It’s cool being a bug

August 28, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Posted in art, blogging, charity knitting, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, Habitat for Humanity, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, summer, volunteerism | 13 Comments

28-aug-07_b.jpgI have been a bug now for a little over one year, and I have to say … it is cool being a bug. Bugs used to creep me out. Okay, bugs still creep me out to a large degree. However, when I became a bug I was fortunate enough to become one that has never creeped me out in the least and one which, in fact, only conjurs up magic in my heart and imagination. Therefore, I do not creep myself out and I have made some very good friends, friends who rather seem to enjoy addressing me by my bug name every bit as much as I enjoy being so called … firefly.

Little did I know when I started my blog last year in early August that it would become anything what it has become by now. I am grateful beyond expression for the warmth of the many comments and emails left by you folks out there. It has been and continues to be an inspirational journey and one that is very cool to take together. You have been with me as I have discovered and become some sort of a part of the landscape that is my new home in rural, Western New York. As I have explored and photographed this endearing place, I have fallen in love with it more and more and you have been a part of that process. I don’t want to over-acknowledge it, because I in no way intend to end this experience. Instead, I would like to do all I can to increase its value and meaning in my life as well as yours.

The evening light shows become more and more spectacular as the year grows older. Saturday evening we were snuggled up on the sofa watching something on television when a very late evening amber-rose light cut shone through the room with gently shifting dappled shadow lights across the television and on over to my oil painting studio across the room. It would be impossible to witness such light without a sense of lively magic permeating the environment. Just as the twinkling light of little fireflys in mid-summer bestow a sense of magic to brighten the soul, so does this rich late-summer, late-evening light brighten and soothe. It reminds us that magic does indeed exist … tangible. Reach out, touch it, taste it … for it is there.

28-aug-07_d.jpgA few minutes later we looked outside, catching sight of the magic light cutting through the trees here and there, high and low. The world was ablaze with magic light. I whispered, “Let’s go outside!” and away we went in a hurry before the magic could fade away. The sky was gray and pink in muted contrast to the bits and pieces of tree foilage, green by day, lit up in tones of deep amber rose. It was breathtaking and made me feel library-quiet because I so did not want to disturb it.

Later that night, as we were beginning to go to sleep, my husband said, “Is that a firefly?” I looked toward our north-facing window (the one that overlooks our barn) and saw one lone firefly blinking on and off right at our window. It was strange, a bit ethereal, to see that single firefly hanging around our bedroom window–this late in the summer. We usually only see them out amongst the trees and shrubs, by the barn and the willow, earlier in the summer. I stayed awake as long as I could watching the one firefly but I fell asleep before its light went out or away. What future magic did the firefly portend? What was the meaning of the little creatures’ visit at our bedroom window? I wonder …

Sunday seemed a perfect day to me. We enjoyed fellowship with our friends at church in the morning, and went teasel testing on the way home. (Teasels, if you recall, are the main ingredient of my Thistleonian Critters. We have been tracking their development this year to try to determine the ideal time to harvest them.) Back at home I had some experimentation to conduct on watercolor paper I wanted to adhere to wood panels for the barn paintings I am longing to get started on. We also watched the Turkish Grand Prix Formula One race which my husband had TIVO’d that morning. After the race, the watercolor paper tests, and a few other home-bound tasks, we set out to harvest a bucketful of teasels and shoot some photographs of apple orchards being prepped for picking, followed by a trip to a local farm market for a couple of scoops of our favorite ice cream.

28-aug-07_horsec.jpgWhile we were out on the photography run, my husband spotted a group of dappled horses enjoying their lazy Sunday afternoon. Three were laying down having a rest, one of those was rolling around like a happy dog …

Side Bar: I have to remember to tell you sometime about my observations regarding the behavior of New York cows versus California cows.

Be sure to check out my One Painting a Day blog to see the latest paintings I have posted there from my “Beginning with Barnum” art show at The Winery at Marjim Manor. Plus, I have found an artist-friendly auction site where I will be posting any of my auctions from now on. Of note, I will be donating 10% of my auction proceeds from the Beginning with Barnum paintings to our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. You can check out a gallery of current auctions here.

Back to the Blog … It was a wonderful summer scene, that group of happy horses lounging, rolling, napping, slowly chomping on hay. We pulled over so I could shoot some photos from the car, and as I shot my photos I was viciously attacked by–I don’t know what. At first all I felt was a bit of a stinging sensation on my forearm, but being the dedicated photographer that I am I bravely continued going for the shot I wanted … one, two, three, and four shots I clicked before pausing to see what was causing the increasingly strong feeling of pain on my arm. At first all I saw was a dark crimson circle of blood standing out in stark contrast to the snowy white of my ultra-soft long sleeved tissue tee. Blood! A stain the size of a nickle, a nickle I tell you! Eee-gaads! What was going on? Quickly my eyes caught sight of some dark, evil creature perched in the middle of the bloody spot. With no time to think, I swept at the monstrous beast with my hand while calling out to my husband that we must flee before it returned. For the first time in my life, I had been bloodied in the line of photographic duty.

