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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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. 😊
As one of her Christmas/Birthday presents this year, I promised my kid I would remodel her room to update it from a kid’s room to something more suitable to a teenager. She’s been waiting on pins and needles to turn 13, I myself could have waited another ten years at least. Where the hell does the time go?
We made a lot of small changes that made a big difference, like taking down all those little projects hanging on the walls that we had done while at the library’s summer reading program years ago. 😥 My friend Marianne gave us several really framed wolf posters that she’d stored in her attic- they had hung in her son’s room when he was a teenager. Seems like HE should still be a teenager and not 30-something now with his own family….
So we hung the wolf posters, her dad installed a flat screen that we had stashed after upgrading our living room TV and hooked up the old Xbox 360 in there along with the legacy Nintendo thingy- forgive me gamers, I am and painter and gardener, I don’t know all the systems and terminology. I found a day bed (she wanted a “bed that I can sit on like a couch”) in deep blue velvet with silver studs that reminded me of furniture I saw when staying in the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. The effect is doubled by the fact that she now has at least 4 guitars hanging on her walls in between the wolf posters. She is the guitar player that I dreamed of being, but never took seriously or put the practice in to become. She even got special permission from the school band teacher to play guitar with the band, though they had never had a guitar in the Middle School Band before.
The one thing this room is seriously lacking is closet space. Like me, she tends to favor older furniture over the new pressboard stuff. We went out and scoured antique stores until we found an end-table with a drawer. It had a really cool sliding hidden compartment that we didn’t even discover until I was putting in the truck and strapping it in to bring it home. We did not find the armoire I was hoping for.
It’s not my first choice of places to buy furniture, but I went to Facebook Marketplace. We’ve had a good luck picking up a few things from there. I found a toilet for the front house, we found an upright baby grand piano that someone was just giving away. It needs tuned, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and I’d probably keep it even if it didn’t play at all. Real ivory on the keys and everything. I found several armoires online, but most of them were newer, which meant pressboard and put together like garbage- then I came across this:
I swear, it looked better in the pictures online. I don’t remember what she was asking for it originally, ($75 I think?) but as we were driving to Waynesville to pick it up, she messaged us and said, “I was moving the armoire out to the garage and it fell down the stairs in the process. Do you still want it?” Well *$#!, we were already on our way, so I figured I would at least go and take a look at it in person. I offered her $20 and she took it. At first glance, it didn’t look too bad… I mean it was really scratched up and the base had split, but it was real wood, it still felt solid and I thought for $20 I could work with it.
Once I dug into it, I realized that it had took a bit more damage than was immediately visible. The fall had knocked everything out of true. There were trim pieces missing, a knob was gone, the mirror that originally ran down the front was gone, there was a huge crack in the base, a smaller crack in the center where the mirror had been and the entire back was dry rotted and peeling. I stripped it down to just the frame, then glued and clamped all the cracks overnight. The next day, it felt much for sturdy and stable. The top scroll work was busted all to hell, but we didn’t want it anyway- where the cabinet was going to sit, it would be too tall and block the view of the TV. I cut the scroll work off and just left it with 3 arches; I did keep the Fleur-de-lis to re-attach to the middle arch when I was finished. My daughter decided the original handles would be ok in a different color. I had thought they might be shell centers, but they turned out to be plastic, so I took them apart and painted the centers to match the bright blue knobs we’d be using, then sprayed the metal part with a metallic silver.
I spent almost 2 days just sanding off the finish, the extra glue from fixing all the cracks and the deep scratches from being dropped down a staircase prior to us picking it up. I wish I’d remembered to take a picture of it stripped down- but I didn’t. 😦
I used Minwax penetrating stain in Jacobean. I only put on a single coat, because I didn’t want it so dark that it hid the chevron pattern on the doors, plus I kind of liked that the single coat in a dark color really showed off the red and brought that chevron out much better than the original caramel-colored finished did.
