Bridges

I just finished a new painting, which is going to be another in a series- kind of like I did with the native wildflowers on the gourds. These are actually on canvas, instead of a strangely shaped object, so I can make prints available as they are finished. I’m not yet ready to sell the originals yet, but maybe later.
I have to be careful how I present these, so as not to get sued for copyright stuff. So I can’t share with you any lyrics or song titles. So… I’ll just let the art speak for itself.

If you’re a southern rock fan, you should be able to hear the lyrics just looking at this painting. 🙂

This was one of my favorite things to do as a teenager, go out and drive all night (buying gas didn’t require taking out a second mortgage then), listening to music and look for a road with a particular number of bridges on it. I found one that almost fit the bill, down in Devil’s Elbow once. It lacked the Spanish moss in the trees, but it did have a fair amount of Virginia Creeper growing over everything, so almost the same ethereal feel. It also didn’t have the right number of bridges.

I looked up the actual inspiration behind this and there are claims that it is Woodley Road in Montgomery Alabama, although some debate the validity. Wherever it is, it’s always reminded me of warm summer nights, driving with the windows down, the scent of honeysuckle, water and deep green everywhere. Moonlight, stars and Spanish moss in trees. Fireflies and whippoorwills. It always made me yearn to break away, get out on the open road, explore and be in touch with earth and nature. I wanted to put that road on repeat and just drive it forever. I’m in Missouri, but I believe I’m a southern girl at heart. If I ever leave this farm, I swear it will be for a cabin on stilts out in the bayou somewhere. Maybe I’d sell my truck and buy a fan boat.

Anyway, here’s the painting. I have prints available on Fine Art America. They put it on everything from posters and blankets to t-shirts and bags. The next one I’m working on has a bullfrog in it. And maybe some grapes… 🙂

Still singing cardboard’s praises

Landscape fabric
Cardboard

This is two months growth. The weed fabric is the thick, expensive stuff you get at the nursery. It seems to stop small stuff like grasses, but thistles, polk, the blackberry canes all push right through it.

The cardboard is so far blocking everything. The grass that came through is only there because the cardboard there isn’t overlapping in that spot.

I think it’s boxes for me from now on.

-B

Quick Cardboard Tip

Kitties even love flat boxes

I’ve had some health stuff going on (yay arthritis) and now garden season is here so haven’t had a chance to post much but I wanted to share a quick tip.

Save your cardboard boxes for the yard and garden! I’ve been weeding and weed-eating around trees for years.

While laying down cardboard to create grass-free areas in my garden for walkways, I realized I should have been using this stuff around all my trees too.

Cardboard is great garden material and if you do a lot of online shopping like I do, there’s an endless free supply. In the garden, it holds in moisture, it keeps weeds at bay, worms absolutely LOVE the stuff and it biodegrades slowly over several years. It’s also soft enough it won’t girdle trees, which could be a danger with the plastic ‘mulch’ discs.

If you’re concerned about the look of cardboard, throw a little mulch on top. I put the discs down and jammed my tree cages through the cardboard to hold it in place. I use the heavy, thick stuff for tree rings. The thin stuff can be used to line pots, or I give it to our rabbits to shred (which eventually winds up in the garden) or tear up and throw in compost.

Back to the yard!

-B

Now Blooming In a Yard Near You

Some of you may remember me talking about growing birdhouse gourds in the garden and drying them a couple years ago. They’ve been hanging out on a wire in our utility room since. I had painted three or four- one and gave to our neighbor with a barn scene for his birthday, I drilled holes in a couple and played with the idea of making lamps.

I was looking at a social media thread discussing Missouri Native trees and wildflowers when I decided I knew what I wanted to put on these gourds. I’ve been paying more attention to what I plant here at the farm than I did at our previous place at the Lake. When we bought that property, the topsoil had all been scraped off, there was a barren red clay mess of a yard that not even weeds wanted to grow in. I planted and encouraged the growth of what would take, which was often aggressive and even invasive plants like Chinese Wisteria, Floribunda rose and Mimosa trees (Chinese silk tree). Not that they weren’t all beautiful and they grew like wildfire, but at least one of those is on the no no list of Missouri invasive plants and the other two clearly aren’t native to our state.

