Adding to this beautiful initial sketch and title page from Ellen Blonder made me very nervous at first, but then one of my botanical illustration buddies mentioned that if my sketch was, well, sketchier, that would actually help the person who comes after me on the exchange list. I think it was Lee McCaffree who said this. Thanks Lee! That simple thought was a game changer for me.
Remembering that while people had 2 months to create their initial pages, we are more likely to have just 2 weeks to get future sketches done and in the mail if we are to keep this project on time has helped me get back to basics and do what I love to do: walk out in my yard and sketch something that’s there that no one would notice if I didn’t sit down and draw it.
So here’s a branch from my Crape Myrtle that’s setting seed. Next I think I will add a zinnia blossom. I grew California Giants this year and they are giants! Here are a few posing with my vintage Kamaka Ukulele.
Of course the true giants are my 12 foot tall sunflowers! But they won’t fit in a 4″x 6″ sketchbook.
While there’s no frost in sight, there are pumpkins galore in our fading garden. This is about half of the first harvest and there are about this many more remaining in the garden yet to be harvested and set out to cure. We hope they will last until Halloween, safe from rot and pilferage. Vile pumpkin thieves multiply and grow bold as Halloween approaches, as we know from sad experience, but this year we have so many that even if a few went walkabout, we’d still have plenty of Halloween dècor. And all this bounty springs from only 4 hills of pumpkin plants, basically ignored all summer.
The tomatoes are finally coming in to their own and the sunflowers are just now setting blossoms at about 10 feet high but everything else is slowing down to manageable proportions. The aphids and the ladybugs are in a fight to the finish. The aphids are winning and sapping the energy from the corn, squash and cucumbers, but the ladybugs are giving it their all bless them. I’ve never seen so many in one place since I witnessed an aggregation of ladybugs on a hike in Redwood Regional Park many moon ago, and that is a different, winter phenomenon. Possibly I will photograph some of these industrious little aphid-munching factories at work and participate in the Cornell University Lost Ladybug Project.
High Sierra Hijinks
Well hiking in the mountains with kids is just the best way to spend a summer weekend! But that’s not all, folks. We fished also:
Here are the boys on Caples Lake, where the fish were not biting at all, but then neither were the ubiquitous mountain lake mosquitos either, and the weather was fine so at least we were comfortable in the boat while we were NOT catching any fish. Also, none of the other fishermen on the lake were catching anything so we didn’t feel too bad about getting skunked. And finally, if you catch no fish, you don’t have to clean any fish.
During a rest on a conveniently placed log while hiking the Kirkwood Lake Loop, Ryan (age 6) composed this little sketch in his nature journal showing a small wooden dock on the edge of lake and the surrounding trees:
He’s going to have to get a set of Faber Castell Albrecht Duhrer watercolor pencils for his birthday. It’s currently his preferred artist medium and while you always think of mountain lakes as sparkling blue, this color combination is quite accurate to depict the swampy-looking water we saw.
Connor was a trouper on the hike:
Daddy only had to carry him about half of the way. Not bad for 3.
Harvest Proceeds Apace…
The garden continues to grow well. In fact, this photo is about a week old and now you really can’t easily walk between the tomatoes and the cucumbers or the cucumbers and the squash. Trellising cucumbers has its advantages, but it’s a lot of work to set up a trellis system and then keep training the plants up constantly, so the decision was made this year to let the cucumbers sprawl as Gary’s dad used to do. The pumpkins are also creeping into other rows in the back. I’d thought to train them into the back 40 there behind the garden, but they have a mind of their own and will not be trained.
We harvest daily and are getting crazy amounts of squash and cucumbers but nothing else so far. I did see one reddening tomato today and an eggplant that’s ready to stuff. I expect to pick that first garden-ripened tomato some time next week, making this a late year for tomatoes. But once they get going, watch out!
Here’s what I’m doing with the excess zucchini and cucumbers:
Cream of zucchini soup, hold the cream. This soup has only 4 ingredients: one onion briefly sautèed in olive oil, gobs of cubed zucchini, and salt. I throw all that in my largest stock pot and cook it down until the zucchini falls apart. Then after it cools for a bit, I purèe it with the immersion blender I borrowed from Laura and freeze it in my Souper Cube Trays before I vacuum pack it:
Come December I’ll be glad of these little reminders of summer deliciousness! For Gary, I’ve made traditional bread and butter pickles:
I personally am a dill pickle fan and I don’t know how to make those. But this recipe calls for 10 pounds of cucumbers and that pretty much cleared out the excess cucumbers from this week, so HOORAY! Maybe I will make one more batch this year. We’ve planted a second row of cucumbers so we’ll be in cucumber heaven until the end of September if no gophers hear about it. Mum’s the word.
The NCalSBA Sketchbook Exchange is officially underway and I’m working on the title page for my sketchbook, which will start traveling soon and then return to me containing entries from 10 other botanical artists next June. Meanwhile, I will be adding one botanical sketch each month to a new sketchbook belonging to someone else that arrives in my mailbox before sending it on to the next artist.