28-aug-07_horseb.jpgI barely escaped with my life and I’m not entirely sure that even the mighty power of my economy size Stain-Stik is going to remove that blood stain from my pretty little tee. But, I do this dangerous photography work for you, dear reader. For you. No, no … now don’t try to dissuade me from continuing onward. If bloodied I must be in order to chronicle and bring to you the beauty of this world, then bloodied I shall be and without so much as a wince or a tear, no not I.

Don’t the horses look sweet though. I love the way one of the younger horses lifted its head, roused from a little nap to see what was going on over by the road.

28-aug-07_e.jpgSunday evening, as a mostly perfect day came to a close, I went out to our willow tree and captured some of the magic light of evening dancing through the cascading canopy above. Lovely, just lovely.

This morning, mid-blog, the doorbell rang and when Blu and I answered it, we found a group of four young men who had taken a dunk in the river when their canoe capsized. Their cell phone was drenched in water and so wasn’t working, and they needed to borrow our phone. I handed them a cordless phone while Blu barked to make sure they knew just whose home they were at. I invited them to stay on the porch to wait for their ride, so for about thirty minutes or so we had strangers out on the porch and in the yard enjoying a bit of rest just as the Wheelmen did in years gone by. I enjoyed hearing their voices as they stretched out on the hill at the corner of our yard and imagined what it must have been like when the Wheelmen would stop by on their way to Lake Ontario, stretching out in the shade of the trees and gulping down cold water from the well out back. We have a good life here at our place, and I am happy for any opportunity to share it just as it has been shared so generously with me.

Yes, I am a bug and life continues to unfold and open up, displaying more and more grace and beauty, filling my heart with a sense of gratitude overflowing and dancing along like the water in the river across the road.

It’s cool, being a bug.

Wishing you a lovely day,
~firefly

You’re a good boy, Blu

August 24, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, country living, dating, dogs, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, gardening, gifts, health, knitting, love, marriage, pets, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, summer, yarn | 13 Comments

Blu is a Wild Man in Fireflys YardIt is very much like having a child, this thing of raising a puppy. He is a good, good boy and sometimes he does mischief and he always keeps us on our toes.

Back in July we put in an electric fence for him so that he can have full freedom out in the yard. It has been up to me to do the bulk of the training he needs so that he respects the boundaries set by the electric fence, simply because I work from home and am available to train him. We were doing pretty well with it until about a week before the art show began and then I dropped the ball. So, now Blu and I will do some refresher lessons together and get him back quickly to where we were when we left off.

Meanwhile, regardless of the elecrric fence, we have been working with him on being out in the yard supervised without his leash, responding to our calls to come back. He is mostly good about responding when we call, but fairly routinely he has to demonstrate his independence by running like a mad man toward the boundaries only to pull back at the last minute and swing back toward whoever is calling his name. Once in a while he taunts my husband by stepping over the boundary and into the road or the once-corn field before turning immediately back into the yard. They have a “special” relationship, those two.

More of Wild Man Blu Running About at Fireflys FarmA couple of nights ago we came home from dinner (that farm-fresh BLT dinner with John and Dorothy) and found about thirty Canadian Geese milling around in the yard out behind the willow tree, just our side of what was last year’s corn field. We’ve been seeing quite a few geese around lately and hear them calling out often as they do fly-bys. Their late-summer return seems to indicate the coming of an early autumn.

I grabbed the camera and headed out back, with my husband keeping Blu in the house for a few minutes to give me time to snap a few shots. Unfortunately, a car alarm in the drive went off and while the alarm itself did not scare off the geese, it did draw their attention in my direction and away they flew before I could get any meaningful photos. Oh well, they will be back.

When Blu came out a few minutes later with my husband, there I was already deep in the yard with the camera to hand, so I was able to get quite a few candid shots of him playing in the yard. What fun he has running free of the leash, tongue hanging out, going this way and that.

Whenever my husband takes him out, after their time in the yard is finished, he says to him, “Hey Blu, you want an apple?” This signals Blu to run out toward one of our apple trees and select an apple from the ground. As soon as he finds just the right one, he snaps it up and goes straight for the back door so he can go inside to eat his apple on the carpet in the dinning room. It is a sweet ritual the two of them share, and I was happy to have a front row seat to capture all of the action on our digital camera.

I mentioned the other day that I would tell you more about why I named my current art show “Beginning with Barnum,” so here it is:

The name “Barnum” pays tribute to my husband’s grandfather, Arthur Barnum, who planted several pear trees back in the 1940’s on the property by the family cottage a few miles down the river from our farm. Last autumn we picked a few of Gramp Barnum’s pears. They were such pretty little pears and looked so old-fashioned, I was inspired to create several small paintings of them. I thought with those paintings I could create something lasting to reflect the dreams of Mr. Barnum and carry something of those dreams forward into the future beyond the borders of the cottage property.

