Category Archives: Art projects

Hummingbirds

I went down to Ardmore yesterday to take some Burma-Shave signs I’d made for a lady who bought them at a charity auction this summer. I didn’t get any sensational pictures on my trip, because I was running behind schedule on the way down, and I felt a migraine settling into the left side of my head and just couldn’t bring myself to take the slow, scenic route back.

I did, however, stop to move a turtle off the road on U.S. 77 a few miles north of Ardmore, and when I got home, Ron told me he’d seen something extra cool in the yard: He raised the blind in his office yesterday afternoon just in time to see a hummingbird zipping around the water hyacinths.

I didn’t know hummingbirds liked water hyacinths, but that cinches it: I’m expanding the pond next year to include a second, smaller pond with a waterfall and a biological filter involving a miniature marsh full of water hyacinths and rocks. I’ll have to dink around with pumps and tubes and plans this winter and figure out how to do it so it will work right and look pretty.

Theoretically, I could get the water regulated to the point where it’s clean enough for koi, although I probably won’t bother. Koi are notoriously expensive and temperamental — not exactly a good combination for the Darwin Garden of Red Fork.

The Darwin Garden is a place for hardy creatures and even hardier plants. Sunflowers and zinnias thrive; roses struggle. (The ones in the previous link were given to me by a friend whose husband has the patience to baby his plants a little bit.) Scissortails gorge themselves on the tiger mosquitoes in the garden, but purple martins think they’re too good for us. It’s survival of the fittest out there, and finicky, wilty, high-maintenance life forms need not apply.

I’m planning to introduce a low-maintenance addition to our garden next spring: When I build my Green Man sculpture, I’m going to brew up a batch of moss spores to slather over his face, and I’ll move some of the wild morning glories that are trying to take over my garden and let them climb around to form his hair. They don’t bloom very well (just tiny white blossoms — none of the big, showy, gorgeous blue and pink blooms like you see on the kind you cultivate), but they’re tough as nails and grow like kudzu. If they’re going to insist on taking over my garden, the least they can do is crawl all over a sculpture to make it look cool, don’t you think?

This is a continuation of that Darwin thing I was talking about. In Belleville, I pretty well mastered the fine art of zero-maintenance gardening: By the time we moved, I’d given up trying to grow anything that wasn’t a perennial, a self-seeding annual, or a tomato. (Homegrown tomatoes are worth the extra trouble, but just barely.)

Over time, I figured out what would grow well and what wouldn’t, and I had some very well-established perennials — mint, echinacea, Texas bluebonnets, Indian blankets, and some kind of mutant collard that thought it was a perennial and refused to die — and some highly enthusiastic self-seeding annuals, including California poppies (slow-loading link, but gorgeous photo!), dill, carrots, cilantro, lettuce, and spinach, which would grow and grow and grow. By the time we left, “spring planting” consisted of walking through the garden, grabbing dried seed heads as I passed, and sort of crumbling them in my hands and scattering the seeds back into the beds before turning a couple of rotten tomatoes into the compost pile to ensure a steady supply of compost tomatoes later in the summer.

It wasn’t the neatest garden on earth, but I suspect it was one of the healthiest, and there was something charming about walking out the back door with a pair of scissors to harvest herbs that had basically planted themselves next to the door.

We’ll reach that point here eventually. It’s just a learning process, and every garden is different. But I think I’m on the right track with the morning glories. If you can’t beat ’em, train ’em. 🙂

Emily

Gorgeous

I had three water hyacinths blooming in the pond when I came home from work this evening. We had a gorgeous sunset tonight, too. A friend and I had dinner in Stroud tonight, and the whole way over there, we kept interrupting ourselves mid-sentence to say, “There’s another Maxfield Parrish cloud!” or “Oh, my gosh, look at that light!” or “Don’t you just love it when the sky is that color?”

It’s good to have a friend who understands about sunsets and doesn’t get offended if you stop mid-sentence to stare at a particularly nice cloud.