I used a polyurethane on it that was specifically for use on furniture and a had a higher durability- this is going in a teenagers’ room, after all. I got in a hurry with the poly and had to re-do one of the doors because it dripped and streaked from applying too much without sanding between coats. If you’re re-finishing a piece of furniture, perhaps the BEST advice I can give you is don’t get impatient when it comes to the finish coat. The first coat of this sucked right into the wood and was gone in about 10 minutes, this armoire was built sometime around 1940’s (I think?) and didn’t look like it had been treated with anything in many, many years. (I couldn’t find a makers’ mark anywhere, so I guessed it’s age by looking up photos online and comparing to other armoires.) The lemon oil I applied after sanding soaked clear through the inside the outside of the cabinet overnight, the wood was so dry and porous. It looks and feels like a different piece of furniture, now that it’s been cleaned, oiled and refinished. I added new latches to keep the doors closed properly, the old ones had worn out. All in all, I spent about $80 on the entire thing. (FYI, I did have the Gorilla glue, blue acrylic, metallic silver and the two blue knobs and wood stain already on hand. I only purchased polyurethane, a strip of milled trim, a sheet of cedar for new backing and two grits of sandpaper- a 60 for stripping and a 120 for finishing.) If I’d had to purchase stain, glue and paint and the knobs, it probably would have added another $30-$40. Still, $110-$120 is a very reasonable price for a solid wood armoire, considering I couldn’t even find press-wood/laminated versions for that price. Also, this has SO much more personality than a boring white laminated rectangle.
So here’s the finished cabinet. It’s in her room now, she hasn’t decided yet what’s going in it. I did cut a hole through the back so that the gaming system could be stashed inside the upper cabinet, along with all the controls and the TV remote. No more dogs tripping over cords on the floor, yay!
It isn’t perfect, but I think it looks a hell of a lot better than it did and it’s now a useable piece that should last her for years of use.
My next project it going to be the utility room floor. I’m tired of looking at the boxes of tile sitting in our kitchen, so I’m going to try and finally get that accomplished before spring hits and I don’t care about house projects for at least 6 months. LOL
I’ve already been planning garden layout and browsing seed catalogs. 🤩
Finished the lake scene with the boy and the dog. I decided to go with blue denim on the hat instead of red, it felt like the red became the focal point of the whole scene and I didn’t want that.
This next one is the 2nd snow scene I’ve done. I’m really liking how the trees came out in this one. It’s a lot of very fine work and I wasn’t sure until I added the snow whether I liked it or not. I added some sparkle here and there. This was on a bit bigger blade, probably about 9 inches.
I had to rearrange this scene slightly from my original sketch, since the hole in the saw would have fell right in the center of the barn.
Not sure what I’m starting next. I may work a bit on our next TV table.
Still fighting this upper respiratory garbage I’ve had since before Thanksgiving, but after a round of prednisone this week, I’m finally feeling better. Weird ass dreams that seem to go on and on, but otherwise better.
Going to try and get some things done up front today before the dreaded Walmart trip. I’ve been working on a saw blade past couple days for a friend and before that an “emergency” border collie ornament request. We only had one on the shop and she wanted two- by Christmas- she asked on Friday. ><
Also just had the kiddos band concert, 4-H projects, visits to doctor for my neck and the ongoing battle to keep the cat out of the tree (which is like every 5 minutes). SO, healthy(ish) and busy. 🙂
My friend had this photo from her family of their old Homestead in the hills of West Virginia. She’s been pulling sawblades out of her basement and giving them to me for the past couple months, I now have all new stock to paint on. Anyway, she found a Skil blade a bit larger than the rest and wanted to know if I could paint the barn from their old Homestead on it.
I went and took at a look at a nearby address on Google Earth, it was really easy to find these buildings, all I had to do was zoom out a bit and look for red roof. I wanted to see the surrounding terrain. This place looks like it sits on the edge of a ridge, overlooking hills.
The viewpoint I had was looking east, so I decided to have the sun coming up behind the hills. I took a little creative liscence with the foliage obviously, but tried to keep to wildflowers actually found in that part of the country. The Google pictures were all taken in winter, so the landscape was pretty stark, while her photo was in full overgrown, weedy summer. I tried for somewhere in between.
This one isn’t for sale if course, since I did it just for her. I am currently working on a boy/puppy dock scene on one of my smaller blades. After that I have another barn, this one in snow, that I think I may like to try.
I want to state start working more people into my landscapes, but I’m to say I’m not great at portraits is a serious understatement. I’m surprised the boy in my school mural turned out as well as he did. If he’d had to be more realistic, I’m not sure I could have done it then.
I watch a lot of Bob Ross. 😀
He doesn’t do much BUT landscapes. Now that we have better internet, I may go look for some other artists to learn from. When frustrated with my limitations, I have to remind myself I’ve only been doing this a couple years. That school mural was my first EVER painting. I drew a little before that, worked in colored pencil, Photoshop, but never paint. Nothing like starting out small… I’m so glad Jeannie took a chance on me though, because I probably wouldn’t be painting now if she hadn’t. She’s one of those rockstar teachers that can make others believe they can shoot for the moon and ACTUALLY REACH IT. Amazing woman.