You hear people stressing “Grow Native!” all the time now, but I feel like a lot of folks still don’t understand why it’s important. Native plants are already adapted to local conditions. From a gardener’s perspective, they save time, money and water. If you’re from any of the states running out of water right now, you know what a precious resource it is. Native plants and flowers provide vital habitat for birds, wildlife and pollinators. Some species of butterfly only exist if their host plant is available. Most of the public knows about monarchs and milkweed, but did you know that the fritillary butterflies need violets as their host plant to survive? Many consider violets a weed, but no violets, no fritillaries.

Another plant that gets hate is the dandelion, though it is a very important early flower for emerging bee populations, it’s edible, has medicinal properties and if you have kids, they love the fluffy seed heads.

Ok, I know, I ran off on a tangent about natives and this post is supposed to be about painted gourds, but the paintings on each of these isn’t just a pretty flower to look at. I chose each one because it has value as a Missouri Native Wildflower.

Here are my gourds, they go up for sale this week on Etsy.

Wild Violets (Missouri Wild Violet. Viola missouriensis)

The one below is already sold. We had friends over for dinner last night and they wanted it before it went on the store. 🙂

Black-eyed Susan (Missouri Coneflower. Rudbeckia missouriensis)

I had some Prickly Pear at the Lake that I had gotten a start of out of my Mom’s yard. I had no idea at the time that it grows wild in Missouri. I’ve since seen some in the ditches alongside roads and found some near the edge of a pasture here at the farm. I bought some from the Missouri Wildflower Nursery last year.

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa)
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

I love my little lions, I think the one below is my personal favorite.

Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

I hope if you choose to buy one of these, that you’ll look up the native flower painted on it. Do a little reading on your plant and share with your friends why native plants and trees are so important and what it does for our state’s ecosystem. Even if you aren’t from Missouri, it’s something you can talk to folks about besides doom/gloom and politics. We could all use a little light and nature in our lives right now.

-B

Gourd Series

I’m currently painting a series of birdhouse gourds featuring Missouri wildflowers.

I grew these bottle gourds in our garden year before last. I made a post here about making birdhouses from these, in which I said, “Remember all those birdhouse gourds?” And I just realized that I never actually posted them on Dirt, only on Dirt’s Facebook page, so unless you followed that, no, you don’t remember. I just knew I’d posted them somewhere.

Yay! Many gourds!

These have been hanging in the utility room now for a year and I’m finally getting around to painting on them. I started out with violets- just because- and decided to make it a thing- a whole series of paintings featuring different wildflowers from Missouri.

Violet! You’re turning violet, Violet.

I’ve got several more ideas in the works. My daughter suggested black eyed susans. I’m starting one of redbud, prickly pear cactus and butterfly weed. I’ve got 3 more to come up with an idea for and probably eight more to prep.

That’s just dandy, lion

Dogwood no clever title

What’s your favorite wildflower?

-B

Last Table Finished

Finally finished that last TV table I was working on. Had to take a 3-week hiatus, my kiddo brought home Omicron from school and shared with the whole family. I’m still fighting with my lungs trying to get them back to where they were, last time we had Covid it took almost a month and a half before I felt myself again- that was back in 2020.

I still have to get three of these coated with epoxy, but the painting is finished. I’ve moved on to working on birdhouse gourds, so I can get some inventory back on the website before spring hits and I’m living in the garden for 3 months. Last year, my daughter threatened to build me a little house out there so I could just live with my plants. (Don’t tempt me kid) We’re talking/thinking/considering building a greenhouse at some point, but that has to be after I fence in the field behind the garden. I’ve been promising her we’d get her a horse and I’d like to make it happen before she’s 45. Best time to get those post holes dug for gates is just after “mud season” has passed. When the ground here is still soft, not glops of heavy mud but not near-concrete clay either. I have topsoil here, which is a new experience after years of living at Lake of the Ozarks, but it still only goes down 6-8 inches before you hit clay.

Anyway- I get distracted. I blame this week’s full moon- it’s got me crazy. Couldn’t hardly sleep last night and I’m SO ready for warmer weather. I must have woken up 20 times last night. We’ve been watching Supernatural, and I was dreaming about Castiel, guess I have a thing for angels… in trench coats… with black tattered wings… LOL
Ok, I’ll just leave that there.

