Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ramps

My back yard... look at all of the ramps!

The ramps are up! Mushrooms aren’t far behind! I love to eat in spring and summer. Each couple of weeks brings a new treat.

Ramps for supper

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Seeds and Soup

My seeds have arrived! I ordered the an interesting looking broccoli, called Broccoli Romanesco. It is made up of green spiral spikes. I have no idea if it will do well here or if it even tastes good but it sure looks like fun. I also ordered Ruby Queen corn which is one of my favorites for my very poor soil. Ruby Queen is drought resistant and long standing in the field. And it has a really cool reddish purple color to boot. Great for rainbow dinners, served along side  yellow, burgundy and green beans, yellow and red beets, and purple, yellow and red tomatoes. This year I saw an ad for a white tomato. It didn’t look very tasty to me. My peas have sprouted and I am thinking of putting out some early lettuce and spinach with row covers. It is so hard to wait on the fresh vegetable season.

Tomorrow my mother is coming up to help out and I am making onion soup for supper tomorrow. We usually have cheese fondue when mom comes. It is her favorite, and a favorite of the children too. But since I haven’t made any french bread recently I decided soup would be a nice change. We can use up the stale bread as floating croutons on the soup. We like it with swiss cheese melted in the broiler on top of the croutons with strands of melted cheese drifting through the soup.

French Onion Soup

8 to 10 yellow onions sliced on the thin side.

about 4 Tablespoons of butter

about 2 to 4 tablespoons of oil (I like grape seed or olive oil)

a splash (1/2 to 1 cup) of good red wine

2 quarts of chicken stock or chicken and beef mixed (all beef stock is too strong and overpowers the onions)

Melt butter in a soup or stock pot with the oil. Saute the onions slowly on medium to low heat until they begin to brown slightly. Add a pinch of sugar to help the onions caramelize. When you have a nice rich brown color to the onions add the red wine and deglaze the pot and cook off the alcohol. Add the stock and simmer gently. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with a slice of chewy or stale french bread floating on top. Sprinkle with a generous mound of swiss cheese. Put the bowl of soup with the floating bread and cheese under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling. Be careful of hot bowls. I always have extra bread for dipping and grapes or apples alongside for a nice contrast. My children love this dinner.

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Plaster Trees

Brad Gray and I constructing trees at Highland Nature Sanctuary, Bill Brown worked with us also.

Chestnut tree. After a base coat of plaster, we rendered the bark with trowels.

The Tulip Poplar

The summer before last, Bill Brown, Brad Gray, and I made an old growth forest of plaster and wood frame trees. I think this was one of my favorite projects ever. The company was great. Bill and Brad are hysterically funny when they are together. And making trees out of plaster was a stretch for me artistically. I was skeptical about the feasibility of constructing realistic species specific bark with wet plaster and trowels on a vertical surface. It worked! And what fun we had doing it! I’m hoping to work there again this summer. In the mean time if anyone needs Faux Bois work in plaster just give me a call.

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Light at the End of the Tunnel

Last May

I dislike February. I love the first cold day, the first snowflake, the smell of woodsmoke, hot cocoa, and even a good brisk snowstorm, but by the middle of February I am finished with snow and cold. I am finished with mud and closed up houses and winter coats and winter vegetables. This week has been bliss. First the Mourning Dove and now the warmth. I can almost taste spring. I planted my peas on Saturday. I hanged the grow lights and filled the seedling trays. Tonight I ordered seeds: golden beets, colored carrots, lettuces, summer squash, Ruby Queen corn, and Black Krim tomatoes, my favorite! There is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

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The Moon Book

Last night I had to attend a meeting of the 4H Small Animal Committee. We are responsible for the poultry and rabbit barn at the county fair. We have a very old fashioned county fair. Everyone attends, quite a few people take the week off work so they can participate in the fair. My aunt Norma, the champion baker at the Mason County Fair and Ohio State Fair, shared her secrets for fair baking. Year before last, I won 1st place for my chocolate cake and my pecan pie and 3rd place for my carrot cake.  In the evening all of the prize winning bake goods are auctioned off. Mrs. Ross bought my chocolate cake. Which was very special because she was one of the very best bakers in the county, the one who got the blue ribbon in every category that she entered. I was honored. I didn’t get to bake last year because we had to stay at the fairgrounds and give Sarah’s chickens a bath so they would be fresh and white for showing the next day. I never thought I would give a chicken a bath, its quite an experience.

