"Gather ye rose-buds while ye may." Robert Herrick

"Gather ye rose-buds while ye may." Robert Herrick

Hello Friends!

Friends, Romans, countrymen...y'all. Foodies, gardeners, artists and collectors - let's gather together to share and possibly learn a thing or two in the mix.

Donna Baker

Monday, June 29, 2015

Da Vinci




In my humble opinion, Leonardo Da Vinci was the greatest human being in recorded history.  Now, I know everyone has his or her own selected person.  I could not say enough about him here nor list all of his genius and talents to prop up my selection.  But, I read a few factoids that I didn't know and thought interesting. 


I love his horse studies.  He designed one that was never finished.  Someone, somewhere was going to finish it.  I'll have to look that up.


And because of my devotion and love for dogs, I love his dog studies.


Of course, you know which dog study is my favorite.

So, here is a tiny list of things I didn't know about Leo.

1.  Da Vinci and Michelangelo were frenemies and rivals and would cause serious, reality show worthy scenes in public places by insulting each other.

2.  Researchers at Universities studied the Mona Lisa painting with face recognition software and concluded that ML was 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry.

3.  Ever the animal rights activist, Da Vinci enjoyed purchasing caged birds so that he could set them free.

4.  Da Vinci was also a committed vegetarian which was exceedingly rare in his day.

Bill Gates purchased Da Vinci's Codex a few years ago for $30 million dollars and has loaned it to museums around the world.  So many things interest me about Da Vinci I really wouldn't know where to start.  I was in the Loire Valley in France a few years ago and didn't even know he was buried there.  I would have loved to visit his grave site.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gracie The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


Here is my Gracie.  A real beauty.  Very large as far as horses go.  Must have been all those graham crackers, apples and carrots (her favorite treats).

Her story began out back on the other side of the fence.  No one took care of her.  She had a black mane and tail and was a darker gray color and about 1 1/2 - 2 years old.  I started feeding her.  I shant go on about the lowly neighbors, but I continued to feed her for years, medicating etc. at enormous expense I might add.

One day an old nag appeared, named Brownie.  Came from a farm up the road.  They didn't feed her either.  Being the alpha female, she'd eat Gracie's food and bite her, so I started feeding 'Brownie' too.  For years I might add.  I found out during that period she was 28 years old.  I wormed and medicated her too; took care of her abdominal abscess.  Unlike Gracie, Brownie is very skittish and has been on her own for a long time, though now I can pet her and apply fly repellent.


A divorce was occurring at the farm on the other side of the fence, so they asked if I wanted to buy Gracie.  I thought and thought; we'd have to fence off some acreage and build a stall and tack room.  But, at the time you couldn't give horses away around here and I didn't want her packed up in a trailer and shipped to Mexico, where they cruelly and gruesomely kill horses and send the meat to places that eat horses.  


So, I bought her.  She came alone and missed Brownie terribly.  Can't imagine why, but they called to each other all the time.  Gracie was so lonely.  Nearly tore down the new fencing we put up, slashed herself on it etc. If you look back to the first picture, I went around the new barbwire fence with a pair of pliers and pinched each barb so she wouldn't hurt herself again.  I could go on and on and on about my time with Gracie.  I'd tell you about the time she was pissed at me for trying to push her back so I could get through the gate to feed her.  She bit the soft, fleshy upper part of my arm and I believe the pain was worse than childbirth.

Meanwhile, Brownie found her way over to Gracie's pasture and I let her in.  Still feeding them both.  I talked to Brownie's owner and he said, "Oh, you can have her."  Now, who wants a semi-wild horse that is about to kick the bucket?  More on this in a minute.


Here is the serendipitous part of the story.  I got this print years before Gracie or Brownie came into my life.  They look exactly like this, down to the star on Brownie's head.


I made this life-sized paper mache horse before I met the mares.  As I said, when Gracie first came, she was a darker dapple gray, with dark mane and tail.


The time has come though. Carrying heavy feed bags and bales of hay are too burdensome and backbreaking and did I mention very expensive?  This old gray mare definitely ain't what she used to be.  I am trying to find a forever home for Gracie.  Don't want her passed around or mistreated and ending up in a slaughter house.  Though I want Brownie's owner to be responsible for her, he will probably drive her straight to the place where they dispose of old horses.  I fear it will be like signing her death warrant.

