Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Off-put by the Off-putting

I seems to happen every spring and fall here - during mud and flood season. Everyone gets in what can only be called "negative speaking." I used to blame it on the mud. But with the drought there hasn't been a lot of that for four years. The locals that can afford to leave in April or November or both are gone. Those of us that cannot stay behind and pet sit or property watch or do the little minor jobs like painting the living room when the owners are away. The owners call back from time to time to check on Pookie or the Puce they picked for the bedroom.

They begin by asking how the weather is.

"Been raining for five days. We had two and half inches on one day."

"So the road is a sheet of mud, right?"

"The grass is very green."

"Will it need mowed before we return?"

"The creek is bank to bank."

"So muddy paw prints all inside the house, right?"

I am not taking care of a pet for them so obviously she means my muddy paws.

I have tried to head off these focus on the negative conversations by sending e-mail updates including pictures of Pookie tracking mud through the living room. No, not really. Just, Pookie, and no mud. The e-mail works if I do not expect answers to issues. "We ran out of Pookie food and her brand isn't carried in the store. Can you let me know where you get it?"

Replies to such questions are usually very non-responsive. Instead of a supplier I can call I get a diatribe about how difficult it is to get adequate service (think she means me and not the website she orders special Pookie food from) in the "muddy sticks." Trick here is never reply to an email.

Facebook has not helped. After posting a bevy of photos from a road trip to Cimarron (there and back in Three hours on a Sunday) I got a telephone message asking why I was not home painting the living room pumpkin and/or answering the phone. She didn't even have Facebook but a friend of hers showed her my page on her account.

Okay, most of this is entirely fiction. Well, not entirely. I have a good memory of clients I do not work for any more. Probably mutual because I didn't reply to her e-mails. And fed Pookie the wrong food - that food I could find.

Mother always said if you could not say anything good do not say anything at all. Now there is a conversation ender. But staying here or away in paradise all you seem to hear in mud and flood season is the very worst of here and the very best of there. If it rains it is the mud, and if it doesn't rain it is the looming fire danger. It can be 110 in Tampa but at last she is warm. It is always the wind even when not blowing. And the wind doesn't do spirals like in Kansas.

One could blame it on Camelot. Unrealistic expectations. I figure any place you live is a bit of give and take. And Black Lake has a lot going for it. It never gets to 114. I only have to heat the house for about 3 months a year and those in Phoenix have to cool theirs for 6 to 9. There are no fleas, ticks, or gators unless brought in by tourists.

Hell, I even love the mud this year. A drought for four years makes you appreciate strange things. And yes the grass now needs mowed but better than no grass or the stuff that crackles when you walk on it. In fact, the only thing off-putting at the moment is all those raving about their vacation spots and promising they just might not come back.

I have taken vows of silence. I am just sending pictures.

Your driveway

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Week that Was the Bow Greenhouse

Magique in front of the Bow Greenhouse

Spent this whole last week working on the new and improved polytunnel. It is 11 x 16 feet. Previously it was 7 x 16 feet so I gained a lot of square footage and that means able to plant more things.

Topped out by not tied down

More room means more raised bed space and 5 gallon tubs for some plants like potatoes and I think Tomatoes. Been trying them out for size.

Tomatoes  started from seed sunning outside before the rains
Buckets also protect them from winds until they are in the greenhouse

Tubs of potatoes between raised beds

Been spending so much time on the bow construction I am a bit behind on the planting. Have a lot of plants under the low tunnel and seeds planted in the far raised bed. Still need to add more soil to the newest raised bed which will get broccoli among other plants. I have raised potatoes in tubs before. As they sprout up you raise the soil level and then when time to harvest you just pour out the potatoes. No digging.

The tomatoes will have their soil level raised again and again to increase their roots as the tomatoes grow up over the tops of the buckets. It also makes it possible in this questionable weather to pick them up and move them inside if necessary for at least half of June.

Yes, you can buy very large tomato plants at the nurseries but they are not organic and no GMO yet. I imagine nurseries will be going that way but until they we are stuck with doing them from seed.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I Know I am Behind

May 13, 2014 and eight inches of snow

My Canadian social media friend, Ien, says you are always behind in gardening. But this year seems to be a lot worse. Maybe it is because of my eye surgery and then teeth extraction or maybe I just had a foggy mind and didn't begin my grand plans to convert the polytunnel experiment to a real commitment to greenhouse gardening on the cheap. Or maybe it was the May full of late, late, late snows.