Here’s the end result of the table I started in this post: https://belleofdirt.com/2022/01/21/final-table-in-progress/

My reason for doing this one was two-fold. I wanted to learn to do rays of light coming through the trees and I wanted to learn tree bark texturing. The grass on this was SO freaking labor intensive. I’m not overly happy with the turkeys. The light turned out ok, I’m fairly content with the tree bark. I think the violets, dandelions, Star of Bethlehem and Queen Anne’s lace in the field are the best part of the whole painting- the violets made that log pile look like it wasn’t just floating in the middle of the picture. I had fun, I learned stuff. These tables are ours, they aren’t for sale, so I used them to experiment with techniques and things I’ve been wanting to try out. I’d rather do my learning on something like this than an antique saw blade and mess it up.

I have a wall of gourds to work on, so that will probably be my focus for a while. I’m thinking of doing a series on them of different plants… I like those scientific drawings you see of trees and plants where they show the plant in all its various stages. I’m kind of wanting to do something in that style of different Missouri wildflowers. I’m working on violets right now; I’m thinking maybe dandelions next. Yes, I know many people consider it a noxious weed, but I love them. I pick them here and blow wishes all over the yard. The bees love them too.

Aside from flowers, I’m probably going to have to do something with rainbows on it too- because I heard that Rolling Stones song the other day- “She comes in colors everywhere… she combs her hair… she’s like a rainbow” and I can’t get it out of my brain. Yancy once told me to sing “Love Shack” if I couldn’t get a song out of my head, but She’s a Rainbow is persistent, the B52’s aren’t touching this one. So I’ll paint it. Maybe if I pay homage to it, it will go on its merry way. LOL

Here’s a shot of all the tables together. SO MUCH GREEN. You think I like green a bit?
That said, the dark, moody horse sunset picture is my favorite. I will likely do a saw blade at some point with something similar on it.

I have to go clean house and get some stuff together for this weekend. I’m teaching a crafts class on Sunday. Next month is going to be BUSY, not sure how much I’ll get accomplished- I’ll be running back and forth to Sullivan twice a week again for PT on my neck. It is much improved since my trip to St Louis, I’m hoping therapy will help as much as it did last year, I have SO much I want to get done in the garden and I don’t want stupid pain slowing me down.

Will post some gourds later.

-B

Seed and Plant Ordering

Hey! I’m doing an actual gardening post!

Friends that visit our house in summer and see the massive garden next to our house often ask me where I do my plant/seed shopping and what I like to grow out there.

I’ll start by saying that my family are not especially adventurous when it comes to vegetable eating. My husband likes his starchy basics: potatoes, corn, peas- pretty much in that order. My daughter is a bit more adventurous; she’ll eat tomatoes, cucumber and snow pea pods in addition to the starchy veggies. They both love strawberries, blackberries and Tom’s jelly from my elderberries last year was a huge hit. I will eat just about any fruit or vegetable, even try some that I’ve never had before and can’t pronounce. I’m less adventurous in the meat department. It took a year or two of living here before I would try venison again, I still won’t touch squirrel or rabbit. Forget the more mid-west exotic fare like groundhog, snake or snapping turtle.

I’m trying to branch out. I’ve been following several Missouri homestead, wildcrafting and foraging sites. I’ll try a lot of mushrooms and edible weeds that my family isn’t too keen to put on their plate. I figure if nothing else, this stuff could keep us alive if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse (might re-think that snapping turtle then too).

This year I’m branching out into more herbs and growing a few unusual things like Stevia and my own tea.

