Tuesday, June 30, 2015

We Have Bubbles!

I tasted one of my pickle slices today and the pickles are nearly ready to put into the fridge or process.  As you can see, there are bubbles which form during the fermentation process and this fermentation actually started late in the first day of pickle making.

The slice I tasted has the beginnings of the good "tang" of a fermented pickle and has lost the pronounced cucumber taste.  Thanks to the grape leaves I put into the jar, they're also still crisp.  I think I'll let these ferment for another day or so then put them into the refrigerator.  I'll start another batch in a few days as I like this recipe.  I do think I'll add a little more hot pepper flakes to the next batch though.

If you think the pickles look murky and unappetizing, they actually don't.  I've used a grape leaf to help hold the cucumber slices under the brine then cut a circle from a deli container to use to make sure the slices are covered by the brine. The somewhat milky color of the deli container lid gives the pickles a murky look.

I don't know why the harvest always seems to come when I need to paint but maybe it works out that way because I'm not particularly fond of canning and freezing!  You know, maybe I'm using the need to paint as an excuse to get out of processing the harvest!

But, no, not really, I've been prepping some painting surfaces and they're all ready to receive the masterpieces that I'll surely paint on them so I'm just ready to get started!  lol  I have lots of subjects I want to paint and really want to get at them.

So, let me get at them!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Art of a Different Kind

Unfortunately, my life doesn't consist entirely of painting and other things too often take priority over time in the studio.

One such other priority is putting up the fresh produce we get from our garden.  This year has been a tad slow for garden veggies but they're beginning to ripen seemingly all at once now.  We're getting an abundance of cucumbers right now and even my husband can't eat them as quickly as they ripen so I've begun to make pickles.  My favorites are fermented garlic dill pickles with a touch of hot pepper flakes and there's a real art to getting them just right.

Most recipes call for the cucumbers to be left whole or cut into spears but my preference is to slice them as you can see.  I'm trying a new recipe this year and am starting with just a quart jar to see if we like them.  If so, I'll put up a couple of gallons - any more than that and they'll go bad before we eat them.

As I said, this is a fermented pickle.  You cover the cucumbers with a salty brine and keep them submerged in that brine to keep bad bacteria out while allowing good bacteria/yeast to ferment the cukes.  This process is much like bread, wine or beer using fermentation to produce their results.  After a few days to a couple of weeks of them sitting on the counter fermenting, you can put them into the refrigerator where they'll keep for several months or you can process them in a canner to stop the fermentation.  If you can them, you can leave them on a shelf in the pantry but they really aren't as good as when they're just refrigerated and the fermentation is slowed but not completely stopped.

Naturally fermented vegetables are supposed to be very, very good for your health - I think they're just very, very good and well worth the trouble to make them!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Tomato of the Season

We picked our first tomato from the garden this morning which is pretty good considering we planted a little late and it's been somewhat dry up until the past week or so!  We always hope to have a tomato before the fourth of July but it doesn't always happen.  Fortunately, we usually have the first ones in June but conditions always dictate their appearance.

As you can see, we also got a handful of green beans, another a first of the season!  We've dug the onions, garlic and potatoes and have had squash and cucumbers for a week or so.  The cukes have become to come in reliably enough that I'll start to pickle them any time.

And I have an update on the baby birds - they've all left the nest!  We went out yesterday morning and shortly after we got home, I noticed that one of the birds was gone.  I tried to keep an eye on the other two but they seemed content to hang around the nest.  I looked out at dusk and they were still there.  However, this morning when I looked, they were gone.  I'm a very early riser so they must have left right at daylight as I looked right after my husband got up about 6 am.

And I got to see the mama bird a bit better and I don't think she's a finch but an Indigo Bunting!  We noticed a male IB hanging around yesterday and I read where the male will sometimes appear as the babies fledge to encourage the female into nesting again.  The female had some blue showing when she flew from the nest and looked very much like the photos I saw on the internet.  Not only that, but the nesting site suggests an Indigo Bunting instead of a finch.  It was only about 3 feet off the ground and in a shrub which is supposedly typical of the IB's.

I think I misidentified the bird because it is a member of the finch family and similar, plus, we don't see the IB's around here a whole lot and the females are especially shy.