I am trying to make my life less complicated.  A move to the city - yes, leaving my farm after more than 30 years - is in the offing.  Hard choices and decisions lie ahead.  

This weekend, though, I am going to my little home in the city to rest and relax, to see my children and grandchildren and friends; to eat out and see a movie, go to Whole Foods and Barnes and Noble, Hobby Lobby and other city things I love to do.

Friday, June 19, 2015

610Stompers


These guys are everyman - doctors, lawyers, garbage collectors, stomping their way into our hearts.  I think they are hysterical.  With their gold lame sneakers, knee socks and shorts and the headbands, they've got the 80's vibe down perfect. 
Starting out as krewe members for Mardi Gras, they now march in parades and entertain the masses, and it's all for charity.  
Go to 610Stompers.com to see their hilarious schtick.  They are performing again in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Dancing to 80's tunes and more; they even have a dance to Bruno Mar's Uptown Funk.  I couldn't quit smiling at their version of an Irish Riverdance.  I can't wait to shop on their website.

Sorry about the commercial at the start.  And, be sure to watch it full screen.

Crabapples


My small crabapple tree is full of fruit again.  It doesn't fruit the same every year.  In fact, I don't think there has been a crop in two years. I tasted one this morning, but they aren't ripe enough yet; they leave a pucker, like a velvety taste from the tannin, I suppose.  

I have made jelly and the above liqueur from them.  Don't know what else to make with them.  In fact, I need to go to the garage refrigerator and look to see if I still have the liqueur from the last batch.  I don't remember even tasting or drinking it.  I'm not a drinker anyway, so it is usually given away.  I hope I haven't left the jars under a dark cabinet somewhere, steeping in grain alcohol. Now, I'm worried that I did and have to go look under cabinets.  Oh, and it's a glorious sunny day.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rain Redux


Tropical Storm Billy Bob has ended.  I could tell it was just about through when the rain changed and blew sideways from a different direction. The fish are swimming outside of the goldfish pond.  I had cleaned all the bulb detritus from the bed surrounding the pond and had just begun to plant flowers.



Poor little things haven't got a chance.  It's a muddy mess around here; when I went to feed the animals this morning, mud flew up my backside, step by step.  My wood floors in the back entryway are bubbling up with water and will all have to be replaced.  Trouble is, all the floors from back to front of the house are the same wood.  Think they will all have to go together.  Cry me a river.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rain


"Rainy days, we stay inside together.  The weather's wet.  The tea, is from Tibet."
The Art of Tea by Michael Franks

Rain be damned, I'm going outside.  Yes, after nearly two weeks of almost drying out, the rain has returned.  I can abide the soft, sprinkling kind of rain, for a day or two, but toad stranglers kind of rain, well, you know.  My pomegranate is loaded with blossoms this year.  I'm really happy about that.


Well, this lady beetle is having a walk about in the rain, doing her beetle thing, so I can too.  My blueberries rarely make it past my mouth.


I don't think I told you, but the heater ran out of propane this past winter in my greenhouse, and to a plant, the leaves and fruits fell off immediately.  The entire lot of mostly citrus plants, were within an hour or two of death before the sun came up. The leaves have returned and a few of the plants have even put on blossoms.  I might just get a citrus crop this year after all.


It has been so wet this spring that mushrooms have begun to grow on the deck outside.  Mind you, this never happens where I live.  Hot and dry summers.  A tropical storm is headed to Texas as I write this, then will swing up this way.  15 inches of rain predicted in Houston where there has been awful flooding and lots of rain too, but they are used to it.  We are not.  

The husband's at a conference this week in San Francisco.  I think I'll go paint.  Now where did I put my muse?


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Corn What?


I found this red sweet corn at Whole Foods and I'll admit it, I am a sucker for anything new and different. Those marketers get me every time. From all the rare monsoon rains we received this spring, we have had to re-plant our garden and it is iffy whether we'll get a sweet corn crop or anything else from our patch.  Nevertheless, I have been waiting since last summer to try a new recipe.  Are you ready for this?


Sweet corn ice cream.  Just let me skip to the chase.  It is sublime.  Summer at its finest.  I just wanted to taste the corn flavor and didn't add any vanilla or butter essence, honey, etc.  I'm sure it would also be good in combination with other fruits, herbs, flavorings and the like.  

Having been a cook/baker for a long time, I made up my own recipe after reading the original one.  I am not making a custard for ice cream.  I whipped and folded in egg whites into a dessert one time and never again.  Baking/cooking is an exact science, but that's only for the novices.