I made some discoveries about working in a little accordion journal that I post here:
- The accordion book is hard to work on without adding some kind of support underneath whichever side is highest on the page spread you’re working on. Originally, I ordered several different sketchbook options before settling on the Etchr model and you can see in the photo above that one of the other journals turned out to be just the right size for providing that support and it’s peeking out from under the left side of the Etchr sketchbook on my work table. I also tried using a stack of 4×6 index cards and that worked well too because I could make very fine adjustments so that both sides were equal in height and therefore my working surface was flat. This is very important if you’re working over the folds on 2-page spreads.
- I also noticed that the book was unwieldy and tended to unfold itself as I shifted it around until I thought to use the built-in elastic band to hold the rest of the accordion together while I was working. You can see that band on the right side of the image. Luckily, I was not planning to work in that area near the band today. I will make a couple more bands from some 1/8″ elastic as that narrower elastic will not interfere as much while I work and bands that are not attached to the end boards will be easier to shift as I move around while working in an open page spread.
- I wanted to make that circle on my title page and it was bigger than the largest circle my handy circle-making template had to offer so I needed to use my compass. I did NOT want to make even a very small needle hole in the middle of my paper where I was planning to put my echinacea blossom. I have a roll of some white “artist’s” tape that features post-it note-like adhesive. I love that stuff, I think I bought it at Utrecht years ago. After testing carefully, I stacked 3 small pieces of the tape in the area where I needed to place the needle of my compass. It worked perfectly. The hole is in the tape stack, but the needle did not penetrate to the actual paper and the compass did not slip or skip. You can also see a piece of that tape off to the top right on top of my mock-up page spread.
- The creamy hot press paper in this Etchr book is excellent for my Micron Pigma 005 Sepia pen plus colored pencil style of sketching. Graphite pencil marks erase beautifully.
- Finally, I noticed…this is FUN!
2022 Harvest Begins
Those first few barely mature zukes and summer squash are so wonderful just steamed and that’s on the menu for lunch today with a shrimp, avocado and cucumber salad for dinner. Tomorrow is the ultimate slow comfort food: stuffed vegetables featuring that round 8-ball zucchini you see in the basket, upper right.
Technical difficulties resolved so I give to you a portrait of my gardening overalls. With me in them. At the garden. Overalls are are having a fashion moment, actually, but possibly not these railroad stripe overalls from Duluth Trading Company with the neoprene knee pad inserts installed. Nothing is more comfy than a slightly too-large pair of overalls.
Comfort food and comfort clothing. I’m all in.
How Does Your Victory Garden Grow?
Five weeks after planting the corn is not as high as an elephant’s eye, but it’s growing! Notice some seed got dropped in a clump there in the middle. Thinning has never been my strong suit in gardening. Every seedling deserves its chance.
We’re growing corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash (8-ball for stuffing, Black Beauty and Yellow Summer), green beans, Thai eggplant and another variety of eggplant that was on hand when were at the nursery, 2 surviving shishito pepper plants and some struggling sunflower seeds. Please be aware that if you live nearby you may find orphan zucchini on your doorstep in a few weeks.
Our first pumpkin. Check back around Halloween.
That first tomato seems to take forever to ripen. These are Beefsteak. We also have Ace tomatoes in a nod to my gardening Grandpa Corbett and 2 Celebrity plants to replace some of the Ace plants that withered and died inexplicably. Come July Caprese Salad will be on the menu. Homemade Mozzarella might be in order. Excuse me while I go over to New England Cheesemaking Supply and read up on making Mozzarella.
You can find me in the early mornings in my red gardening shoes, gardening gloves, sun hat and railroad stripe overalls (birthday present to myself–with padded knees) wearing my gardening tool belt on a weed seek and destroy mission. I am particularly focused on ridding the area of the dreaded puncture vine. The weeds always win, but the battle must be joined nevertheless. Why is there no picture of me in my overalls? Technical difficulties. Really technical. Honest.
In a real jam…
As I try to decide which is better: the no-cook freezer jam, on the left in the photo above, or the old fashioned cooked jam on the right. Certainly they look different at this point just after completion. Although the freezer jam is not technically complete since it sits overnight at room temperature so possibly the color settles down and darkens to look more like standard jam.
Conveniently, a small flat of strawberries (8 baskets) is the perfect amount of fruit to make one batch of each kind of jam so I thought I’d take a flyer on freezer jam this year as I’ve heard people singing its praises over the years but never tasted it or tried making it before. The p-b and j school crowd has no comment on this thorny issue other than a previously stated general preference for Grandma’s homemade jam over store bought.
A very limited straw poll among adults indicates that whatever one’s mom or grandmother makes or made is what people seem to prefer. If I start making both consistently, it will be a quandary in the future for my grandchildren. I have a sneaking suspicion there will be advocates on both sides with a slight edge for freshly made cooked jam.
All I know for sure is that anything made with the wonderful strawberries to be had at local stands all around us right now is going to be head and shoulders above what’s on grocery store shelves for berry-liscious good flavor.