I don't think the female will nest in the same place again this year but if she does, I'll give you more updates!

Now, off to have our first fresh tomato sandwich of the summer!

Monday, June 22, 2015

What a Difference!

Wow!  I posted a photo of these baby birds two days ago and now look at them!

At least one of them is ready to fly!  You can click on the image to see it larger but one of the babies is perched on the edge of the nest and will flap it's wings from time to time.  Also, now that I can see the babies more individually, I'm pretty sure they're House Finches.  Several bird identification websites comment on the tufts of feathers on top of the head and this one definitely looks as if he's having a bad hair day!

The other two little ones don't seem to be as advanced as the one above.  Or maybe they're just very polite and have been taught to take turns perching on the nest edge!  One of the babies is still at the wide open mouth stage and the remaining one is barely visible.

"Mr. Mouth" will probably be the next to fledge although I really won't have any way of knowing which bird is which or in which order they'll fly.

It's been exciting being able to see this nesting from start to finish - or at least I hope to be able to see the little ones fly.  I don't want to spend the day at the window as I have a lot to do today but will definitely check on them from time to time and keep my camera handy!!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Baby Birdies!

We always have a huge variety of birds in our yard and have at least 10 bluebird houses scattered around the yard and orchards.

This year what I think is a house finch built a nest in the lilac bush right outside our bedroom window.  It's been fun to see the nesting process from the first bits of grass to the adroit weaving in of a piece of dryer softener sheet that came from who knows where!

Now the babies have arrived and are a little over a week old.  I had to take the photo from inside the house so the quality isn't all that great but you can see the three babies inside the nest (or maybe you can't!  They're all in weird positions!)  I like babies of all kinds and really like that our farm is home to so many different varieties, but really, aren't baby birds the ugliest things you've ever seen?  This photo was taken right after Mom had finished feeding them so they're kind of snuggled down for a nap.  Most of the time, however, they're all stretched up with their heads lolled back and beaks wide open!  I wonder if they think a bug will just drop into their open beaks or if it ever actually happens!  I need to look up how long before they'll leave the nest but I'm not entirely sure they're actually house finch babies.  The mom stays away a lot and when she is around, she's mostly hidden by those leaves so it's hard to see any definitive markings on her.  I'm sure it won't be long before these babies are off on their first flights though and maybe I can get a photo of that for you!

In the meantime, almost directly across from the lilac bush is a bluebird house.  I got the following photo while I was photographing the the baby finches.

It's so fun to capture these critters - I wanted to say "Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"

Thursday, June 18, 2015

North Carolina Wildlife Artist Society

I received word yesterday that I have been juried into the North Carolina Wildlife Artist Society and I'm very excited about it.

Many of you know I was once a pet portrait artist and also know how much I like painting animals.  You also know that we live in a very rural area where we see wildlife of some kind every day.  You may not know that I'm not much of a joiner - most of the time I prefer to be painting instead of just talking about it!  To be honest, I checked out some local chapters of various art media societies and felt totally out of place not to mention that I don't like being confined to just one art medium.

But when I discovered NCWAS, it just felt like a match made in heaven.  Artists lead a somewhat solitary life anyway and rural artists are really isolated!  Normally that doesn't bother me a bit but recently I've felt that being around other artists and participating in art events would help me to stretch as an artist.

NCWAS is perfect for me as it's not media-specific, I can use any medium I want. I think they only have one meeting per year which leaves time for actually painting!  The subject requirements aren't overly strict and are what I'd be painting anyway.   They offer participation in various shows or exhibitions but I don't think the participation is mandatory which is a real plus for someone who paints as slowly as I do!

Is there any wonder I submitted an application for joining?

So, in light of this new membership, stay tuned for more wildlife and wildflower paintings!  You can check out NCWAS by clicking on the links for their website and Facebook page listed at the top right.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Genesis Oil Painting

This is another painting with the Genesis Oils as the medium.  The photo above looks a little purple on this computer.  The painting is actually more pinkish which makes it look softer.

As I've said before, I like using the Genesis paints but they're very different from traditional oils.  For one thing, since they don't EVER dry without heat setting them, it's hard to judge how long to leave them in the oven.

