Monday, April 20, 2015

Halfway Out the Door Drawing

We're leaving in the early afternoon tomorrow for two weeks in Spain-- Barcelona, then Girona just up the Costa Brava from Barcelona, then back to Barcelona.  Today was the expected flurry of packing, finding a house key, wrestling Jesse to Top Dog for a two week spring break vacation, etc etc.  Finished up with a sweet meeting of my journal group from 6 - 8 (only I came home early), a run-thru Whole Foods for a take-out dinner, and now home.  I came so close to not drawing anything and not posting today BUT while the little quiche was in the toaster oven I sketched the delicious salad, and then when the quiche came out of the oven, I had to draw it, too.  Both were so good and very simple foods.  They should be easy to duplicate.  I especially liked the crust on the quiche, which had no flour in it but was made of sprouted almonds ground up, golden flax (seeds), rosemary, coconut oil, and Celtic sea salt.  It had been pressed into a little pie pan and filled with the spinach, sun-dried tomato, and white miso and pureed squash filling with some nutmeg sprinkled on top.

I'll be drawing a lot in Spain but probably not posting due to lack of scanner and poor quality of phone photos of drawings.  So look for gigantic catch-up posts after May 5!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Moss Garden Replenishing

The perfect time to harvest moss to replenish your moss terrarium is in a drizzly rain after it has been raining steadily for long enough to refill all ephemeral ponds and saturate the ground enough to create a sucking mud.  Really, the moss is happy and bright, and it doesn't even seem to notice that it has been transplanted.  My moss garden was dried up and dead after a period of neglect this winter.  Step one was to put on the ancient, heavy rubber raincoat that I bought for the equivalent of about $5 in a gift shop on the rainiest, coldest, bleakest day of travel that I can ever remember-- on the Isle of Wight in the south of England -- and that I have failed to put a dent in in 25 years.  This coat is heavy but perfectly rainproof, unstylish and not cute, and it only comes down to a little above my knees, leaving my legs to get soaking in heavy rain.  But the thing is so sturdy that it defies getting rid of.  So I slithered into its chilly, rubbery embrace and set out to find moss.

Step 2 was to clean out the old dead garden, immediately followed by step 3, putting back the gravel into the bottom of the jar.  I also sprinkled in a little compost to sort of anchor the gravel.  Then step 4, which was to stuff the new moss into the bottle, not planting it, but just sort of pressing it toward the ground with a chopstick or a dinner knife.

The cork on my bottle has an interesting story connected to it.  I've had this very large cork for several years, and it happens to fit perfectly in the mouth of the bottle that is my jar.  I found the cork in Italy behind some abandoned buildings that included a cantina (wine cellar).  There were some very large jars for storing wine, and a couple of them had old corks stoppering them still.  I took one and brought it home, and I carved a relief print on the top of the cork.  The abandoned buildings were in a very old village named Salci, and a friend who had been born there told me that the coat of arms of Salci had been a bull standing over some snakes.  So that's what I carved on the cork (drawing 4463 is actually a print made by stamping the cork on a stamp pad and then on the parchment).  Drawing 4464 is of the cork itself, now serving as a stopper for my moss garden, which dries out very quickly with out it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Botanical Garden

At our family outing at the UNCA Botanical Gardens this afternoon we discovered the following unexpected curiosities:  J and M found a viaduct through which a creek flowed, the walls of which were covered with really interesting graffiti. J leapt across the rocks and went into the viaduct to take some pictures while M watched him.  P and I found a plant called a perfoliate bellwort that has leaves (folia) through which the stem pierces a hole (per), hence its name, we assumed.  D and I admired dense clumps of star chickweed;  H and I found an unusual sculpture that was formed like a cup held by giant tree-like hands.  A very sweet visit and walk under lowering skies, and a few raindrops just as we were heading to Greenlife for dinner.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Walking the Other River Trail

This looks at first glance like the walk to Michelle's house, but it's the opposite direction on the river. Again, the walk starts in the  upper left hand corner, only this time I first walked a short trail that we mow in our back woods, and I noticed how the wooly adelgids are really flourishing on the hemlocks.  Well, too bad, but we are just going to let nature take its course-- $700 to treat them, and the treatment lasts for only three years.  We treated them once and now they're back.  We can't put poisons down in our yard because the adjacent field is part of the organic farm.  Along with the adelgids, we are hosts to several families of groundhogs.  I drew a few of their mounds and holes, down by the fence line.  I think about tossing a cherry bomb down some of the holes, but that would probably just cause them to move closer to our house.

Still in the back yard woods I saw a pretty stand of bluebells and so many Mayapples.  On through the broken stile and out onto the hillside the mountain view is gorgeous.  A lone Canada goose was strolling around;  then it took off and flew into the wheat field.  I walked along the road a short bit in order to cross the bridge, and right after that comes the trail.  One of the first little places along the river , which this trail follows, is the spot where J and I put in a coracle that we made a few years ago and tested it out.  It floated!  We played in the little boat all afternoon, the culmination of two summers of making that coracle.  We may remake it so that it's easier to paddle this summer.