First of all, I have to say that for live plants, my local nursery is the bomb. It’s a little place called Huffman’s out on Highway B, just outside of St James. The staff there are lovely, the owners are wonderful, everyone I’ve dealt with there has been knowledgeable, considerate and they always tell us they’d love to see us again. Huffman’s is my go-to place for mulch, live plants, landscape fabric or just to go wander around browse for ideas. They have a really cool gift shop inside; tons of yard art and they carry that potting soil with the frog on it that the marijuana growers supposedly like. (If it’s good for growing pot, it should be stellar for tomatoes, right?) I’ve gotten several blackberry plants from there that have done very well and we always go get at least several annuals to decorate the back porch rail each year. So this is my shop local place, hands down. In fact, since I’ve found them, I hardly step foot in the garden center at Lowes or Menards, which is where I used to get 90% of my plants from when I lived at the Lake. If you’re in the area, go check them out. They’re on Facebook and online at https://www.huffmansflowersofthefield.com/

Ok, now for the Online shops.
These are who I do a lot of my pre-order of seeds from, for the stuff I want to start in the house early or when I want something really specific as I’m planning out the garden in the winter months.

My #1 favorite (and where I spent the bulk of my $ this year) is Baker Creek Seeds. I do most of my seed shopping in January/February before most of the local nurseries are even open after winter break. I’ve found that if I wait until March or April, most everything online is out of stock or extremely picked over. The very well-known sites like Burpee are already having stock issues. Baker Creek had to send out a notice that they were having issues with paper shortages, so seed packages and catalogs could be an issue for them next year. No worries about the catalogs though, they have their entire catalog online with the same pictures and descriptions as the print version.

You’ve probably heard a lot of hype about heirloom seeds in recent years, but not everyone knows why. Heirlooms can be saved year after year. They are true to the parent plant, which means that they are consistently the same, year after year from one planting to the next. Some of these seeds have been around since the 1800’s, passed along from generation to generation. This means you can grow the same pink beefsteak tomato that your great, great grandmother grew in her garden when you were two or the same flowers she had lining the walkway to her house. These plants are tried and true performers, you know what to expect. You know what they are going to taste like, you know that they’ll be the same year after year after year. Baker Creek sells a lot of heirlooms. They are not all native heirlooms though- they get their seeds from farms all over the world. They pride themselves on carrying unusual varieties that you won’t find anywhere else and you certainly will never see at a Big Box store garden center. The homepage of their website is a testament to this- showcasing all the black vegetables and flowers that they are carrying this year. The main office of Baker Creek is out of Mansfield, Missouri (Home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Festival- if you’ve never been, you should check it out.) You can order online from them at https://www.rareseeds.com/

My #2 this year was PineTree.
This is where I picked up the things that were out of stock everywhere else or other sites just didn’t sell. They still had garlic bulbs in stock (out on every other site I checked!), they also had white sage, pinto beans and an heirloom green onion that doesn’t produce bulbs, just the green tops in bunches. This is my first-year ordering from them, so I’ll have to let you know how I liked them later. They shipped my order quickly; I should be seeing it sometime this week. The garlic will be shipped in fall when it’s time to plant. They have a nice selection of loose-leaf teas and herbs for purchase on their site also. Website is https://www.superseeds.com/

#3 Ferry Morse.

I’ve always associated Ferry Morse with Walmart seed shopping- I think because this used to be the primary brand that Walmart Garden centers carried every spring. I’ve purchased a lot of Ferry Morse seed over the years, both from Walmart and online and have had decent results. A couple years ago, they were the only place I could find that had birdhouse or bottle gourds in stock when I went looking for them in late spring. Their prices are awesome. They have a nice little live plant sale going on right now- I’ve not tried their live plants before, but I ordered a couple of tomato plants, we’ll see how it goes. They don’t have a massive selection and most of what they offer is pretty common, but if you’re looking for good basics, their prices can’t be beat. I plant marigolds in EVERY raised bed as companion plants and they have just about every basic marigold available for under $2 a pack of seeds. Also, it was free shipping for any order over $35, where most garden sites don’t offer free shipping until you hit the $75 or more mark. https://ferrymorse.com/

#4 Burpee Seeds.

