A perfect little piece of sunshine

June 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Posted in 4th of July, country life, gardening, knitting, knitting for babies, Life, love, photography, socks, summer, travel, yarn | 1 Comment
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Every year, right about the 4th of July, our wild raspberries start turning from pale red to deep, almost black purple.  At first you just see one here or there, then the next day another three or four.  And it builds that way until suddenly there are shiny purple wild raspberries in such abundance that you can’t pick them fast enough to eat, preserve, bake and so forth.  Our started turning a little bit early this year, but they are turning slowly day by day.

Our baby grand-daughter got her first opportunity to stand in front of the berry canes and pick, eat, pick, eat, pick, eat with her chubby little hands in that rapid fire way the little kids do.  Oh, how that took me back to my childhood.

I remember standing at the edge of the woods, just inside (on the wooded side) a fence at the edge of our neighbor’s yard where concord grapes were growing.  There I was doing that rapid fire pick, eat, pick, eat, pick, eat.  Only, I was being naughty because those were our neighbor’s grapes and I was picking and eating them secretly; perhaps they tasted sweeter because of my misbehavior, I don’t know.

My husband noted these early raspberries of ours taste flat, and that he hopes for some sunshine to warm and nourish them enough to create more sugar over the next few days so they will be sweet and flavorful.  We have made so much more rain and overcast days this spring and into summer that it will be interesting to see how it affects the various berries and fruits coming in over the course of the summer. We are blessed to live on this beautiful farm, and to have a super abundance of wild raspberries that show up of their own accord, volunteering to berry us abundantly each July.

My son is in Los Angeles at this time, so he will miss out on the plentiful berries this July 4th, but hopefully will be able to get back in time for peaches in August. Either way, he will receive some jars of my homemade wild raspberry preserves from this year’s crop.

The last two days have been quite cool with a pushy, chilly breeze blowing most of the time.  Today the breeze has slowed down, but the air is still surprisingly cool for a summer morning. I stepped out to see if I could find a spot where I could photograph a new sock I am design-knitting for my grand-daughter (more on that in a moment) and thought I would try the spot where we  found the early ripe raspberries.  Rounding a corner, I saw this one little clump of not-ripe raspberries with the most perfect little piece of sunshine illuminating it.  I bent down quickly to grab a photograph before the light changed, and the moment I landed on my knee I heard the tiniest little flutter.  I looked and there was a chubby little baby bird sitting on the raspberries canes right behind that little clump of berries.  Startled, I gasped as my eyes widened and I’m pretty sure he did the same thing.  We stared right at each other for a split second and then he hopped off, landed on the ground where his little brother was waiting for him and then they both flitted away before I could do anything other than notice what had just happened.

Of course, it all happened far too rapidly for me to be able to capture any of it with my camera.  I was able to capture the perfect little piece of sunshine embracing the clump up of berries — and you see that shot at the very top of today’s blog.

Thank you world, universe, and God for aligning all of the ingredients for that perfect moment and affording me the opportunity to witness it.

Magic.

As for the sock knitting, or knitting at all, here is the story. For the past several months it has been somewhat impossible to knit because of a certain little munchkin who seems to be all fingers whenever I settle down to relax and have a knit. The grabbing, the pulling, the wrestling … it all makes for very fitfull, not relaxed knitting that almost happens and then has to be abandoned fairly rapidly. I had to abandon my own Summer in the Country Cotton Blanket knit along, sadly, because it was just too large and when the munchkin (aka Sweetpea) would grab it, I felt too much stress worrying that my needles would get pulled out of 241 stitches that would be very difficult to get back ahold of. So, I set it aside until she is a bit older.

I am longing, however, to knit some socks — for the munchkin, and for myself. So, last weekend I purchased a pair of Kollage square dpns in size U.S. 1 from a seller on eBay — they arrived in Monday’s mail, which was awesome — and I got started on a pair of socks for Sweetpea. I’m using left over yarn from the Little Violet Who Christmas Stocking I design-knitted for her first Christmas from Kimber Baldwin Designs (Fiber Optic Yarns). Her hanks of yarn are so generous that I was able to knit that over-sized Christmas Stocking and still have plenty of yarn left over. The socks I am making are designed to have a slouch with some body, and feature a stripe pattern similar to Little Violet Who, but knit on these much tinier needles the fabric looks quite different. I also added a little ridge detail at the bottom of each stripe for a bit more visual interest and body.