I’ve been sick for over a week with some sinus thing that managed to sneak its way into my lungs and try to give me pneumonia. No, it’s not the “C” word. After several days of antibiotics I’m starting to feel human again. Today its 74°F outside. In December. Even if I was half dead, I’d have to drag myself out on a day like today. Plus, I had trees to plant.
I’ve decided that our yard is seriously lacking in fall color. We are mostly surrounded by oaks, hickory, walnut and cedar. Even the sweetgum up by my soon to be shop don’t get that gorgeous red and orange that I see along the streets in town, they are a disappointing yellow.
I did a little research and decided I’d like to start incorporating a few maples into the landscape. Not only are they usually stand outs in fall color, they provide good shade, they don’t have a reputation for being as breakable as the Bradford pear I cut down last year (always a gorgeous red in fall, but vile and invasive, had to go). I opted for a bare root sugar maple from Arbor Day’s website; as an added bonus it came with a free red maple. 🍁
Arbor Day sends decent instructions with their bare root trees, but I’ve heard lots of folks complain their success with them is hit and miss. The maple I paid for was almost 4 ft and had a really decent mass of established root on it. We’re having a mild fall right now, so I feel pretty good about getting this in and getting it settled before it’s subjected to harsh weather.
I’ve been bad in the past about skipping the pre-planning part of tree planting, only to later curse myself for not considering how TALL, how w-i-d-e or how invasive surface roots can be in some areas. I gave it a lot of thought this time. I researched, I read up on species before deciding, I watched light conditions, stuck my shovel in the ground and looked at it from different angles and inside the house. See the shovel at the corner of the barn?
I cannot stress enough the headache it will save you later, just planting your tree in the right place. You need to picture how it will look when it’s at full height and maximum spread. Some trees can be trimmed up underneath, some look ridiculous if you do this, it can even destabilize a few. Plant in the wrong spot and you’re making a lot of work for yourself later, if it doesn’t grow too large to be moved at all. I’ve seen lots of folks have to cut out beautiful trees because the wrong tree was planted just too close to their house or foundation.
2. If you get bare root trees like these, and the roots look like this with very little root ball, you may want to hold them back a season or two. I know the little pamphlet says they’ll establish roots over fall and do better in spring, but if your fall goes from mild to Siberia a week after you plant, those little guys just may not have quite enough root to pull through. I looked two weeks out and it looks ok, but if I were worried, I’d pot them up in potting soil and they’d spend a year or two like that until they have a nice, strong root ball. I put them in ground when they’re about 4ft tall and have a pot full of roots to get them started. Potted trees frim the nursery are way more expensive, but often perform better than tiny, fragile bare root trees. Have a little patience and you can save a fortune. The same sugar maple I bought for $15 was at least $50 when purchased in a pot.
3. I don’t want to just reiterate the rest if the tree planting instructions, but I do have one more piece of advice for those of you planting in clay soil. The instructions will tell you not to amend your soil. This is good advice, because your tree may not work to push its roots past the amended area. Trees can be lazy, like people. It’s also hard on fragile roots to work themselves through heavy clay.
If you don’t want to wait on potted trees or spend 3x the price, you can help a bare root tree by digging a HUGE hole. By this, I mean dig your hole out several feet from where the actual tree stands and a couple feet down from where it’s going to sit in the ground. Backfill your hole with loosened clay and sit the tree on top if that, you don’t want to bury it below the line it was planted at in the nursery. The reason for digging, then filling is to mechanically break up the clay, so the tree roots don’t have to do all the hard work.
We have cow pasture dirt- no rocks, at least 6 inches of topsoil, it drains and holds water fairly well for clay. You can see in the photo, I still dug a hole much larger than the tree required before planting. If we still lived at the Lake of the Ozarks, where our clay was either paste or concrete, I would have dug an even wider hole.
Final advice- don’t skip the mulch. When cold, sun, wind or heat start abusing your new trees, mulch can make the difference between a tree that pulls through or dies. This is in the tree planting instructions I got from Arbor Day, but it can’t be stressed enough. Mulch for a new tree is really, really, really important.
If you don’t have mulch on hand when you plant, chopped up leaves or straw work well. I’ve even used torn up cardboard. The trees I plant around our fields I throw an old tire on. It’s a good wind break and helps hold moisture around the roots. It also keeps me from running them over with the lawn tractor.