These folks were always my old favorite and I looked forward to their catalog in the mail every year because it meant spring was almost here, regardless of what that stupid groundhog had to say. In the past couple years though, I’ve had trouble with a lot of Burpee’s stuff being out of stock very early on. I just got my catalog a few weeks ago and already they are completely out of every kind of garlic, several varieties of onion and some of the tomato packs are unavailable. I blame the stupid pandemic- people who have never gardened started gardening during 2020, even if it was just a pot of tomatoes or strawberries on their apartment patio, they had something. Burpee is well advertised, well known and popular, meaning they sell out of stuff faster than the more obscure, lesser-known sites. Because of this, I didn’t get a ton of stuff from them this year. I did find a Chocolate Peppermint plant that I searched for and couldn’t find elsewhere. They also had table grape plants. You would think being in St James, which is considered “Midwest Wine Country” that grape plants could be found in abundance, but if they are out there, I’ve yet to find them. I found a couple at the big box stores, that did well until I took them out of the box. 😦
I’m trying my luck again this year with a pair from Burpee. The Amish that used to own our property once worked in the grape fields outside of town. I see lots of folks in town with backyard grape arbors. I have no desire to make wine, but would love a few table grapes to pick each year.
If you’re going to visit Burpee, I would do it now rather than later, they are selling out of their more popular items fast! They still have lots of flowers and landscape plants. https://www.burpee.com/

Just as an FYI, I’m not an influencer and I don’t get anything from any of these companies from sharing my opinions about their sites or products. I’m not a paid endorser or affiliated with them in any way. I did post a link on Facebook for Ferry Morse because they gave me one of those, “Share this link and we’ll give you a percentage off for every person that signs up for an account…” So I guess if we’re friends on Facebook AND you click that AND you order stuff, THEN I am getting something from it… but it’s only a 10% of coupon or something. Nothing all that exciting. LOL

I would first and foremost though encourage you, especially if you are a new gardener, find a local nursery. Not the garden center at Lowes, Menards or Home Depot- but an actual local nursery like Huffman’s above. Try several of them. We have two in our town, both are decent, Huffman’s people won me over in the end though and I’ll go to them every time. Local nurseries will know which plants do best in your area. They’ll know how those plants perform, they’ll know what issues they may have, they can make recommendations based on your space and growing conditions or the amount of time you have to dedicate to your garden. The people working at Lowes will stare at you confused when you ask for Blood Meal and say, “We’ve got Miracle Grow?” They don’t know about most of the plants there and they don’t care. They go out and drench them every day as they’re told and stop if something turns brown and crunchy.
You’re not just paying for a plant; you’re paying for knowledge and help making an investment. Local nursery staff can tell you whether that plant will do well in your space. They can tell you if deer will devour it or not. They can tell you if it’s going to draw hordes or Japanese beetles to your yard. They can tell you if it will spread out of control and should be kept in a pot or if it is ok to put in your landscape beds. The people at Home Depot do not notice or care that you bought mint and you’re planting it in your landscape beds. Responsible local nurseries won’t sell you things off of the conservation invasive list that will make your neighbor’s curse you for years. (Dear Lowes, stop selling people Bradford Pear please!!!)

So, this isn’t just another “Shop Local!” pitch. If you find the right fit, you’ll find someone that actually cares about the plants they sell, they want their customers to be happy and come back, they want your garden to be a raving success because it will mean your friends and family will want to shop with them too.

Happy planting folks. 🙂

-B

Final table in progress

I don’t know if anyone will find this interesting or not- I find watching other artist’s progress fascinating. I could (and have!) sit and watch YouTube painting videos for hours. Especially if they dispense with the annoying step by step and just do their thing.

This is my design for the 4th and final of our TV tray tables. These are about 2×3 ft, I primer the top with a thick, bonding primer before I start.

Table sketch

Above is the original sketch for the scene in pencil. I don’t go into a lot of detail because I’m just going to paint over it anyway. I usually do an even rougher version on paper first, because the primer on these tables is not especially easy to erase mistakes on. You can see where I decided I didn’t like the position of the left turkey and attempted to erase it. I decided f%#$ it, it’s easier just to paint over the old lines. I take pictures of all this so if I do paint over something and can’t tell what was there before, all I have to do is look at the photos from the last steps. The lines across the picture map out the direction of my light source. I’m going to attempt putting in streaks of light in this one.

I’ve done similar once before with a saw painting, but wasn’t thrilled with the result. In that one, I used diluted white to go over the scene I’d already painted. It’s not a horrible way to go about it, but I noticed it made everything underneath kind of chalky looking, not just washed out with light. So I’m going to try a new method that is in a book I just bought about color and light. In this way, you actually mix different color combinations for each section, depending on where the light hits.