I ended up getting one of those heat guns designed for removing wall paper and it works well as you can see what you're doing.  However, it's very tiring to hold the gun long enough to dry the oil.  A large painting would be very difficult.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Another Acrylic Painting

"Alliums" Acrylic on Canvas Hardboard  
You might be justified in thinking that I really don't hate acrylic paint as much as I say I do but I'm just trying to finish up several paintings I started when first getting the paint and which I left to languish when I got too frustrated with them.  Some paintings have been put away for years!

In this case, I'd wanted to try the texture medium (which is an acrylic medium) and figured acrylic paint would be the most compatible with it.

While acrylic paint isn't my favorite medium to paint with, I have to say that I really like the texture medium and will probably use it under my gouache or oil paintings in future projects.  The medium gives a fun look to a painting but does have some little quirks when working with it.

First of all, it's really hard on your brushes.  I used an old round stencil brush to apply the medium and if I'd thought about it, I probably would have mixed my paint into the medium to save time and other brushes.  But, I kept adjusting colors in this painting so would have had to use regular paint brushes anyway.  I was doing some good thinking though as I used craft brushes from WalMart instead of my good, more expensive ones. 

Secondly, it's hard to get paint down into those valleys in the texture.  Again, mixing a colored texture to begin with would have gone a long way in helping with that.

And thirdly, you have to really plan ahead to use it as when it's dried and set up, it's there for the long term!  I had an area on another painting where it was used that I wanted to change and even intense sanding didn't remove it easily.  I really think you could call this stuff archival without any qualms at all!  It's sure not going anywhere at least!

Even though this is one of those paintings that felt like giving birth during the production of it, I think I like the results.  I hope you do too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Duck, Duck ..........Duck!

I know, I know - I'm pretty sure the phrase is "Duck, Duck, Goose" but there wasn't a goose involved in this project, only the duck.

My husband was straightening up the workshop in the barn and found an old, faded duck whirly-gig with peeling paint that he didn't even know where it had come from.  He decided to cut a new duck and asked me to paint it.  We just put it on a garden post and are now waiting for a bit of wind to see if it works!

Not only are the propeller-like wings supposed to whirl but the duck itself is supposed to rotate on the metal rod.  So far we haven't seen much of either movement but he makes a handsome addition to the garden entrance, don't you think?!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Oil Painting In Progress

Jill's Boots - Alkyd Oils

This painting is the result of a request from my granddaughter.  She wanted this painting of her western boots entangled with those of her boyfriend and I do like it when my family asks me to paint something for them.  However, I'm struggling a bit with the composition and have to make some decisions as to how to make the boots look as if they're lying on the floor.

Sue, from PencilPix blog, and a friend with whom I paint, both suggested adding lines indicating the boards of the floor and I'll probably do that. 

In the meantime, I still have a long ways to go with glazing to adjust the colors and values and adding some little details.  I'm posting here so you all can crack the whip and make me finish!  I seem to run out of steam for projects before I finish them (probably because I'm such a slow painter to begin with!) but I definitely need to finish this soon.

Thank heavens the alkyd oil paint dries quickly so adding the various layers doesn't take nearly as long as when traditional oils are used.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Back to Painting

I'm sure you thought I had quit blogging altogether but the truth is, we've had some family issues that have occupied our lives and repeated trips to both Florida and Kansas have eaten into much of our time.

Unfortunately, my dear mother in law passed away and although my father is still active, he just had his 92nd birthday.  It's difficult to be so far from family so we do try to visit as much as we can while we still can.

I have been painting and continue to be inspired even though I haven't posted any art in some time.  And even though it's been some time since I've painted regularly in oils, I've done a couple of paintings in them.  And I still flit from one medium to another and have just finished a painting in pastel for a friend.  The colors aren't exact but are mostly ok.

And one of my favorite paintings in oil is the following painting of an owl.

I'm not hugely in love with owls as we have to watch out for hawks and owls when our little dog is outside but I do like this painting because it's much looser than I usually paint.  I also painted it on a floor tile that's about 9 x 12" with a sort of pebbly surface.  The surface really grabbed the paint yet allowed it to flow so I could fade out the feathers on the bottom.

I'll be back to show more of what I've painted in the past few months.