For detailed step by step instructions on planting a bare root tree, you can go to Arbor Day website. (They have video too)
Happy Holidays in case I don’t get back here until after NY.
I just realized while looking through the list of posts that I started writing Belle of Dirt in May of 2010. THAT’S FREAKING CRAZY.
11 YEARS people. 11 DAMN YEARS. I honestly can’t believe that I’ve stuck with it this long. I think it’s only because I’ve allowed it to morph and change and grow along with me. Some of these articles were on my original website, Dear-Me.com, back before I decided to scrap most of the personal posts and just go with a gardening theme. I’ve since directed all the personal stuff into a work of fiction, although it has yet to see the light of day outside of my computer. Maybe some day I’ll finally get it around to doing more with it. For now, it’s a work in progress.
Anyway, nothing new to report, other than it’s getting freaking cold outside, which means I’ll be painting, sewing and maybe doing a little writing because the older I get, the less I like the cold. I just wanted to share the revelation that I’ve been rambling away about plants and such for over a decade now and people are still reading this stuff. Which is kind of awesome. THANK YOU. You guys are the best. 🙂
I’m hoping I don’t get hate mail from this post, but I guess if I do, I’ll look at it as a new and interesting experience.
I’m not sure who started the Leave the Leaves campaign, as there are several groups out there collecting funds and trying to educate the public to their point if view. If you are in ANY sort of gardening forum on social media, I’m sure you’ve come across this discussion- sometimes even heated enough that the admins have to get involved and pry people apart.
Here’s one of the posters that was being passed around just the other day. Several members commented that they were no longer removing leaves from their yards, that they were doing their part to, “Save the pollinators!” and “Grow native!” Two mantras that are VERY popular among the gardening community right now. They were taking turns contrariamente congratulating each other on their efforts and declaring their righteousness when a man commented, “I’m not leaving my leaves. I like my yard and my grass.”
You would have thought from the responses that he’d declared he eats children and fertilizes his grass with the blood of cute puppies. They flat out attacked him. They told him he was a fool for maintaining a grass lawn, a bigger fool for cleaning up his leaves and those were some of the nicer comments.
This is now the world we live in though, where those with an unpopular opinion are bullied, belittled, shamed or even downright threatened. You’d think gardeners are peaceful people, but it can be a real passion and anything people are passionate about, they are willing to fight over.
I’m not condemning the Leave the Leaves campaign entirely. It’s based in truth, it makes some really good points and leaves can prove very beneficial in gardening. BUT (you knew it was coming) a few of the ads or information I’ve seen passed around about leaving leaves has been a bit deceptive.
I’ve seen claims that it will not harm your lawn, that it actually feeds it, because the leaves break down into soil. Let the leaves pile up in an inconspicuous area if you want to test this and see what happens to the lawn underneath. My oak leaves lock together nicely, especially when wet, forming a dense, impenetrable mat that will not allow light or air to pass through. It will suffocate and destroy any vegetation growing underneath. This is a great environment for supporting slugs, salamanders and roly polys, but not such a great environment for supporting grass or plants. Too many leaves will suffocate plants and kill a lawn, not feed it. I neglected to clean the leaves from this front bed (below) last year and I lost several of my bulbs- of the purple clover I had planted, only one came back up, the crocus did not do as well and the violets absolutely took over. The roses also have fungal issues this year, which may also be because of the heavy leaves under and around them. Leaves are a great space for fungus of all sorts to thrive.
I don’t “Leave the Leaves” here. It’s damaging to my landscape plants. it causes drainage issues, I will now have to treat roses with fungicide because of it and I really dislike using chemicals in our yard or garden.
Maybe my biggest reason for not leaving the leaves around our house is it draws insects, which is exactly what the poster above is telling folks to save. We had an infestation of brown recluse on this property when we moved in. The exterminator had to come out several times and spray and put sticky powder in the attic before we stopped seeing them in the house. If I let leaf debris sit around the house, they still come inside in the fall, looking for someplace warm to spend the winter. When we first moved, I was cleaning the garage, which was also infested with recluse and got bit on my bicep. It was painful and itched like mad around the bite; a couple days later I had a hole in my arm about a quarter inch deep where the venom ate the flesh away. Recluse normally stay hidden in walls and ceilings where you don’t ever see them (hence their name) but there was a lot of clutter in the garage and a lot of paper and boxes. They love any sort of leaves, decaying wood, paper, cardboard that they can hide in. 6 months later, I was trimming dead wood out of walnut tree in the backyard, a spider fell out of the tree and into the back of my sports bra. As soon as I moved and the bra tightened against the spider, it bit. That one felt like I’d been stung by a wasp. I had my daughter hold the bra out so the “wasp” could escape and a huge recluse fell out instead.