Right now, with the color blocking it looks like something you would have seen on a t-shirt in the 1970’s. I finished that part last night, I’ll probably start adding some detail in the background area tonight. I need to get these finished so I can get busy painting gourds. Spring is coming and I’d like to get those birdhouses on the Etsy shop!

I’m debating on whether I should go set the shower up for an acrylic pour on the other two so we can start putting them back in use. I plastic the shower, put them in there with an oil heater set to about 80-85F, do my pour and then let them sit in there for at least a day. I like to let them set another week after fully dry to cure before any use. I’ve joined a couple of Facebook groups re: epoxy work and acrylic pour art. Some of the stuff these people make is absolutely stunning. They’re making resin tables from huge slabs of wood, counter tops, huge art installations that look like a real beach, sometimes with sea shells and stuff embedded in them. I do nothing near that technical- just clear coats over paintings. I have a couple pieces of acrylic jewelry with plants in them. I’ve found several folks in Ukraine that make amazing jewelry from the stuff.

Anyway… I will post more as I make progress. I’m working on the utility room floor slowly, trying to finally get the tile down that’s been sitting in our kitchen for over a year now. This doesn’t normally detract from me getting art done, since I mostly do that at night, but it does hinder my posting stuff online. (As if I’m SO great about updating this anyway, right?)

Later gator –==<

B

Almost Forgot!

I shared these on Facebook when I finished them and I think even as they were in progress, but I then I forgot to post them here. (I am the worst when it comes to keeping this site updated, truly.)

So this is the continuation of the little TV tables that I was working on, I purchased this 4 table set from Amazon the first year we moved here. None of us eat sitting at an actual dining table. It’s never really been formally discussed, we just don’t do it. I don’t have fond memories of sitting around the table at family dinner. I won’t go into it here, that’s a story that will likely end up in the fiction I’m working on, but suffice to say, I could care less about having the formal dinners sitting around a big table in the dining room. We prefer to eat dinner watching Netflix in the living room. For visitors we drag the 4-H folding table out and throw a sheet over it. Real fancy I know. Whatever. It works.

Anway, I bought these TV tables on Amazon. The frames on them are pretty well put together, they are solid wood and the hardware is actually holding up- but they were covered in a kind of Formica type stuff that started peeling on the edges the 2nd year we had them. So I peeled the finish off with a razor blade, put a coat of bonding primer on them and started painting scenes on them. The first was the barn scene I posted earlier with the cows and Merle border collie.
The second was the bridge at Meramec Springs- the one by the pump house and the fish feeding area that EVERYONE takes pictures of. I have done this same painting twice before- once on a small saw blade, that is on our Etsy Shop. I did a less detailed version on a thin sheet of plywood a couple years ago for our 4-H float. This one is on our TV table and is the most detailed of the three. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about light and shadow, so I’ve started playing with that in the trees here.

Meramec Springs, original acrylic Belle Cordes

My third table is so far my favorite. My daughter suggested painting something with either a sunrise or sunset in it and I wanted to try doing some reflections on water that wasn’t moving. I used several photos for inspiration. I liked the idea of the trees almost in full silhouette without any green showing in the leaves at all, but instead reflecting the dark orange and red light of the sinking sun. Sometimes it almost looks like the woods are on fire here when the sun goes down, especially in winter.

Winter sunset in our yard

The deer most often show themselves at this time around our place, so it seemed appropriate to add a deer drinking from the pond. I wanted the buck in velvet, as I imagined this in late summer, early fall, just before all the leaves begin to drop from the trees. I’m playing some new techniques I learned here from a YouTube artist that paints very detailed tree and water scenes, although a lot of the mid-point detail here is lost to wash of color from the setting sun, I still spent a lot of time working on the tree leaves, especially the big one that the light is coming through. Tom bought me a new fan brush for Christmas and I used it in the water and the plants in front.

I think my next one is going to be softer light, maybe something wooded with turkeys? These tables are really good practice runs to play with new techniques and ideas, since they won’t be sold. I just primed the last table this afternoon, so I’ll probably drag my laptop out and do some research this evening while we watch Supernatural. My kid is now obsessed with that show. I have to admit, Jensen Ackles is very easy to look at. 😊

Later gators. –==<

B