Update on the Accidental Garden aka Hanging Gardens


So, as I’ve mentioned before, we didn’t put much thought into our garden this year being that we thought we were buying a house and moving out. Regardless of our neglect, the garden thrives on. And to his credit, my hubby waters the place every morning before he goes to work. In regards to actually planting anything, those that were are long gone:

Seedless Bok Choi

This is the Bok Choi I planted in early spring hoping to have it ready before the heat…unfortunately my timing was again off, and it bolted. I kept it in the bed, hoping that they would have some seeds to harvest…but alack and to my horrified dismay: seed pods with no seeds in them! Can anyone say Monsanto? I blame them for everything!

 

But on to cheerier, hardier things:

Mystery Squash

Early summer my hubby discovered a squash plant of unknown origin growing in a corner of one of our raised beds. Actually, he found many, but pulled all but one. This move is something he regretted, because as the plant grew, it formed lovely flowers, but no fruit.

With our non-expert, non-researched, unfounded opinions, we concluded that the plant would be a dud because there were no other plants around it to aid fertilization. So my hubby, unsure of what to do with the many gangly arms the plant was putting out, decided to strap them along the top of our fence. If they weren’t going to bear fruit, they were at least going to green up the place and we were going to enjoy their blooms. Well, sure enough, suddenly the splendid thing started to bear fruit…and it turns out to be a most amazing squash (exact type not yet identified) that I had discovered I loved last year at the farmer’s market!

The Fruit of our Non-Labor

Well, if we wanted to stop it from bearing fruit we couldn’t. The thing is a monster growing machine of the most impressive kind. Our impromptu “Hanging Garden” is such a success it even reaches into our neighbors yard where it also hangs it’s fruit tantalizingly. We are not opposed to sharing, so when I finally met our neighbor the other day, I encouraged her to please pluck and use the squash encroaching on her side of the fence.  Not just that side of the fence, but the back-end too:

Over the fence facing a back field
Hanging Bounty

The trick is to know when to pick them. One must wait until they are a deep red-orange for optimal tastiness, but weight is also a factor and I’m not sure if the stems can sustain such a load for too long. If anyone can hazard a guess as to the type of squash it is, please let me know!

I ventured out into the back field to take these shots, knowing full well I’d pay for it. You see, the back field is empty save for two things: moles and goat head weeds. Both have their disadvantages for gardens…and walking. We seem to have the mole problem taken care of this year, the goat heads are another thing. My hubby has been waging war with them since we moved here. If you’re not familiar with them, feel free to wikipedia the awful things. They grow, well…like weeds, and produce the hardest, spikiest seed that when in contact with anything rubber and full of air, aka bike tires, will pop them like no ones business. If one is unfortunate enough to track several of those into the house, and say those awful things actually relinquish their spiky hold on the soles of your shoes, then watch out! My bare foot has come in contact more than once with those nasty buggers hiding in the carpet tufts and has never failed in eliciting a scream of pain followed by a stream of expletives.

When visiting the field, one has to resigns oneself to the fact that there will be a lot of goat head removal before going even near the garden or the house or even drive-way (where our bikes reside). Check out the bottom of my flip-flops from my short photo-op adventure:

Goat Heads make spongy work of my poor flip-flops

 

More than once, a spike has managed to make its way all the way through the sole to my tender tootsies. Nasty stuff.

Moving on from nastiness, I leave you with a few images of the glorious growth in our Accidental Garden:

Morning Glories

Black tomatoes

(okay, we did plant the tomatoes, but also unplanned ‘cuz my boss begged me to take a few off his hands (he had over 60 tomato plants donated to the club and couldn’t fit them all)…so kind of accidental if you think about it…)

 

S

 

 

 

 

 

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At the Farmer’s Market


Forward momentum. That’s what I’m all about these days. After an inspiring visit to Canada to see my sister doing her Farmer’s Market and other shows, I wanted to get started in my neck of the woods. I enquired about the local Farmer’s Market but didn’t hear back, didn’t hear back…and then suddenly an email on Friday asking if I could set up on Saturday!!

Well, I couldn’t say no, but I was also nervous about “yes” because I wasn’t prepared. But, I went for it. Luckily I could borrow a tent last-minute from my husband’s place of work, and a few tables from my mother in-law. It was hasty, but it worked out in the end:

My rushed set-up. Not spectacular, but it did the job

I’ve now committed to the market every Saturday until the end of the season. That’s 12 shows total. I’m not sure it makes the most sense monetarily, but I am looking at it as excellent promotion. How is anyone supposed to know I exist if I don’t get out there? The wonderful thing is that, after only being here for a few years, I already know quite a few people in the community and they are quite supportive. It seems I have a lot of interest from tourists and locals alike with my pet portraits.

