Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Gourd Garden

Do you remember the rustic trellis we built back in April?  It is now supporting a crop of gorgeous, green, bottle-shaped gourds and is surrounded by pumpkins, sunflowers, and zinnias.  I have fallen completely in love with the gourds! I love the baby ones that are covered in a soft, downy fuzz.  I love their heart-shaped leaves, delicate curling tendrils, and voluptuous fruits.  I love their emerald green color.  I love them so much, I was inspired to break out the watercolors and have a go at sketching them.

If all goes well and we dry them properly, we will have a bumper crop of gourds to paint and play with in the fall.  My oldest has discovered pyrography and hopes to be able to practice his new hobby on them.  In the meantime, I have commissioned a bunch of garden stakes to get him started, and he seems to be getting the hang of it.

I have my usual case of the mid-summer mullygrubs, so I haven't been doing very much on the creative side.  It happens every year.  My creativity and inspiration always seems to dry up in the heat of summer, but I did very much enjoy playing with the watercolors again.  I'm rusty, and need a lot of practice! So, maybe I will paint more gourds.  I recently discovered the wonderful work of artist-illustrator Holly Ward Bimba which also inspired me to try sketching again.  She is a fellow nature lover, and like me, seems to be fascinated by the small things that often go overlooked by most.  She looks closely and carefully and paints with a crisp, clean, and uncluttered style that I truly admire. Looking at her work makes me want to work harder to improve my skills!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Mimosa Vine or Sensitive Briar

Summer is here and we are basking in her beautiful sunlit days and soft, warm nights.  We eat something from the woods or the garden every single day, and sometimes I am overwhelmed with the incredible abundance all around us.  Dewberries warmed by the sun are eaten out of hand on our morning walks.  Wild oxalis with its bright, lemony crunch has found its way into an Asian style noodle bowl.  Gorgeous, ruby red Swiss chard is sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon and is absolutely divine with any grilled meat or fish.  Lettuce and snow peas and herbs of all sorts find their way into a variety of stir fries.  Needless to say, we are eating very well these days! We have had plentiful rainfall which has made the garden and the woods and the meadows flourish with flowers and fruit and all sorts of flying, creeping, and crawling wonders.  I am so happy and so grateful and so blessed I can hardly express it.  So much beauty everywhere, freely given for us to enjoy.  I hope that wherever you are reading this there might be birds singing, bees humming their joyful hymns, flowers dancing in the sunlight and a cool breeze that makes you feel glad to be alive.

I will leave you with another beautiful excerpt from Elizabeth and Her German Garden which sums up my feelings so perfectly, I just couldn't say it better myself.

"It makes one very humble to see one's self surrounded by such a wealth of beauty and perfection anonymously lavished and to think of the infinite meanness of our own grudging charities, and how displeased we are if they are not promptly and properly appreciated.  I do sincerely trust that the benediction that is always awaiting me in my garden may by degrees be more deserved, and that I may grow in grace, and patience, and cheerfulness, just like the happy flowers I so much love."

Love and blessings!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Great Expectations

Oh, if only you could smell them!! There are not words to express how beautiful, how glorious they are and how extremely happy they make me.  Garden bliss.  Pink peony heaven!  And it is all the better because this is the first year I have had any success with them.

Life is good. These days I paint with flowers and vegetables and my needle is a spade and fork.  The garden is burgeoning. Great expectations indeed! Blueberry pies and pear preserves dance in my head like sugarplums.  A hot buttered biscuit topped with homemade pear preserves is one of the true joys of life!  We are already harvesting lettuce every day, and I'm wishing I had planted more.  Every meal except breakfast is planned around lettuce! And no one is complaining! It's so crisp and yet tender and sweet.......forgive me. I swoon.  I love my garden.  It is more than just a garden.  It is art.  It is refuge.  It is therapy.  It is worship - a spiritual connection with my Creator.  A cooperative work with the ultimate and original Artist.  He who made all things is making a garden with me. An awesome and humbling thought.

Thank you for your very kind and generous comments on my previous post.  I so loved Elizabeth and Her German Garden, I wonder if you know of any similar books you could recommend? I'm looking for some good summer reading.

Wishing you sunshine and flowers!

Friday, May 1, 2015

"The garden is the place I go to for refuge and shelter, not the house.  In the house are duties and annoyances, servants to exhort and admonish, furniture, and meals;  but out there blessings crowd round me at every step -- it is there that I am sorry for the unkindness in me, for those selfish thoughts that are so much worse than they feel; it is there that all my sins and silliness are forgiven, there that I feel protected and at home, and every flower and weed is a friend and every tree a lover.  When I have been vexed I run out to them for comfort, and when I have been angry without just cause, it is there that I find absolution.   Did ever a woman have so many friends?  And always the same, always ready to welcome me and fill me with cheerful thoughts.  Happy children of a common Father, why should I, their own sister, be less content and joyous than they?"

                                                                                            ----Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Another thrifting treasure that practically reached out to me from the dusty shelves at a flea market.  A tiny little book with brittle brown pages so fragile that I have to take care when turning them.  Words spoken by a kindred spirit from the past bring two souls together for a moment in time. Magical.  