The trees along this part of the trail are amazingly animated and hung with large liana-like grapevines.  It's a very rain-forest-like place.  Soon I came to a rocky part of the trail that climbs up high above the river.  Up here there were many wild flowers including crane's bill, Mayapple flats, blue asters, spring beauties, and Solomon's seal leafing out.  I passed a picnic with a guitar player on some rocks in the river;  then on the right I could see the white barn and some sheep sitting in the field facing the west.  It was getting ready to rain, very dark and cloudy, and the sheep were acting like cows before a storm.

Then I passed the spot where Michelle and I rebuilt our cairns this past fall, and I am happy to report the cairns are still stacked for the most part, and the plants have filled in so that the cairns will not be so easy to reach this summer.  I could see a field of something bright yellow in the distance-- mustard?  When I reached the River Bend area I hit 1.5 miles and turned around, making this an easy three mile trip.  The rain held off until right after I got home.  Oh-- the yellow on this page comes from the stem of the golden celandine in my garden.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You Can Install a New Fluidmaster in 15 Minutes!

According to the box, even I, the non-plumber, can install my new Fluidmaster in 15 minutes AND improve toilet performance.  How can I resist such a promise?  So at top left is the bucket of seriously black water from the tank, which I slowly removed from the tank using the ratty sponge at lower right (4443).  I believe I used up my 15 minutes doing that chore.

Next came the fun of locating our inadequate adjustable wrenches, both shown on the right.  The real killer of the project was removing the worn and impossibly- welded- to- the- end- of- the- threaded- thingy that sticks out of the bottom of the tank.  At least an hour of not-very-pleasant behavior on my part as I embraced the toilet bowl in order to stick my head under the tank and squeeze my left hand and the wrench or pliers or whatever they are in a death grip on the slippery plastic lock nut (4438) and turned it clockwise about 250 partial turns.  This process was described as "Remove lock nut by turning clockwise."

The rest of the process was easy;  so if I don't count the hour of creeping the lock nut slowly around the shank (warped and deformed), or the fifteen minutes of drying out the tank with a sponge, I guess I DID install my new Fluidmaster in 15 minutes!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Walking to Michelle's

My friend Michelle recently moved to a house on the diagonally other side of campus, and we can walk to each other's houses!  And not only can we walk, but the walk is completely on wooded trails and through farm fields.  Today I tested out the route and mapped it as I walked.  The walk starts in the upper left hand corner, leaving my back woods by way of a stile.  (I discovered today that a tree limb has fallen on the fence beside the stile, taking down part of the stile and a section of fence.)

From there the walk goes down the mountain by way of a beautiful grassy hill full of wild flowers, ending at another stile.  I crossed the dirt road and went into a field that has just been planted in wheat (last year it was corn), and I walked all along the edge of the field and looked at the mountains at the back of the field.  I crossed the river on a little bridge (not shown) and entered another stile that led to the trail along the river.  I turned left and shortly came to the gate to the trail, two trees that form an opening.  Shortly beyond that is a grove of golden bamboo, from which I was sad to notice Owl Man is missing.

Students were skinny dipping in the river near the grove-- it's the time of year when classes in the afternoon become sparsely attended on warm days.  Coming out of the grove I passed a wonderous knobbly tree, and then the chicken yard.  The trail took a dive back into the wooded river edge, under a wooden pergola-like frame and over a small bridge over a creek.

Soon I came to some frog ponds, now alive with tadpoles, and two bird blinds.  After that is the old archaeology shelter, where we stored our equipment when the dig was open in the 90s.  All along here the air smelled like roses and honeysuckle and the river gurgled and birds sang.  The main trail continued on along the river, but I left the river and headed up the mountain on the Muhl Trail.  I couldn't really show it on the map-- this is NOT to scale in any way-- but this trail goes steeply up and up and up, passing overlooks through trees where you can see the farm fields down in the valley.  At the top of the hill the trail has a T intersection, and I took the right fork, which led sharply back down and into Michelle's subdivision, which has beautiful views.  It was 1.82 miles to her house, but I added a little on to the return trip to come out an even 4 miles round trip.  Took about an hour and ten minutes.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Eight Original Necco Wafer Flavors

Have a Necco!  Which was your favorite flavor/color?  Mine was chocolate, a Necco in a class of its own, all the other flavors being a little too spicy, a little too tart.  But it was worth slogging through the whole roll just to get to the occasional chocolate one.  In our neighborhood we saved the white ones (cinnamon, and nobody's favorite) to use as Communion hosts/wafers for when we played Mass.  If we didn't have a stash of white Neccos we had to use a flattened Merita bread slice cut into little circles with a small jar lid.  We much preferred our Communion spicy and with a satisfying snap when we chomped it, and with a nice cool powdered sugary bloom.

I learned today that Necco no longer makes lime/green because a few years ago when they removed artificial flavors and colors they were unable to achieve a satisfactory lime flavor or color.  So if you buy a roll today you'll have only seven flavors, and they aren't exactly the right flavors either.