I’m selling pet portrait commissions along with small items such as prints, cards, small hand made ceramic charms and hand drawn magnets such as these:

Hand made, one of kind magnets

As well as cards, which I’ve posted before, either here on this blog or at my sister blog: www.vieveandlynsker.wordpress.com where my sister and I share all things creative.

Yesterday I showed up at Costco, ready to buy a tent with walls, only to discover that “summer is over”, at least, according to retail land. So, I was a bit flustered having no back-up plan. But after a quick consult with my very capable and steady sister-in-law, and the help of her smart phone ( I need one of those BAD!) we were able to locate a shade canopy, not exactly the style I wanted, but available at Friedman’s. At that point, I would have bought anything at any cost because I just wanted to get a damn tent for this upcoming Farmer’s Market. Luckily I was in luck, because though the tent didn’t have walls, it happened to be on sale, so instead of $100 it was $89. Sold! What a relief.

I’m not totally where I want to be in terms of the perfect, most simple and light market set-up, but I’m getting there. Wish me luck!

S

From the Lost Art Archive


 

So, I was trying to throw together a last-minute portfolio for a job listing I found on Craigslist calling for an illustrator…and I found the most interesting things I’d long forgotten about. It’s amazing how one can create something, put a whole lot of effort and time into it  and then completely forget about it. Finding them again is like a revelation; memories of making it comes back in a flood (…or sometimes it doesn’t and it’s even more of a mystery “Wow! How did I do that?”).

In the pile of lost art I discovered these characters from years back when I was teaching ESL in Korea. I remember deciding that it would be helpful to have visual cues while telling the story in English. It would also help to keep the kids’ attention. As I recall, I was having so much fun I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning colouring these. I laminated them and stuck them on popsicle sticks. When my year at that particular school was up, they asked if they could keep them and I said no. I’d put too much of my creative energy into them and was not willing to give them up…what a Scrooge, eh? The thought of them being abused, folded and destroyed by little hands was too much.

Interestingly enough, the Gingerbread man in the story I told did not have a fox in it, but rather, an alligator!

 

 

They were done with colour pencil. I had a limited number of colours so in order to have any complexity I had to mix layers and layers of colour. I love how they turned out.

 

S

Latest Rock Painting


Painted on a scrap of bamboo board.

Finally I finished this painting. It’s been in the works for a while – not because it takes long to paint, but because I had to walk away from it for a while because my energies were focused elsewhere. It was really  nice to return to it and have it happen really easily. Like I was saying to my sister, painting rocks feels like a spiritual practice; it’s deeply calming and peaceful. I hope to do many more of these. As it is, it is only my second rock painting.

 

S

Creativity with Kid Assist


My day-time job is teaching art to kids at the local Boys and Girls Club. I’m blessed that my working life still involves creativity. It has surprised me over the years how inhibited some kids can be, I had assumed that the joy of childom was to be very uninhibited. Instead, I find the majority are worried about things turning out just right or perfect. So, I approach art in as non-judgmental a way as possible and encourage them to “not do as I do and think outside the box”. Naturally, however,  they want to copy me. I used to make an example piece before class to show the kids, but things always ended in disappointment because the kids couldn’t exactly replicate it which was frustrating and it stunted their imagination. At one point I tried to dumb down my art, but that didn’t work for me and I felt like I wasn’t setting a good example. I’ve arrived at the point where I say to the kids “I am A LOT OLDER than you- I’m 31, imagine how good you’ll be in 20+ years!” That seems to appease them a little bit. Also describing the project and then doing it alongside them, effectively creating and discovering together seems to be the trick.

Each week this summer we have a theme and I ended up with some pretty neat artwork by the end of it. I thought I’d share. This is not anything I would usually think to do, but because it was with the kids, I discovered I was less inhibited and in trying to teach the kids open-mindedness and a “let’s see what happens” attitude, I ended up opening up a lot myself.  I’ll show you some things I made during Pirate Week and then Super Hero Week:

This was a project where I showed the kids pictures of pirates and encouraged them to come up with a character all their own. I demonstrated by drawing along-side them. They liked this guy so much that they asked my not to color him but photocopy him instead so that they could have a coloring page. I obliged.

We worked with acrylic paint. I initially started painting this guy to demonstrate how a painting looks finished once all the white of the page is filled in (kids have a resistance to “taking their time” and “filling the page”. I ended up really liking this guy. The kids encouraged me to add a parrot.

The next week was Hero Week. The theme was essentially about local heroes like firemen, policewomen etc., but what was much more inspiring were super heroes with super powers, so we stretched the theme for the sake of art!

I kind of drew a blank on what to do. I often encourage the kids to draw what they like and know (rather than something so outlandishly difficult that they don’t know how to draw it and end up begging me to do it instead), so that’s what I ended up telling myself to do and came up with: Super Artist!