Miracle of miracles, although she did grab at my knitting pretty much the moment I got started, she is now leaving me along and I am actually able to accomplish something. It is such a relief to be able to relax in this way again, and I appreciate her cooperation so very much. I love the fact that she is interested in the yarn and the needles; I gave her a partial skein of some yarn I knew I wasn’t going to use for anything and a large crochet hook so she could do her own “needlework” and that helped satisfy her desire to grab my project.

I might have enough yarn left to make a matching hat, or I might make some little wrist warmers — it depends on what I have left over.

Well, summer is out there calling my name through each of our forty windows, in the singing of the birds, and with the ripening of the berries. I need to pay attention to what it is telling me … what is summer saying to you today?

~firefly

P.S. If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s post, check it out for information about the loveliest summer art trail … Artists of The Oak in Orleans County … coming up this August 27th right in our own backyard! (Literally.)

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Hostas, my vista baby

June 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, flowers, gardening, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships, romance, shopping, summer, travel | 4 Comments
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Do you remember when I wrote about planting hostas back in June of 2008? Well, take a look at how those hostas have grown.

There are plenty more around the house in various locations, but those we planted by this old, quaint but out-of-use back porch came in with gusto this year. Since planting them, I have often seen other folks’ hostas, some quite huge and lush and longed for ours to attain such grandeur. Imagine my delight when I looked outside one morning after many days of rain and saw how wonderful abundant our hosta display had become.

This year I have also planted a bunch of annuals in various old, rusty containers I bought at a nearby junk — er, I mean collectibles — shop last year. We are getting ready for the second annual Artists of The Oak Art Trail event (Saturday, August 27th this year) and I wanted to have plenty of charming flower containers to use dress the farm the day of the event. For now, they live on the old porch, keeping good company with our lovely hostas.

We are excited about the Art Trail event, because last year’s event was such a beautiful day and this year is bound to be even better. Artists of The Oak is a group of artists from our county (Orleans County New York) that started forming up a couple of years back. My main primary contribution to the group, other than being an artist member, is to be the point person for the Art Trail event and try to do every thing I can to make it more and more successful. Last year I took up a collection for prints costs and designed a rack card to advertise the group and the 2010 Art Trail. This year everybody chipped in again and I was able to design and have printed an oversized postcard as well as a 2-fold brochure with a map on one side. My husband created the map, which was a wonderful contribution on his part.

A problem our artists have run into with attempts at the art trail in our county in the past is that the county is so large and everything is so spread out because of all the farm land and sparse population that only a handful of people, if that, would travel the art trail. That was very discouraging to any participants. Last year my husband and I volunteered to have several artists set up tents at our place so that visitors could see more artists with less driving time. Other members of the group followed suit and we ended up with four locations where visitors could see multiple artists.

We do this trail as a part of the larger event in our county, sponsored by GoArt!, called The Artist Road Show, which includes not only members of our group but other artists in the county who are not members. By creating our own trail (I will call our portion the “Artists of The Oak Loop” within the larger trail, we are able to create our own promo materials in whatever quantity we desire and get them out much earlier than the GoArt! materials get out. This gives us a greater chance of attracting as many visitors as possible through our own resources and efforts while also allowing us to benefit from the larger reach and budget of GoArt!’s promotional actions.

It must have worked last year, because attendance was about ten times what it had been in previous years (keep in mind that in previous years it had been literally three people who traveled the trail and last year we had about forty people who came through). This year, we plan to have even more and to keep increasing the numbers every year by getting better at promoting it.

If you live in the area, set the date aside and travel our trail. It will be a beautiful day, a wonderful opportunity to meet some very talented and interesting artists, and there will be opportunities to begin or add to your own art collection. We will all be making an effort to have some smaller, more affordable pieces available for anywhere from $20 to $100 along with more expensive pieces as well.

For those of you who do not live in the area, our county is a wonderful place to come to the country for a drive. We have an abundant supply of farm stands with ripe, tasty local produce at amazing prices, Lake Ontario is simply beautiful to drive along, the Oak Orchard River has world-class fishing opportunities (we are right on that river), and there is our wonderful art trail. If you enjoy my art in particular, Zambistro restaurant opens at 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays with a delicious comforting menu of affordable gourmet food plus their walls are adorned with plenty of my paintings.