Inner tunnel enlarged

I did get the collapsing inner tunnel restructured and taller over my raised beds and even got one bed refreshed and seeded, but that just made it obvious how inadequate the high tunnel was. It would still work as a prop for more plastic to raise bed temps but would make it very difficult to work without removing the upper plastic.

Beginning of new bow greenhouse

I had saved a link to how to make a greenhouse for $50. The man lies. What you see is $60 and not nearly done. I am planning to use recycled materials and some lingering lumber from out by the utility shed. I had already purchased the plastic at an ACE hardware sale. Given the winds in my area some reinforcing is scheduled before topping the bow with the plastic.

But the weather at last turned better (except for the winds) and I braved the planting of some Brussels sprouts in in the middle raised bed. It was for plants such as these I raised the inner bow. The old inner tunnel was really only a cold frame for seeds and baby plants. Come fall and early freezes it only laid cold plastic directly on top of even the Swiss Chard. That should not now be the case.

baby Brussels Sprouts

And the higher and bigger outer bow will give me four more feet for raised beds and/or containers. Given how far behind I am already I may go mostly with the five gallon pail gardening I found on the internet. I think it will be perfect for tomatoes and potatoes and am considering even squash.

Herb bed with asparagus 
I am using the bed by the studio (which I can cover with plastic nights) for perennial herbs and asparagus. I was going to put the latter down by the stream but someone reminded me of deer and elk, so I have kept them close to home. This bed is very protected from the winds and gets a lot of moisture because of the shelf above for potted plants like geraniums. The drip irrigation always runs over to the bed below.

I say I am behind and this is because since using the polytunnel system I have been able to plant by the 1st of May. But before that I was risking it all planting anything but seeds before the 1st of June.  I am nursing some pepper plants and tomatoes in the studio for the moment. Do not plan to put them out until the new high tunnel is complete. I do not see this cheap greenhouse making winter gardening possible. It will just extend my season into the fall.

I left the plastic on the old high tunnel last winter just to see if it weathered through. It did not. The storms, which were few, shredded the plastic. But I do not know that I am a winter gardener anyway.  So plan to roll up the plastic on the high bow when winter seriously arrives and store it to be re-installed early spring. Maybe next summer I will not be so behind.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Last Snow of the Season?

My Road

Woke up yesterday to five inches of snow. Before what passed for dawn came the level was to almost eight inches. It snowed all day but temps for such it melted all day creating muddy messes on the roads.

Mud and Flood

And very wet and muddy dogs. They just love the snow.

Mardi Gras

I like spring snow even if it seems rude when I want to garden. Spring snow does not hang around. It melts into the ground and leaves green grass behind. Meanwhile the cows are having their calves and ranchers are having to check up on their herds.

Cows in the Meadow

Checking up on the stock

The snow this morning is down to about a couple inches. Temperatures will be up today and the sun is out. All of the white will be gone before noon.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Small Things Which Count the Most

Mardi Cresting the Hill
There have been a large amount of huge things going on in my life; Getting ready for the July show, trying not to go blind before then, a plethora of pet sitting engagements, and two badly infected teeth that must be pulled today. All of it has been complicated by requirements, re-scheduling, people not coming home when they said they were, and a winter which seems to be playing hide and seek with spring further delaying planting the garden.

Beneath all that noisy stuff have been the little gifts and victories it is wise not to miss as they are our reasons for living. Mardi Gras at 14 and one half is still taking cross country walks. If she is not always keeping pace with Magique, Magique is slowing her pace to not lose her. Even letting her lead sometimes. Mistress, as usual, is overly concerned with her photography. Mardi and Magique's annual physicals showed that Mardi is doing great.

And my vision improves. With a perfectly functioning right eye the photography is going great guns. Even though it is the left eye I used to use on the view finder. It is scheduled for surgery if I can find and eye partner. Two of my first picks are staying on vacation too long. And they are pet sit clients complicating it all.