My Cuisinart makes one quart of ice cream and this is my recipe for the ice cream. I cut the uncooked kernels from the cobs and blended it with a little whole milk (about 1/4 cup).  Blended the heck out of it in the blender, in fact.  I then strained it through a sieve.  The mixture was added into the ice cream container with a can of sweetened condensed milk and filled to the brim with whole milk and a good splash of heavy whipping cream.  I could hardly wait till it finished freezing and was not disappointed.  As I said, summer at its finest.

If I were a professional chef serving haute cuisine in a starred restaurant, I would have strained it till the cows came home.  I would also have served it in perfect cannelles with dots and swirls of this and that, perhaps a tuille cookie or praline.  But, it wouldn't have tasted any better.  Below, is the original recipe for sweet corn ice cream.  Delicious, I am certain, but I am not going to that much trouble, but let me know if you do and how it turned out.

SWEET CORN ICE CREAM

3 cups fresh uncooked corn kernels
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cut the kernels from the cob.  Place the kernels in a medium saucepan with the cream, milk and sugar.  Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves.  Place a lid on the pan and allow the mixture to steep for an hour.  After an hour, strain the cream mixture through a wire sieve.  Use the back of a spoon to press as much liquid out of the corn as possible.  Discard the corn.  Return the strained cream to the saucepan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt; set aside.  Heat the cream over medium, stirring constantly, until it begins to steam (do not allow to boil).  Turn off the heat.  Temper the egg yolks by whisking them rapidly while slowly adding the cream mixture.  Transfer the cream and egg yolk mixture back to saucepan.  Cook over medium, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes.  When the cream has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, remove it from the heat.  Pour through a fine sieve. Cover and chill overnight.  Once the custard has chilled, stir in the vanilla and freeze in an ice cream machine according to machine instructions.  Transfer ice cream to a container, cover and freeze until firm.

(See, I told you.  Too much work for me.)

PS ~ I don't know if sweet corn is as big a deal in other places as it is here in the American south.  Please let me know if it is a staple in other parts of the country and world.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things



Here lies Boo, the sweetest cat on the planet, in my herb tower, tearing up the catnip.


It's the second time I've had to plant it.  I read that only 40-50% of cats respond to catnip, but this bad boy is high.  If he wasn't such a good cat, I'd shoo him out of there.  Oh Boo.

Monday, June 1, 2015

New Deer Delicacy




Not long ago I lamented the fact I'd have to get in my goldfish pond to clean it out.  It has been raining nonstop for so long, I haven't been able to.


Be that as it may, look what the deer cleaned out of the gold fish pond for me.  I caught them red handed.  They have never done it before.  Tulips and flowers, yes, but never the water lilies.  

Just wish they had gotten in and chopped up the lily roots for me so I wouldn't have to.  Where are the clothespins for my nose?  Oh well, at least it's a sunny, warm day.

And, my beautiful old Japanese Maple did die, but I replanted it with a blue atlas cedar on the right.  I love those too.

I want to tell you that I almost always comment on your blogs, but I usually get an email stating  message failure to send.  Something like that anyway.  I don't have a clue what it is about, but just wanted you to know I am reading and enjoying all of your posts even if my comments aren't getting through.  Let me know if this has ever happened to you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sunny Day


Sunny sky sleeps in the mornin', it doesn't know when to rise...

From a James Taylor song.  I love him.  I heard yesterday that there will be a new James Taylor channel on Sirius radio.  

So far so good today.  It is a sunny day. I just want to soak up the rays (and hopefully some of the water will dry up).  Like Texas, we have had non-stop rain since March and more is forecast for the rest of the week.  I have been trying to fill sink holes in and around my garden.  Will have to go find rocks along the side of a road today.  Formally, this part of Oklahoma was coal mining country and I have a fear of sink holes.  They do occur around here.  