You can download a map for Artists of The Oak Loop here.

Meanwhile, back to what is happening today on the farm.

Among the many annuals I planted in all of those old, rusty containers there is this lovely beauty … my new favorite begonia. Begonias have been my very favorite potted garden flowers since I was very young, in fact, my first potted flower I ever owned was a begonia. There is something deliciously old-fashioned about a begonia and this one is particularly lovely in my eyes. I love the bright yellow, over-sized flowers and the big rustic looking leaves. They grow and grow, and bloom and bloom all summer long and I just love them to pieces. This one looks especially wonderful set against the deep rusty color of the old container I planted it in. I met this variety of begonia for the first time last summer, and we became fast friends.

This is another completely lovely discovery from this year’s trip to buy flowers from my good friend, Lora Partyka. It is a Dragon Wing Begonia — is she not gorgeous! I love meeting new varieties of flowers and becoming good friends, and this one is a definite keeper. (Hopefully, she thinks the same about me.)

Last year we planted two peach trees, one Honey Crisp apple tree, and a cherry tree. While the cherry and apple trees did not bear fruit yet, the peach trees have lovely little peaches that are coming along quite beautifully. There are about two dozen peaches between the two trees and we really look forward to sinking our teeth into them by the end of the summer … a long wait, but well worth the patience that will be required.

There is something very profound (to me) in looking at a something we planted that has grown and is bearing food of some kind. When we grew pumpkins a couple of years back we all loved going out every day and watching the progress of the orange orbs as they multiplied and grew. Our “Sincere Pumpkin Patch” sign is still standing guard over that hallowed ground, and we will be putting in a few pumpkin plants shortly. Our little project to start 36 pumpkin plant in six different varieties indoors this year was a disaster, so I had to ask my Lora P. to start a few for me in hopes they would have a better chance of survival under her care — she is a real farmer, I just live on a farm and fantasize unrealistically about growing all manner of flowers and produce.

That having been said, we did have an opportunity this past weekend to feel like real farmers for a few hours. The farmer who works out fields was out plowing and planting all weekend, and while he was doing that we had to rake the three acres of lawn around the house and barn. This year we had so much rain, so constantly, during the spring that the yard stayed too wet for my husband to be able to get out on it with his tractor and keep it mowed. As a result, the grass grew too long between mowing, and that left a problem of far too much long, dead grass laying about on the lawn. We had to rake it up in order to keep our “grass” green (it is actually a mixture of some grass and many very green weeds of various varieties).

We raked Saturday and Sunday, making large piles of dry grass all over the place. Looking at them, though they were not formed into “stacks”, they looked like mini versions of hay stacks to us and that was enough for my imagination to get going for a time. On Sunday, my husband rigged up a large shovel type contraption that he hooked to the front of his tractor for loading the dead grass piles into so he could drive them over to a different area of the property. This shovel thing he made was about eight feet wide, and maybe three or four feet high — it was pretty cool, and I love it that he is clever and resourceful.

We made our way from grass pile to grass pile raking big piles of grass into his huge shovel and packing it down. Doing this while the farmer was working the fields, I told my husband that it almost felt as if we were real farmers. Silly really, because real farmers work very long hard hours day after day after day, whereas we worked for a few hours two days in a row and all we were doing in reality was getting rid of grass.

Still, it was fun to pretend …

No pun intended, but we have covered a lot of ground today. There is one more item I would like to share in parting though … I wrote a press release this week for my son’s Etsy store and we are getting it out to various media contacts and bloggers. If you are a blogger and would like access to the press release, you can find it here. Here also is a graphic he just started using in the store to help give people ideas about custom signs he could do for them–click on the graphic to see the full size image (so you can read the wording).

I plan on having him create a custom sign for I Live on a Farm, to track our journey and commemorate the fifth anniversary of our marriage and the blog. It seems appropriate right now, because we are on the verge of some very exciting new developments. I can sense, just as I did six years ago, that some important, positive changes are in the air and heading our way.

Well, I have much to do. Strawberries are in season, and I need to go buy a bunch of them so I can make my annual huge batch of strawberry rhubarb preserves. And that is just the very, very tip of the iceberg for summer activities around here.

