sun. I’ve been watering every night.
This is the best time of year to live in Michigan. Everything is fresh and growing.