I need to go outside.  The songbirds are doing their best vocalizations and the crows I posted about, well, perhaps I started something that I might regret.  They have figured out that I live in this house and call me regularly now.  Woke me this morning.  Waiting for their food.  I have discovered where in the woods they have a nest. Sometimes they bring their friends.  Did you know a group of crows is called a murder of crows?  Wonder who came up with that term... 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Days In A Life


Do you ever wonder what really goes on behind the scenes of our blogging buddies?  I mean, no one wants to hear us drone on about our bone spurs, or dark depression and anxiety disorders.  Right?  But, how many beautiful bouquets and finely decorated tableaux can we look at?  
Case in point - my good blogging friend, Jo, a Brit in TN, posted such a beautiful blog about strawberries.  Well, mine are mush this year because of non-stop, flooding rains.  Who wants to look at that?  And, Sister, my weenie, got in the middle of them yesterday and pooped.  I don't know if I can possibly go looking for any now.  Fertilizer perhaps?  Now that would be a positive way to look at things.  I haven't reached my maximum level for beauty though.  I might if I were to start doing Pinterest.


Please, don't all of you jump ship on me yet.  I am pretty hopeless, er, I am still hopeful.  I do not like technology; need an assistant to handle all of it.  It is so frustrating to me.  Nevertheless, I have had this camera for two years, maybe three.  Different lenses and is an SLR which I used to love before the digital days.  So what's the problem?  I just got it out for the first time today.  I simply do not want to read about it and fiddle with it.  Picture me with my head bowed in shame, but, I am going to fiddle with it today.  If I put things away in a cabinet or drawer, I forget about them (okay, I think about them occasionally), but the alternative is leaving it sitting around and I don't like a messy house.

Same thing with my art supplies.  The only place with enough light to work in my house is the dining room table.  It will become covered with paints and brushes, papers et al, and looks so messy.  I have had it all put away since the fall, but am going to get it all back out and start to paint and create again.  Hopeful huh?


Okay, I'll get off the subject.  I call this statue my booger.  I bought it from a small local shop.  It was made by an African American goat herder in a nearby town.  Probably made from an oak tree; it has goat bones for teeth.  


It has a two sided face, four arms and four feet, nostrils and not sure what other carvings are.  Maybe eyes or ears.


Arms and fingers.


Feet and toes.


A look inside one of his gaping mouths.  It is very heavy; must have been awfully hard to carve.  Was it a way to pass the time or a shamanic creation?  I looked at some other tribal African art and saw some similar horned creatures.  Could the creator have remembered something from a long ago culture?  Had an epiphany from somewhere out there?  I bought it for $5.00 and an old, broken harpsichord.  It must have taken the artist a long time to carve it. And, I do so love folk art.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Michael Franks - Down in Brazil


Let me try this again.  Whew.  Sometimes I find it impossible to get things to work right on this blog.  
In the 70's, I found a great songwriter/musician - Michael Franks.  I just love his sound and voice.  If you don't listen to any other songs of his,listen to this one and Antonio's Song.  I tried to get a commercial free copy, but alas, could not figure out how to get one without it.  His albums/cds, whatever, are superb.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Water World


Morning has broken.  The farm where I live is a watery world.  We haven't had this much rain in a long time.  So much, in fact, some roads are closed or washed out, even major highways.  It simply will not stop raining long enough to dry out.  Water stands in the fields.  There is no way I could get in my garden to plant veggies which should have been planted a month ago.  The strawberries are mush.  Did I tell you I dislike rain?  Always, I need sunny days.  The frogs and water lilies are happy though.  Can't believe I made it outside before the lily fully opened.



I have herbs to plant and lots of lavender.



Even my little apple tree that has born its first fruits this spring, is dying from all the rain and wet.  I watch it daily as more leaves turn brown.



Well, here is something that might interest you though I should have taken a better shot at a different angle.  The iris on the left are from plants more than 100 years old.  Merely 12 inches high.  The one on the right is nearly 2 feet higher.  Hybridization I guess.  

The left plants came from an old mountainside homestead.  The log cabin has long since rotted away, though the rock foundation remains.  I heard to look for flowers blooming around the old home to find where the front of the house had been.  This site had previously been in Indian Territory and I wonder where the iris and jonquils might have come from.  My guess is that they came in bulbs, across the country in a covered wagon, from the eastern part of the United States; a sweet reminder for immigrants of their homeland.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Jess Pie


I made my first chess pie for my niece Lauren.  She loves them.  A true southern pie, it must have cornmeal in the filling to be called a chess pie.  History is, it was called jess pie, then with the advent of pie chests, chest pie.  Somewhere on it became Chess Pie.  It really was good and after it cools, just melts in your mouth.  Here's the recipe I used.

Browned Butter Chess Pie

6 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook butter in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often (5 to 6 minutes) until butter just begins to turn brown.  Remove from heat.  Whisk together eggs, lemon juice and vanilla till smooth.  Add sugar then cornmeal, flour and salt and stir.  Whisk in browned butter.  Pour mixture into piecrust of your choice.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until top is lightly browned.  Cool on wire rack.