Antique Pears an Oil Painting by J L FleckensteinMy show, “Beginning with Barnum” features a series of postcard-size oil paintings (ranging in size from 6″ x 6″ to 6″ x 8″) of various fruits from farms in Western New York, including Gramp Barnum’s pears. These small format paintings are in the spirit of the recent “Painting a Day” artist movement, where artists representing themselves outside of the realm of “galleries and museums” create small relatively inexpensive-to-own fine art pieces which they sell directly (usually via the Internet) to a new generation of art collectors. Collectors of Painting-a-Day art might not ever purchase a large, more expensive painting from a gallery but they also might not want to purchase poster art from a mass merchandiser. Click to see the auction for the painting in this post. (Note: 10% of proceeds from this auction will be donated to our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.)

I believe these small paintings are very appropriate for this area of New York because of the many cottages along Lake Ontario and the river. The small format paintings are perfect to hang on cottage walls, and a cottage is where it all began so many years ago with Gramp Barnum’s dreams of a “country” vacation spot along the river for his family.

To see paintings featured in the show, please visit my One Painting a Day Blog.

Fireflys Buttermilk Wholewheat Yeast BreadI also said the other day that I would share a recipe with you for the delicious and healthy Buttermilk Wholewheat Yeast Bread I made for our BLT dinner the other night. Please keep in mind this is a bread machine recipe, so the directions are only for bread machines not for making the bread by hand. In the photograph of the bread, I drizzled my piece with olive oil and coarse salt before toasting it lightly in the toaster oven.

After our BLT dinner, John and Dorothy took us out to their garden and loaded us up with several heads of romaine lettuce and half of a grocery bag full of grape tomatoes and roma tomatoes. The next day I whipped up a yummy Summer Salsa Salad and had a piece of leftover bread with it. It was a refreshing, healthy, and tasty lunch. So, I thought I would share the salad recipe with you as well (next week because I am out of time for today). I must say though, the salad won’t be quite the same if you don’t have John’s and Dorothy’s sweet grape tomatoes and fresh, crisp romaine lettuce.

Firefly Buys Gemstones Yarn by Louet for Baby SweaterIn closing, I wanted to share of a photo of the cone of yarn I picked up this week from my local yarn shop. This is Gemstones by Louet in Willow, sport weight. I will be using this for the baby sweater I’m designing for a new baby in the family. As I get into knitting the sweater, I’ll share photos and later when it is complete I will share the pattern. Meanwhile, isn’t that a sweet looking cone of yarn? I thought Willow would be perfect, because the willow tree on our farm is such an important part of life now.

Hope you have a beautiful weekend … you and yours,

~ firefly

Copyright © 2007 J.L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Cool Days of August

August 22, 2007 at 8:12 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, country living, dating, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, gardening, gifts, health, knitting, knitting for babies, love, marriage, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, socks, yarn | 4 Comments

Group of Apples An Oil Painting by J L FleckensteinWe are having exceptionally cool days, even though it is late August. It is cool enough during the day I find myself reaching for sweaters and jackets. Not that I’m complaining …

The first weekend of the art show at The Winery at Marjim Manor went very well. The weather was gorgeous, and the time spent at the Manor was both highly aesthetic and relaxing. There is something about that little section of western New York that I absolutely love. Up the road from the Manor is a little ice cream stand on a neighbor’s farm where I love to go with my husband for a little impromptu “date”. They serve many flavors of delicious Perry’s Ice Cream (made in Akron, New York). My favorite is Peanut Butter Cup: chocolate with flakes of peanut butter. Mmm.

A couple of days before the show started we went there for an ice cream after hanging paintings. A cool wind was blowing, the air was crisp and clear and you could feel the clarity of Lake Ontario just north of the highway. I told him as we sat there in a shady spot under a tree at a picnic table that there is something vital about that particular area which I love. The fruit farmers are always going by with tractors, up and down the road, off and onto their farms, doing this and that. The productivity is electric, and I feel as if they are doing quite well. They certainly do look competent and happy; the farms are large, clean, and quite organized … more so than others I have seen.

In the photograph of a painting (above) you see a group of apples from a local farm market, some we purchased last autumn. I am looking forward to buying another bushel or so from the same place this year. But first, we must load up on their peaches. I bought myself a dozen canning jars and plan to make peach preserves this weekend. Peaches are my husband’s favorite fruit.

The painting of the apples is one featured in the show at the winery. I have named my show, “Beginning with Barnum” and will tell you the story of why I named it that in Friday’s blog. The painting above is also featured on my painting a day blog.

I have to run … some whole wheat buttermilk bread is about to come out of my bread maker: it is our newest favorite bread. Our friends, Dorothy and John, told us to come by for BLTs made from their abundant crop of romaine lettuce and ripe tomatoes and we’re supplying the bread. I’ll share the recipe for it on Friday as well.

Oh, and as for knitting … I just set up a sitting area in our bedroom for reading and knitting. We have a little loveseat in there, as well as a comfy chair with an ottoman. It is so cozy, I just love it completely. We are both looking forward to cozy autumn and winter evenings and weekends sitting in our new spot reading, sipping tea or coffee and knitting (I will be the only one knitting, not him). I just bought a half pound cone of Willow sport weight yarn from Louet to make a baby sweater for our new little nephew, born back in May. I’ve also still got three pairs of socks to knit for myself and patterns to share with you for it all — the baby sweater, the socks … oh my, what a lot I have to do.

Have a great evening!

~firefly

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