Talk to you soon,
~firefly

A little trip down river

June 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Posted in art, country life, country living, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, photography, romance, travel | 2 Comments
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My husband’s nephew recently purchased a motorized bass boat and brought to the family boat house on the river, where it is available for us use at times.  Until now, our trips on the river over at our cottage have involved rowing of various kinds. A little trip on the river in a row boat or canoe is great, especially in the canoe because it is so smooth, quiet, and peaceful.  However, we are a little bit restricted by time and distance when rowing.  Getting out in a power boat, even though we only “power” along at five miles an hour, means we can take a little trip down river to Lake Ontario and back in about two and a half hours. That’s a pretty little trip down this very still, quiet part of our river.

A couple of days ago we had an opportunity to get away from the farm for a couple of hours so we dashed over to the cottage with an impromptu picnic dinner and took our first little trip down river in the power boat.  We didn’t have enough time to go all the way to the Lake, but we enjoyed a lovely cruise that offered up plenty of beauty, wildlife and opportunity for some much needed relaxation.

Along the way we encountered one swan couple, and a bit further along we came across a family of swans.  I have been longing to capture some great photographs of swans ever since I moved here five years ago.  We were able to get very close to the swans this time, and though I didn’t have the big Nikon with me, we did have my husband’s Nikon CoolPix along and I was able to capture some photos I was very pleased with.  There are two in particular that are particularly inspiring as subjects for paintings – one will be an oil, the other a watercolor.

In the photo at the top of today’s post, do you see the blue heron the background, at river’s edge? How cool is that? I didn’t even notice him until my husband pointed him out, after I got the shot.

And, speaking of photos … as a part of the revamping I am doing of my online presence, I am closing down my second Etsy Store, “Firefly’s Studio” and reopening an all new Etsy Store devoted entirely to my fine art paintings and photography. You will still be able to find my knitting patterns and gifts for knitting folks at the I Live on a Farm Etsy store, but for fine art products (oil paintings, watercolors, limited edition prints, note cards, and photographic prints) go to Fleckenstein Fine Art at Etsy.

I haven’t had a chance yet to prep any of the swan photos to sell on Etsy, but I have posted a number of gorgeous prints from the Tree Peony photos I shot this year. Printed at a professional lab on Kodak Endura Metallic photo paper, the tree peony photos would look beautiful hanging on your wall or displayed in your office or studio. When I got the first set of proofs back from the lab, I was thrilled with the brilliant colors and rich details made possible with this fantastic paper.

I am also posting limited edition prints of some of my fine art oil paintings. There is a new one there that hasn’t been available until now, “Haiku 1” which you might enjoy.

For my readers only (and it will include those on my email list) I am offering a 25% introductory discount in the Fleckenstein Fine Art Etsy shop today through Sunday evening (June 19, 2011). So, if you would take a minute to check out the new store (new items are being added every few days as I have time), and if you see something you would like to buy, use this code, FLECKEN25 in the PayPal checkout.

My son and I are working on some cool things that we will be able to unveil by late August — lots of work getting everything done, but worth the effort. If you haven’t visited his Etsy store recently, you should today because he has some new releases of his vintage-inspired subway signs and bus scroll prints — you just might find your neighborhood or favorite line represented.

When he first started creating his signs and prints, he spent a great deal of time meticulously recreating the lettering found on the original NYC subway signs of the 1900’s. To create a new piece, he thoroughly researches a city or neighborhood, looking for insight into what he feels best represents that specific area. Once he has decided on the streets, stops, etc. that will be used, he uses the lettering he made to create a layout digitally.

Along with reproductions of authentic subway signs and bus scrolls and his own designs, he creates custom signs for people who have lived or traveled around the world, or featuring specific neighborhoods, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, bands/concerts, etc. Some custom signs even include family member names and important dates. As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless.

This just in … my son just issued a coupon code for my readers only. Today through Sunday night, get free U.S. domestic shipping on any order you place at Flying Junction. Use this code at PayPal checkout: SHIP4FREE.

You can find his work, or contact him about your custom project, by visiting his Etsy store. He especially enjoys hearing from the readers of my blog, so give him a shout!

I have to run along now. Hope you have a great weekend with some awesome weather!

~firefly

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