I shall have peonies this year!! I'm so happy.  They have been transplanted a couple of times before finally finding a spot where they are happy, and this year they will reward me with the gift of their flowers.  It's childish I know, but like Elizabeth, I too think of my flowers as friends. Friends who never judge me and who are not so easily offended. And other than a good spot where they get the proper amount of sunshine and rain, they ask very little.

We are collecting butterflies!! Such fun. My youngest is very enthusiastic and goes out every day with the homemade butterfly net I made for him and hunts his fluttering prey.  I would feel guilty about it if not for the fact that we have been studying insects and learned that they only live for a few weeks anyway.  Besides, it's in the interest of science! Now we are on the hunt for all sorts of bugs to mount and label and frame.  He is planning his own show on Animal Planet.  The next Steve Irwin - only with butterflies.

And now the sun is up and the birds are singing and the garden is calling to me.  There are beans to be planted and twine to be strung for them to climb on.  Another batch of gourd seeds have been soaked overnight and will be planted out today.  Only 3 of the first batch sprouted, so we will try once more.  And we are keen to grow some pumpkins, so those will also be sown today.  Lots to do! The narrow window of planting time is closing fast for us.  Soon it will be too hot for tiny seedlings to survive, so we must hurry and plant everything we mean to for this year.  

What are you planting in your garden?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Riches of Fairies

Every day of spring unfolds a sweeter blessing to behold............

It's been a quiet, peaceful, rainy week.  The woods are gleaming and sweet fragrant with the scent of moss and damp earth.  Baby ferns yawn and stretch and unfurl themselves, and I stroke their soft, fuzzy heads and coo to them just as I would a baby lamb or bunny.  In the garden, we have planted seeds of all sorts - lettuces, spinach, beets, peppers, squash,  and tomatoes.  A trellis has been constructed of felled saplings lashed together with hemp twine.  We are all immensely proud - it was a Sunday afternoon family project that left the boys feeling very "Swiss family Robinson". I see many more rustic garden sculptures in our future :) Gourd seeds have been planted at each corner post and sunflowers and zinnias to surround.  We timed it perfectly.  They have had a week of soft, warm showers to stir them from their sleep.  Fingers crossed we will soon see sprouts!!  and finally, thrift store treasure hunting.  My favorite rainy day activity besides napping.  I really can't believe my luck this time.  It's as if they were sitting there waiting for me to come and get them.  They were even laid out on the same table.  All the Silver Pennies is an anthology of children's poetry first published in 1925.  As you can discern from the title page, most of the poems are related to fairies or the magic enjoyed from growing up with nature as a beloved companion.  This book was written for me! And the other is Pedigree - The Origins of Words from Nature.  Also an unbelievable treasure for me as a nature lover who also happens to be an armchair etymologist.  I don't believe in coincidences.  These books were meant for me, and I look forward to many happy hours spent enjoying their contents.  I literally have a stack of books beside my bed that I am currently reading.  Do you read more than one book at a time? or just one through and then pick up the next?  I adore books and always feel sad when I come to the end of a particularly good one, so I drag them out as long as possible.  Thus the stack of reads in progress. I will leave you with an excerpt from All the Silver Pennies.

The Fairies Have Never a Penny to Spend

The fairies have never a penny to spend,
They haven't a thing put by;
But theirs is the dower of bird and of flower
And theirs are the earth and the sky.
And though you should live in a palace of gold
Or sleep in a dried-up ditch, 
You could never be poor as the fairies are, 
And nay, never as rich.

Since ever and ever the world began
They have danced like a ribbon of flame,
They have sung their song through the centuries long,
And yet it is never the same.
And though you be foolish or though you be wise,
With hair of silver or gold,
You could never be young as the fairies are,
And nay, never as old.

---Rose Fyleman

Friday, April 10, 2015

Shop Update : An Ode to Spring

Inspired by our recent trip to the Japanese gardens, I created another little nest to honor the day.  This little nest has been painted with acrylic paints onto a piece of cotton muslin and then accented with embroidery for added texture and dimension.  It is mounted onto a wrapped burlap canvas and framed with pine cone petals kindly left for me by our resident squirrel darlings.    This one is now for sale in my Etsy shop.

And I have a question for you. A friend from church recently had a sweet little baby boy, and I was thinking of making another of these to give to her as a gift.  Since he was born in spring, I thought this might make a nice memento.  What do you think?  Should I embroider his name or his birth date somewhere, or just leave it as it is?  I've been trying to think how I could incorporate a monogram or his birth date, but can't decide how to proceed. Any suggestions?

Hope you enjoy your weekend! We have scary storms in the forecast, so we are keeping an eye on the weather today.  Aaaah, springtime in Alabama!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Our Day Trip to Japan

Cherry blossom snow......could anything be more beautiful?  Each year, around the time of my youngest son's birthday, we make our annual pilgrimage to see the cherry blossoms at the Japanese garden located inside the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  As you can see from the photos, it was breathtaking.  I took lots more. These are just a few of my favorites.

As a mother who, like so many others, sometimes worries that her children are too engaged in a virtual digital reality, it was very satisfying to see my children so obviously enthralled with this glorious display of nature.  Oh, it makes me so very happy.  They were unusually quiet - almost reverent at times.  "Yes," I think to myself, "they get it."  And I don't worry so much.

and I also hope maybe they won't grumble too much when I enlist their help digging in the garden :)))