I hung up my Green Man next to the back door. He looks cool there. I have about a million ideas for decorating the house, garage, and yard. I want to paint the house white and the trim brown so it looks like a Tudor cottage. I want to design some window boxes for the south-facing windows that will serve as mini-greenhouses for flats of seedlings in the early spring and then convert to standard window boxes full of potted herbs in the summer. I want to build a Green Man sculpture like the one at Heligan. I want to build a gnome cottage and tuck it into the garden somewhere just for fun. I want to build an earthen oven. I want to plant a hippie-themed flower bed. I want to paint little trompe l’oeisls all over the house and garage for visitors to find and enjoy. I want to install a flagstone path so I can walk barefoot from the house to the garden without stepping on an unseen doggie bomb, cow killer, or other unpleasant surprise.

I have about a million ideas, and as soon as I clear my plate, I’m going to dive in and start working on them. Bit by bit, project by project, over the next three or four years, I want to turn my house and garden into a sort of living monument to unbridled creativity.

I’ll keep you posted on how that project goes. 🙂

Emily

Green Man

greenman.jpg

I taught mythology for a year and am quite fond of English folklore, so a Green Man seemed like an appropriate addition to my garden. Unfortunately, they tend to fall into two categories: A.) Ugly, and B.) Overpriced.

This evening, I was fortunate enough to wander into a store on 15th Street that had just gotten several Green Man items, including the plaque you see above, which came with a lovely little book about the Green Man and the legends that surround him.

The store was one of these places that likes to cover its bases: Crosses hang on the wall above a shelf of New Age books, and if you need a Tibetan prayer flag or a deck of tarot cards, you can get it here. One-stop shopping for all your religious needs, I suppose. It was just off-the-wall enough that I held out some small measure of hope that I might find the Holy Grail of Weird Crap to Hang on the Garden Gate: a Sheela-Na-Gig.

No such luck.

I’m not really surprised. I’ve never seen a Sheela for sale. I’m not sure there’d be much demand for them. They’re pretty grotesque, and rather risque. Strange figures, but the history behind them is fascinating — and mysterious. They’re often regarded as a sort of female counterpart to the Green Man. I think it would be awfully cool to have a Sheela hiding somewhere in my garden.

Ah, well. I’m just grateful to have a Green Man at last. And I have been inspired by the photograph on the cover of the book that came with my Green Man. The image shows a giant Green Man sculpture — sort of a topiary thing — that appears to be surfacing from the ground. The sculpture is found at the Gardens of Heligan in England. (Note: Heligan Web site contains chirping bird sound effects that start automatically, so turn down your volume if your boss thinks you’re working.)

Click here and scroll down to see a picture of the Green Man sculpture.

I have got to figure out how to build one of these in my garden, because this is the coolest thing ever. It looks like what you’d get if you commissioned Larry Baggett to design you a lawn ornament and then hired Edward Scissorhands as a subcontractor to actually build the thing.

Speaking of cool stuff in the garden, Ron had a little adventure today.

The bees had gotten a bit quiet lately, and Ron was afraid they might have been attacked by varroa mites. Wintergreen oil will get rid of mites, but you aren’t supposed to use it until later in the fall. In the meantime, I suggested that he look into the hive, check the bees’ condition, and sprinkle them with powdered sugar if necessary. (A dusting of powdered sugar will prompt the bees to groom themselves, removing any mites in the process.)

Ron opened the hive to find a colony of healthy, active bees. He went ahead and sifted some sugar over them anyway, just as a precaution. His report on the experience made me laugh out loud:

Note to self: If you ever need to p*ss off honeybees, sift powdered sugar over them.

Didn”t get stung, but my inspection of the beehive reveals that the girls are very much alive. They were behaving fairly well until I sifted powered sugar over the main brooder. Then that created a mess of angry, dusty honeybees buzzing my head. Now they know how Milton Berle felt when his sidekick yelled “Makeup!” and did the deed. Can’t blame them for being irritated, actually.