This time the pain wasn’t just bad, it was excruciating. I ran a fever, I felt sick and dizzy for days. I treated the wound with activated charcoal and Prid drawing salve (how I wish I’d had my dead nettle salve then!) to pull as much venom from the wound as possible. I kept it very clean, even though it hurt like hell to clean it after it opened up. In spite of no infection directly in the wound, I developed cellulitis in the surrounding tissue and had to go to the doctor for antibiotics and steroids about a week in. This bit went deep, you could have put a quarter halfway into my shoulder. It also spread to an area over the size of a half dollar. I still have a nasty scar on my shoulder blade to show for it.
All spiders love leaves, not just recluse and I’ve noticed a rise in the population of wolf spiders here since we knocked the recluse population down greatly. (thank goodness! they will kill recluse.) I spotted at least 3 recluse running for cover as I was clearing the leaves around the foundation of our house this past week. That’s 3 that ran for the yard and will hopefully go find another place to inhabit besides our siding. Which brings me to my last point.
Piles of leaves, especially wet leaves built up over time can destroy wooden house siding, even hardybacker will succumb to it if left long enough. They will also permanently stain concrete porches and patios or exposed foundation walls. As the leaves break down, the leach out tannin oils that stain brown and yellow, which is nearly impossible to remove from grey stone or concrete. Imagine leaving a sopping wet blanket on your beautiful wood kitchen table for 3 months straight. You wouldn’t do that, nor should you leave piles of wet leaves against wooden siding or decks if you don’t want the wood to rot and be destroyed.
So as with all gardening advice, I would encourage you to read into the SCIENCE behind what you’re being told to do and not just jump on the latest viral post or fad (I’m looking at YOU EPSOM SALT). Also use a little common sense, if you’re gifted in that area. Leaves aren’t doing any organic good on your hardscapes or clogging up the gutters on your house. If you live in town and the city takes leaves, find out where they take them. Many cities now haul them to a composting facility where they are broken down and sent back out as beneficial compost for lawns and gardens. As for me, I have a yard that is close to 5 acres, full of huge, mature oak trees and that’s JUST the yard. In total, we have 40 acres and another 30 that is family land of fields, woods and yard. I’ve never raked or burned leaves here. I wait for the bulk of them to fall, then run the mower one last time in November, chopping them into small pieces and blowing the bulk of them into the edges of the woods and the hay fields. Fireflies lay their eggs in those areas, the mice, turtles and all those other small creatures on the poster above like to hang out there, so THAT IS WHERE I leave the leaves. They aren’t damaging my house and drawing recluse, they are in the edges of the woods where they give all those little critters a place to hide that isn’t in my front door. If you can have undisturbed areas like that, I see no issue at all with tidying up your hardscape or chopping up the leaves to mulch trees instead of letting them lie on the lawn, where you don’t have to share your space with creeping crawling things. Regardless of what the article in Woman’s Day Magazine may be telling you is the RIGHT THING to do. (Personally I can’t trust a magazine that gives diet advice and cupcake recipes on the same cover anyway)
If you don’t have woods or an “edge” to send your leaves to, maybe chop them up and use to mulch perennial garden beds. Chopped up, they don’t form those thick, dense, air blocking mats I was talking about. Once mulched, they break down in a season into compost. I’ve also used them as a layer in my Hugelkulture beds or lasagna gardening. They are a great brown layer to fill in around larger sticks and branches. Earthworms adore a layer of chopped up leaves.
Just stop the “Leave the Leaves!” shaming folks. Everyone’s yard is different, every garden is different and there isn’t a one method fits all that works for any situation. Gardening is one of those things that is as individual as the person doing it and that’s one of the really great things about it. Suggestions are helpful, education is helpful, yelling at someone that they are horrible destroyers of the environment because they didn’t want piles of leaves around their house or haven’t cut down their Bradford Pear yet is ridiculous. We want to ENCOURAGE people to love gardening and be drawn to it, not scare them away forever because we let our passion or dedication to the latest fad override our basic human decency. There is too much of that in the world today and gardening is supposed to draw people back to nature, not make them run screaming in the other direction from angry keyboard warriors.