I taught the kids about cartoons and the various cells they could draw. We went over a few conventions and then we went at it. I encouraged everyone to come up with their own hero they could be proud of. The kids as a group agreed that a hero is someone (or thing) that helps and protects others. So I came up with an octopus that saves the little fishies. I also turned this into a coloring page because the kids begged me. I was impressed by the kids’ creativity on this one ( wish I’d had the foresight to bring my camera to work and take pics of their amazing work!).

This was a watercolor class dealing with wax resist, sharpie outline and then salt for added visual texture. This was my demo piece and I really like how it came out!

 

So, though I’ve considered the art I do in the studio and the art I do with the kids very different things, I realized after those two weeks that the separation is beginning to blur. The more I bring what I do to the table, the more the kids seem to be into it and respond to the lessons and the more fun I have!

I appreciate all my kid colleagues who helped me with this break-through moment!

 

 

S

From the Lavender Laboratory


What to do with 8 oz of Lavender oil and 2 cups of lavender buds?

I don’t know. I haven’t come close to using all that, but I can show you what I did do to use about 16 drops of that 8 ozs.

Important: Before beginning experiments, decant lavender oil into a dropper bottle; this will make life a lot easier.

Lavender Laboratory Experiment #1 : Lavender Relaxation & Refresher Spray

  • Fill clean, dark-coloured, spray bottle with filtered water (can be distilled but not necessary)
  • add 4-8 drops lavender oil
  • That’s it. What? You expected more? If this were rocket science, I would not be doing this my friend.

Shake and spritz liberally. But not too liberally if you need to get things done because it might put you to sleep.

Lavender Laboratory Experiment #2: Foot Scrub

What you need:

  • Clean container with screw top lid
  • sugar (any kind; the grain and texture is up to you. I used pure cane sugar)
  • olive oil
  • Approx. 8 drops lavender oil
  • pinch of lavender buds

My jar was a small face-cream-sized jar, so I used a 1/4 cup sugar and filled the rest with olive oil and mixed it. You can use another oil like almond or grape  for example, but a thick oil is nice for something as gnarly, dry and cracked as your feet very moisturizing for your deserving tootsies.

Note that lavender buds are optional…they can look a little bit like mouse turds on the floor of your tub after a good foot scrubbing…so if you’re not easily spooked (meaning you don’t have a tendency to jump into the air landing on the most elevated surface available while screaming “mouse! mouse!”), it’s easy enough to wash down the drain and adds a nice touch to the scrub, otherwise just leave it out.

Lavender Laboratory Experiment #3: Lavender Salt

  • Any amount kosher salt  (in this case about 3 tablespoons)
  • An appropriate amount of lavender as to not over or underwhelm the salt (in this case, a pinch)
  • Combine.

Note: If you have a sea salt mill, combine coarse sea salt and lavender buds in the mill for a more fragrant salt.

Aye, aye captain, but what to do with lavender salt?

It’s amazing combined with lemon and butter(or olive oil) as a rub for chicken destined for the grill…or so I’ve been told and plan on trying.

Or perhaps on buttered popcorn…yum!

Here’s what I did do:

Pan fried asparagus with butter and lavender salt.

Need I say more?

…okay, just a little more:

As you can see, my experiments are none too scientific as I didn’t provide any measurements ( okay, I did mention a ‘quarter cup’ once and ‘a pinch’ more than that…but how big are your fingers compared to mine? See what I mean?),which is to say, experiment for yourself and see because how am I supposed to know how much scent or flavour you like? Have fun and let me know how your experiments turn out. Got any amazing lavender recipes or home-made cosmetic ideas? Please share!

S

Lavender Fields Forever


My friend and I recently went to the Lavender Festival in Sonoma

The entrance fee was a mere $5 dollars and well worth it. Vendors were set up all around a lavender field full of the Grosso and Provence varieties.

I sound like I know what I’m talking about but that’s only because they also had on-going seminars about lavender and what was growing in that particular field. 

Both my friend and I were rather excited and frolicked through the place gaily for several hours. There was food, wine, stuff to buy, wreath making, photo ops and an outdoor spa demonstrating some of the products.

In the end we came away with some pretty neat stuff. We wanted to buy the whole place, but in an attempt to be conservative ended up with a 16 oz bottle of lavender oil  and a bag of edible lavender to split and from which we could make all the other products on display there ( or so we hoped in our inspired state).

 

Did I end up using any of my portion of lavender oil (all 8 oz of it)? That my friends is for another post. For now, just enjoy the lovely view of lavender! Get yourself to a lavender festival if you get the chance- a great way to spend a few hours ( and a few bucks)!

 

S