As an experienced pie baker, I tweaked the recipe.  It had some rigamarole about pre-baking the crust with pie weights for a time which I did not do.  Also, I doubled the filling recipe and used slightly more butter.  For my piecrust, I use both butter and shortening.  It turned out perfect.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

World Naked Gardening Day


  Yes, it is that time again.  A favorite holiday it would seem since I seem to get so many views of this post.  So, what the heck.  Here it comes around again, for old times sake.



The first Saturday in May is World Naked Gardening Day. No kidding. Yes, yours truly used to often garden in the buff in her younger days.  That free spirit Edna St. Vincent Millay also used to garden and weed in the nude at her beloved Steepletop estate in New York.  Known for her wild ways, she famously wrote, "My candle burns at both ends."  I just love her.

Alas, after a bout with skin cancer and my aging skin and body, I no longer garden without clothing and a hat.  It is much cooler without them though.  Oh, and yes, I got caught several times gardening nude. I either ran like a linebacker back to the house or grabbed a workshirt hanging on the tomato cages nearby.  Oddly, I wasn't mortified nor embarrassed. I was pissed - usually confronted the interlopers to let them know that I knew they saw me.  Mind you, I live on a farm and do not abide those who show up unannounced.  Nevertheless, happy Naked Gardening Day this weekend.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Caw Caw Cawing


If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll know how I love birds.  Crows in particular hold a fascination for me.  Don't know why.  Be that as it may, I've been feeding the crows lately and they are coming to eat.  There is a post in the field that I leave dog food and trinkets on.  Then, I go back home and call them, sounding like a mad lady, cawing loudly.  They come, though I wonder what they think of my poor imitation.  The above crow is carved from wood as a decoy.


Above is an oil painting I did called The Crow Picnic.


This young crow is made of paper mache and holds on to the bucking life-sized horse in my dining room.


The above is a wool wall hanging I purchased hung over a doorway.


Not matter what I did, I could not photograph this gouache I painted.  Guess it is the convex glass in the old frame.


Another old crow decoy.


A photo I took of a Parisian crow last trip to France.  Wonder if city crows are more sophisticated than my country crows?


Here is a crow feather.  Crows are supposed to be very intelligent, but this one wasn't.  He and a friend were fighting and teasing an owl in the trees out front.  Next morning, I found a dead crow on the ground where the fight took place.
Native Americans are very superstitious about crows and ravens.  The mean old woman down the lane shoots them and hangs them upside down in her trees, I guess as a way to scare crows away.

But, as I type this, a crow is cawing loudly out my backdoor, which has never happened.  Seems maybe, they are calling me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Who Is This Man?


HBO has produced a new show (well second season I think) called Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.  I taped one show.  Satirist, comedian, social conscious with a twist?  I guess he says what we Yankees cannot.  Is he British, Irish, Scottish?  I don't know.  I had a little bit of a hard time following him; not his diction, but a little too fast.  Has to get it all in I guess.  I think I'll give him another go.  Seems to be popular over here.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pie



My sister has come for a visit this weekend.  She always expects a cherry pie (two cans of cherries cost $6.84), fresh eggs and whatever else I've canned or put up. We have to go to an expensive local restaurant she loves and she has to have a back tickle.  

Yes, she is the older sister.  You have to have one to understand.  Mind you, like being the middle child, older sisters are the queen bees in family dynamics. In fact, I rarely (every few years) get to go to her house because she won't let me bring my dogs.  But, I love her so - can't imagine life without her.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Garden Walkabout



Back home from the city to the farm.  I awoke to a cold, windy morning so I won't be doing much outside (there is really so much to do I don't know where to start).  I took one look at the fish pond, but I won't be climbing in it today.  I did finish the turkey and her poults topiary boxwoods.  But, while gawking, I saw that my old weeping Japanese maple in the foreground has, I think, died.  It had some new leaves come out on it this spring, but they have died.  I thought maybe a frost had gotten them, but nothing is returning.  It just up and died.  I can't believe it.


Noticed my clematis is starting to bloom on the patio garden fence.  Spring is moving right along without me.  I've tried to teach my husband that gardening doesn't wait for anyone, and now, I am going to have to remind myself of that.  But, it's going to have to wait till tomorrow.