I’ve been working on the next illustration for the moon book. I started with a pencil drawing, applied watercolor, and I am finishing with oil paint  after applying a glaze barrier. The moon is listening to the bullfrogs and the whip-o-wills. I long for summer. I can almost smell it.

Moon illustration in progress

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My 3rd Day

If I don’t get high speed internet soon my blog will suffer a premature demise. It took 18 minutes to load this page. I awoke at 5 A.M. and yesterday’s romantic chickens aren’t so romantic at 5:30 on a freezing morning. Did you know that a wet bare hand can really stick to a frosty pump handle. Fortunately your body heat unsticks your skin fairly quickly. On the bright side I heard the mourning dove’s cry as I scraped the windshield before leaving for school, spring will be here soon!

I want to tell you about a fun website that my son and I were exploring this afternoon called  Canon Creative Park. They have downloadable paper projects for just about everything. We were looking at airplanes, John’s current obsession. My favorite ones are the beetles. You download and print the pieces of a 3-D model of the bug, cut and glue the model following the directions. They are surprising. They have mechanical toys made out of paper that work. Wheels turn and pieces move, the tiger jumps through the hoop. Baskets and architecture. Famous buildings from around the world. I found this site a while ago when I was searching paper art. People do amazing things sculpting with paper. When I was in collage we had a professor who had us explore folding paper in order to manipulate the plane. It was an eye opening exercise. There are artist who can create intricate patterns and shapes with elaborate sequences of folds. Try a search of paper art, you will be astonished by the skill , talent, and imagination of paper artists.

I am very happy to have an order for cards to fill tonight from a longtime loyal customer and seller of beautiful things, Shaker Traditions in Evanston IL. So I’ll have to keep my post short tonight as I am needed in my studio.

Studio window with a new banner design, some small paintings and card designs

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My 2nd Day

Sometimes life is complicated. Just when you think you everything organized it happens. Got up early and put my son on the bus, folded the laundry, made dentist appointments, had the septic tank pumped (ugh), returned numerous other phone calls, went to the studio to finish a sample for a painting job, and left just in time to get worm medicine for all of the animals (its spring) before a tutoring job. I was proud of myself. Had my lessons ready and my student was working hard when halfway through the lesson, the phone rings. My teen was broken down on the side of the road. Oh well. So much for work. The school resource officer came out and tried to help us get it started but it was hopeless. She stayed with her flashing lights on the sheriffs car while the school traffic went past so that everyone would slow down and pass safely. My poor teen was so embarrassed. All of her friends wanted to know what she had done wrong. While we waited for the tow-truck she spent her time explaining in text messages that she didn’t wreck or get pulled over. It was pretty funny in the end, although my tutoring schedule is out of whack and this is one of those weeks when I haven’t a moment to spare.

On the upside, when I stopped at the feed store to get worm medicine, they had seeds and soil out. So this weekend we’ll start cabbages and plant our sugar snap peas. Sugar snap peas are one our favorite spring treats. They’ll be ready to eat at the same time as the asparagus. I can hardly wait! Asparagus is just like sweet corn in that when you pick it just before you eat the sugar content is very high. When and if you ever get to eat asparagus freshly picked you will never want it from the store again. We roast ours with olive oil and salt and pepper in a hot oven or on the grill, sautéed in butter with lemon juice or in an omelet. While the children are so greedy for the first stalks in the spring that they will eat it raw, they are sick and tired of it by the end of the season. Fortunately such a long time passes between seasons that fresh asparagus is always joyfully welcomed. Now I’m hungry and I think we still have weeks to go before we get anything but wintered over red beets and yellow beets from the garden.

A winter egg. Thank you Henny Penny.

At least the chickens have started laying eggs again, omelets for dinner?

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