He went on to say that the super he added this summer is about three-fourths of the way full of honey. That’s pretty impressive, considering the drought and the fact that this is still a relatively young hive — we just got them in the spring of 2005, so this is only their second season.

Lousy year for tomatoes, but a good year for honey. I’m OK with that.

Emily

I saw the light

jesussaves.jpg

For the past six years or so, I’ve been photographing neon church signs. I grew up literally in the shadow of a big blue neon cross. I thought it was tacky when I was a kid, but as my appreciation and respect for neon as an art medium has grown, so has my fondness for the cross that graced the Methodist church across the street from my childhood home, and neon church signs are now among my favorite subjects to photograph.

This one — which has long since lost its tubing and is now illuminated by a pair of spotlights mounted on top of it — graces a little church just a few blocks off Route 66 in Kellyville. I’ve driven through Kellyville on 66 literally hundreds of times, but it wasn’t until Sunday night that Ron and I decided, on a whim, to get off the highway and see what was in town.

We turned a corner, and Ron spotted this wonderful little sign. I’d left my camera at home, but I promised myself I’d shoot the sign next time I was out that direction. I had the camera with me this evening, so I swung through town on my way home from Stroud and caught the sign just at that magic time of day when the sunlight and sky are exactly the colors I want them to be.

I keep hoping church neon will make a comeback. I really love the look of these old signs. Hope you enjoy this one.

Emily

Blankie, part 3 (and a flight)

Suzanne and I went out for lunch (vegetarian tikka masala with paneer at Desi Wok … mmmmm) and then headed to the women’s show to hear FlyLady speak today.

If your house does not look like Martha lives there, then you probably need FlyLady. She’s like a subversive home ec teacher for busy people who hate housework. She tells you stuff like, “Housework done incorrectly still blesses your family,” and “Just vacuum the middle of the carpet.” She’s all about setting timers and never spending more than 15 minutes doing anything.

When I got home, I worked on the quilt some more. I now have a total of six strips like the one I made last night. I have to press them, pin them, and sew them together. I laid them out on the floor just to see how they would look. Here they are:

Quilt block strips

If I were more experienced and more patient at this, I would do something fancier, but this is the best I can do right now. I think it looks pretty good, even if it is kind of simple. My favorite quilt is one that looks sort of like this, except Mom made it out of upholstery samples. I loved it when I was little because it had a lot of soft, fuzzy patches.

I love it now because it’s really heavy and warm and keeps my gas bill down. 🙂

Maybe someday the little kid who gets this quilt will be a 30-year-old blogger, talking about how this was her favorite blankie when she was little because it had sparkly patches in it.

That would be cool.

Emily

Blankie, part 2

After a phone consultation with my mom and my sister, I ran the cloth through the washer and dryer to remove the excess dye, then pressed each piece before cutting the squares.

It takes a long time to press 30 fat quarters.

I was going to make four-inch squares, like Mom and Grace suggested, but I didn’t have any plastic for making a pattern, so I wound up using the glass from a 5×7 picture frame as a pattern instead.

I stitched together the first row.

First strip

It doesn’t look like a lot, but it took a while. I am going to make five more of these and then sew them all together to make the top of the quilt.

I like the colors. I think a little girl will like them, too. Especially the sparkly patches.

Emily

Finally!

I’m just about finished with my mural project for Paintmaster. I just have to go back sometime this weekend, when I can look at it with fresh eyes, and see if there are any touchups to be done or details I’ve missed.

Here’s the last big stuff I did:

gas pump

Here is the whole mural:

Finished mural

I didn’t get my herbs planted tonight, but that’s OK. I’ll have time to do that this weekend.

Hope your day was productive.

Emily

Oh, P.S.: I have lots more tomato sprouts coming up. Hooray!