Monday, March 31, 2008

Brown IS a color

Years ago, I worked as a botanist for a public botanical garden specializing in native plants. This meant we celebrated the flora that had grown in our area for thousands of years prior to European settlement. It also meant we did not have the tedious task of laying out petunias in varying colors each month to resemble quilts or the American flag.

In the fall and winter, brown was often the predominant color. Occasionally visitors--expecting something else--would ask for a refund of their entrance fee because nothing was blooming and the landscape was "colorless." Although they were accommodated they were also educated that brown IS a color.

Admittedly, I use a lot of color in my art, but I choose to ground myself with furnishings in the muted colors of the Earth. Brown has the added benefits of blending in the ever-present dust and pet hair, and supplying a neutral background on which to make my art shine.

In architecture, I love spaces where the delineation of "inside" and "outside" are blurred. Using brown in my living room and eliminating curtains has helped to achieve this. The trees are just as important an element of my spaces as are the furnishings.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Knock, knock, who's there?

My front door is to the right, and, ahem...someone else's to the left. This is the almost brand new facade my husband spent hours making to cover up an existing colonial turned wood street lamp that might have looked great with a New England saltbox, but did not suit my southwest location or sensibility. The copper shade was a wedding gift from some friends, made by artisans in the mountains of Mexico.

I think this hole was made by one of our many woodpeckers, but I see the carpenter ants are also coming and going. I do feel for the plight of cavity dwellers, and for that reason we have left the majority of the property in it's natural state, and even provided a bluebird nest box in the short grass prairie overlooking a small pond. It is curently inhabited by a bluebird. The opening to it was somewhat enlarged last year by some other bird to look as convex as this mysterious opening.

Too bad our house guest did not choose one of the other three sides for construction.

Here's the nest box. I can tell it is a bluebird nest from the construction materials: native mosses. I am fascinated by nest construction, just as I am of architecture in general. What makes one species of bird choose moss over sticks, leaves, or lichen?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eye for Detail

Being extremely nearsighted all my life has been both a blessing and a attempts at interpreting the landscape are by necessity impressionistic, a breaking of somewhat textureless imagery into blocks of colors best left for the medium of collage or quilting.

But the same myopic vision--where I need my glasses to find my glasses--that allows me to expertly remove splinters from fingers and thread sewing needles--also gives me the wonderful ability to view the objects in my still life oil paintings almost at a molecular level and paint them with exacting detail I have not been able to achieve in my landscapes.

Another thing that has developed my eye for detail is years spent as a graphic artist looking at pixels in digital photography and CMYK dots under magnification in print media. In this world one becomes aware of how something so small and seemingly insignificant can affect the larger whole.

I was always the kid that drew all the leaves on the tree and all the bricks on the house in my grade school art. I know from my university art training it's best not to over-do a painting and to leave some areas to imagination, to the shadows...but I always struggle with which detail to leave out. It recalls to mind the movie Amadeus where the critics suggest Mozart has too many notes and he asks them which ones he should leave out.

I'm glad to be living in a time where vision correction is possible...the progressive bifocal was a godsend to me. But no matter how many mornings I must search for my glasses, or hours I wince from contact lens, I still appreciate the gift of nearsightedness.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


against today's sky
peach blossoms are beautiful
a prelude to fruit

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Winter greens

We have been harvesting lettuce, mesclun, arugula, turnip greens, and kale for several weeks now. Friday we ate the first asparagus of the season. (It's in the back row, where the tall wooden trellis keeps its summery fronds from falling into the next bed.) Three kinds of onion sets are on the left, and we are finishing the raised bed to the right this weekend.

Except for the top edge, which we use as a seat when we weed, everything has been accomplished with free scrap wood. We hope to get the left side of the garden just out of the picture raised this spring. Both are already drip irrigated. The two tall structures are trellis towers which still need to be strung for beans. After last year's entanglement of morning glories we'll let the legumes have them this year.

Here I am totally covered by spent flower vines taken off the trellis this fall in an attempt to sneek up and startle my spouse. It would make a clever costume for a botanist at a masquerade party don't you think?

Phoebe and her son Finley, our rescue Barbados Blackbelly sheep, are admiring the winter greens. We line our paths with the pine shavings taken from our chicken coop and compost the rest. It's a nice system.

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