"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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mellow Yellow


Well, I started out this post and was going to title it bitch, bitch, bitch.  With all the work on the gardens this spring and summer, we'll be lucky to get much.  The rare spring and early summer torrential rains did a number on the vegetables and fruits and now an outbreak of tomato hornworms has killed/denuded most of my tomatoes, my favorite fruits in the home garden.


But, the weeds have no problems growing.  I've had poison ivy already this summer and the ticks are in plentiful numbers.


I did see a baby Buddha's hand last night on my citron tree.  After nearly losing everything in my greenhouse this winter due to the propane heater running out of fuel, I have a few different citrus trees putting on some fruits.


May be able to make some more limoncello this year.  I could drink that whole bottle right now (but it would kill me).  But, then, I think, in spite of the 100 degree temperatures we are having and will have through August, it really isn't that bad.  I can take it.  I'll just stay in the house for the rest of the summer.


I'm going to the city today to see my kids and grandkids.  That is what I need.  Oliver chilling way back several summers ago.  He just turned 6.  How did that happen?


Isobel is excited to play in the sprinkler and she'll be 8 in September.  Will wonders never cease?


And my baby bumblebee, Penny Lane, is about to turn 6 months old.  What more can a person ask for?  Or, as they say about life giving you lemons...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Turtle Time


It's turtle time again at the farm.  You can see how exciting a life I lead here.  Be that as it may, I do get a kick out of feeding the fish and turtles every evening at one of the ponds.  I have many water turtles there, but the meany snapping turtles have become quite bold.  Before I knew it the other eve, one had sped out of the water and was two feet away from my feet before I noticed it.  There is a male and female.  And, they love leftovers.  I called them meanies because they usually only like live baby fish that are waiting for me at the edge of the pond when I arrive and they are considered an aggressive species.  Their ancestor, the Alligator Snapping Turtle, can weigh 250 lbs. but thankfully I don't have any of those in my ponds.  They usually stay in streams and rivers.


They can stick their necks out very far and I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.




Here is a young Red Eared Slider turtle coming for a snack.  There are many of these in the pond.  Unlike the box or land turtles around, their feet are much larger and webbed for swimming.  Some of them have become very friendly and used to me while others float offshore with their heads above the water waiting for me to toss slices of bread their way.


This one decided to try Thai noodles.


When the other one appeared, it decided to score the chicken tender and quickly swam away with it.


So many cute creatures at the farm right now.  Tiny tree frogs, peepers and toads about the size of your little fingernail are everywhere.  I wonder how many we've squished.  A box turtle was feasting on some of the fallen peaches this morning and of course, the crows were calling me.  I was watering all the potted plants, it was 8:00 am and I was sweating like a pig.  It will be 100 degrees today and I won't be going out again until this evening to feed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Where The Wild Things Grow




With the unbelievable weather we've had this year so far, about the only things we are going to harvest are the wild things.  Wild flowers, fruits...  I picked these wild plums from an old grouping of trees that haven't produced a crop in nearly 3 years.  I had nearly given up on them, thinking the trees too old and that they had stopped producing.

I've been watching them since spring and find the deer under them daily as they love to eat the plums.  They are finally ripening and I picked nearly two gallons this morning.  It was cool and windy.  Such a treat after weeks of having to stay inside most of the day.  I can't do 100 degrees.

I'll make juice of these for jelly and our 5 month old grandbabe Penny Lane.  It really makes me wonder about the old saying feast or famine.  Can you imagine how the farmers had to depend on the weather and whatever, to feed their family throughout the year?  The wild blackberries did just so so this year as did the mulberries.  The indians that used to live around here were nomadic and roamed the plains; would set up new camps, perhaps following the food sources?

There will be plenty more of these.  I'll let you know if I am covered in chiggers tomorrow.  

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Got Nothin' But Pomegranates


It is so hot at the farm, I can only stand going out in the early morning to water and check out the plants and trees.  It is still in the 90's after dark, and did I mention the humidity, which makes it seem much hotter - the heat index they call it on the television.  I don't want to know that it feels like 110 degrees outside.  It makes it worse.  

Nevertheless, my pomegranate shrub/bush is coming along in this heat.  First, the beautiful colored flowers.


Then, the petals wither and fall off.


Then the fruit begins to swell.


And here is my adolescent fruit.  It's about the size of a golf ball.  Last year I only had one fruit and this year many more, though 50% of the fruits failed.  I will be gifted with several this year though.

If so inclined, you too can grow pomegranates in a pot (gets too cold here in the winter to plant outside).  Just look up Logee's Greenhouse @ www.LOGEES.Com.  Be careful though.  They have so many things the gardener cannot turn down.  Patchouli plant?  Vanilla bean orchids?  Cinnamon bark plants.  A greenhouse full of different citrus trees?  It is addicting.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Perfectionism

I didn't know it until I was older, but I am a perfectionist.  Early on, I thought perhaps it was a good quality to have.  

Wrong.

Perfection is unattainable. Nothing is ever as I wish it was; it's never good enough.  The pie might have had a more symmetrical lattice crust on top and on and on and on...

Being a very curious person, (I believe I told you I used to read encyclopedias for fun), I have leaped into everything that interested me, headfirst, without fear or abandon (every mother's nightmare wild child).
It is how I learned.

This could go on and be too lengthy, so I'll cut to the chase.

On my creative side, my oil painting has always been a thorn in my side.  Never have been satisfied with my work.  I have always used the old master's glaze technique for it was what interested me (and was the only one I knew how to do). 
Just like a carpenter's tools or a surgeon's instruments, an artist's brushes too have specific uses.  You must know which brush to use.

Over the years I have come to love modern/abstract art.  Picasso is a personal favorite and a more recent artist, George Condo.  My list is long.

I've always wanted to do some modern paintings, but didn't know how.  I bought handfuls of palette knives and don't have a clue as to the use of each one, and it will be a steep learning curve. 

So, I went and bought the largest tubes of oil paint I could find, a regular sized canvas and went to town on it.  I had a ball.  I learned something too.  You need a good underpainting/drawing to start with.  Oh, I do love shortcuts, but, well, you know... another lesson.

I'll show you a tiny bit of the painting - a heavy impasto and just trying to get total canvas coverage like with the old technique.  It has been a lot of fun and I'll keep trying.  My goal is to do some very large canvases.  I told you. Dive right in there head first.


Did you notice the hand model?  It will be holding the title of the painting.

  

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.