We have had some nice weather. I have my inner tunnel re-engineered. And plans for a larger outer tunnel done this week. I have plants which should be toughening up outside in my studio because there is snow forecast beginning this afternoon. The new outer tunnel will be four feet wider and allow me to put in another raised bed. Expansion will be to the right of the existing polytunnel giving me a one foot path on the left and a one foot path between the inner tunnel and the new raised 3' beds to the left. The snow flakes have just begun. Maybe I am driving the pickup to the Dentist.

There are seeds planted in bed one

The two infected teeth were a cog in the wheel of progress and definite muddle in financial planning. Two cataract surgery co-pays was really enough without adding totally unassisted dental expenses. And then there is the pain and how it numbs creative energies.

Mother's Day is always a bit rough. I am not a mother. Though I in part raised my sister. And there are the four fur kids. Scrappy and Wee Willow gave me a great gift yesterday. They are cuddling up together. Scrappy is even grooming Willow like the late great Darkness used to do.

So sweet
Willow is a calico and Scrappy is now. Willow is short haired and Scrappy long and yet they are marked almost as if they came from the same litter. So nice they are not still fighting for supremacy on my lap. Sharing is better.

Pinto on the rise

My increasingly complex schedule required I get out very early on Sunday. And I was rewarded with some wonderful light and photo opportunities near Eagle Nest Lake. Never get so busy you miss the beauty around you.

And never let the tears blind you to all the gifts in your life. I get to live here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fun with Flowers

Playing around with orchids. I have access to some beautiful blooms at the moment. And I took a bunch of pictures just before my desktop failed to open my photo editing software. Frankly between eye surgery and desktop software issues I had forgotten I took these pictures. So this morning was a lot of fun. I got to try different processing techniques back to back and learned a few things I believe.

At least I had fun with this very sculpted flower with amazing grace. Photographing them is not always easy because the slightest disturbance makes the spike of orchids more for it seems forever. And the flower itself has depth and the curvature of the stalk adds to that. I was very happy with the picture above because of the focus on the whole array of blossoms. But sometimes a bit of out of focus, like in the vignette treatment below, has its place.

And who says we need the entire spike of flowers. Got up close with the ones below and then cropped it in some more. But because they are all placed on their spike just so by Mother Nature, you cannot move a blossom over just a hair like you can with a bouquet in a vase at home.

I had mistakenly been calling the spike a stalk. A search through google showed that orchid lovers have their own unique language. See "What's a spike?" for more terms. I was very interested in Keiki, which is a baby orchid which grows from a node on a cane or spike or sometimes from the base.

Lots to learn from these very different plants. And not just how to photograph them well.

Friday, May 2, 2014

I can see clearly now - Revealed Truth on the Road to Raton

On the Road to Raton

Had the cataract taken out of my right eye on the 25th and on the 29th drove to Trinidad and Raton. If my first reaction after surgery was that the world has edges, my reaction on the familiar road to Raton were the colors. Who knew the plains could be so colorful even in a drought.

Distant Volcanic hills

Vision is about light, color and definition. Painting is about all those and sometimes lack of definition as Monet proved. Photography is supposedly about light. Though lately it seems to be about pixels and hyper definition. A photographer friend and I got into a discussion about the differences in photography as a craft and photography as an art.

We were, as artists frequently, critiquing the judging on a recent show. And talking about the ones we will not enter again because of the judging. I was thinking about that and color, light and definition as I drove.

It takes effort and money to enter shows. I do it to expand name recognition and audience. I was taking entries to the Trinidad Area Arts Council SPLASH exhibit. As luck would have it I need to pick up works from The Old Pass Gallery in Raton. More and more I see Trinidad as my audience and Raton as not. So will I renew my $50 membership in the Raton Arts and Humanities group? Probably not. There is probably only one of their shows I will enter and I do not have to be a member for that. I liked the previous director's direction better.

So much to pay attention to in the arts. Been taking an e-course given by a gallery owner/director and the course isn't taking the direction I thought it would. Thought I was three lessons behind because of the whole eye surgery thing but probably not. Gallery owners and directors always complain that us artists are not doing it right - i.e. painting more of what just sold. That is not art. That is craft.

And back to the conversation with my friend about photography - any fool with a digital camera can get thir subject in focus. Only an artist knows when out of focus says more.

Those trees in the distance

And then maybe it is all about geo-spatial cultural dynamic. Trinidad is in the mountains and Raton is in the plains. Okay, some things are still muddled but I can see clearly now out of at least the right eye and by the end of May out f both.