Monday, November 29, 2010

A Tale of Peter Cottontail and Clan Gone Potty

The terrace garden outside my little studio is a contained and rather hidden place that seems safe from deer or other creatures that might devour my little plant prisoners. 

 A varied collection of plants are potted into simple clay and painted Moroccan pots each season, creating original bright tapestries flourishing year after year until hard frosts take them down.

Offering the gardener and visiting guests delight in blooms, colors and fragrance, the terrace garden is also a great feeding garden for Butterflies and Hummingbirds.

Oh, I must collect the slugs to keep the container garden thriving, but with vigilance I can keep them in check.
Do not make the mistake of believing the slimy, yucky mollusk responsible for this destruction. 

Here is the young culprit! An Eastern Cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus, considers my terrace garden a five star herbivore restaurant. Now this has not happened in the past . . . bad enough that the little critters . . . shall we call this one Peter . . . are eating my veggie garden, as quick as I can plant it, and most any new native perennials I plant . . .  but this is the final insult. 

I am not growing Cottontails in my pots! Peter has gone potty and is harvesting all that had lived happily within every single jardiniere. Wiping out my lovely terrace garden . . . turning it into rabbit tissue and excrement. I believe now the rabbits consider this the nursery garden . . . where baby Cottontails dine before venturing out further into the garden. How sweet . . . not! Or perhaps as the rebel hero Peter was forbidden Mr. McGregor's garden, this one too is overwhelmingly tempting! In any case, it is heartbreaking to the gardener.

Luckily I have some plants in larger pots they cannot reach. I suppose going big is one solution. 

Morning Glories are allowed to reach higher still. Peter continues to grow too, and along with his siblings, not unlike Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, carry on in their feasting of the gardens and fields of wildflowers. 

Many a morning I walk into the gardens and count at least that many Cottontails chomping down . . . often on my newly planted treasures. As I approach, they all bounce hippity, hoppity away . . . every day . . .  not just for a holiday. 

I admit that when young babies, the Eastern Cottontail is very cute, nurtured by my lovely flowering plants and organic veggies. I do not find the adults so adorable, however, and watch with angst, as perhaps the uncle of the younger one eats Milkweed! I cannot tell if there are Monarch Butterfly eggs or even a small caterpillar on the leaves. I move closer, and when the fellow hops away, I am able to check the Milkweed leaves he did not get a chance to eat. Indeed there is a tiny caterpillar on one leaf. So now I even have to worry for the Monarchs here being eaten by the rabbits. A Lagomorph preventing a Monarch  metamorphosis! 

Of course Peter loves wild carrot or Queen Anne's Lace. I suppose the tiny Swallowtail eggs might be delectable to him, as caviar is to some humans. 

I would not mind at all sharing the invasive Bishops Weed, but oh no, they will have none of that. I am wishing for a gout epidemic on all of the Eastern Cottontails here at Flower Hill Farm, in hopes that they will gorge on Bishop's Weed - also known as Goutweed. Please do not think me cruel . . . Bishop's Weed is said to aid in the cure of gout. I do confess to having far more harmful wishes towards these varmints, that were at one time classified in the same order as rodents

I imagine them carried off in the claws of my friend the Red-Tailed Hawk, or eaten by a Coyote or Bobcat. 

Timber! to the lovely wild Asters. Oh, why could he or she not eat the Bedstraw growing aplenty right in back of it and all over the garden?

You may think that I should calm down and be more accepting of this native wild thing. You would be right that I should be more accepting of what is, but wrong if you think this Eastern Cottontail a native. It was introduced in the 1800's and now outnumbers our native New England Cottontail. I am sure the native Cottontail would have far better manners and be more generous to the gardener.  I have heard tell it is about to be placed on the endangered list. I guess good manners and generosity do not necessarily keep one alive. The New England Cottontails have shorter ears and do not have the white mark on the top of their head. It is believed that they are not able to hear as well and fall prey to their enemies more often than the Eastern Cottontails seen here.

Seeing the Eastern Cottontail out in the fields, feels more natural and with all the grasses, wildflowers and clover, it would seem there would be more than enough to satisfy their appetites. 

I do know they will not eat Salvias. So next year I will find as many varieties and colors that I can, to accommodate this  jewel of a visitor.

Marigolds too seem safe from the sharp, angular bite of rabbits. 

Digitalis grows abundantly . . .  freely sowing in the terrace garden as well. I will have to soften when I see the Cottontails, and stop being angry with the remarkable Beatrix Potter, for making the world see them as darling. She anthropomorphised rabbits so that we all attribute human emotions and identify with the naughty Peter, when he stands like a little boy Cottontail crying in fear of the 'monster' Mr. McGregor, who is only trying to protect his food. Oh well, I will have to choose my battles here or go mad. I must get a good fence around the veggie garden and grow only those plants in the terrace garden that Cottontails will not eat. 
I will continue to hope that the fox, coyote, raptors, weasels, minks and bobcat will enjoy dining on my free range organically raised rabbits! When we create a wildlife habitat, it is not possible to pick and choose who gets to join the club. It is best to just go with the flow realizing that change is always a part of life and gardening/farming. I have so much to be thankful for and as long as the leaping Lagomorphs do not completely destroy my shrubberies and perennial plantings, I will not allow my blood pressure to rise with each encounter. Dare I say, I may even grow to find them endearing. Well, as of today that is a bit of a stretch. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Misty Milkweed Landscape Hidden Longings for Truth On Wildflower Wednesday

Yesterday morning there was a lovely warmish mist about the gardens. I enjoy the landscape this time of year, as the fields have just been cut again, revealing the sensual lay of the land. Dialogues between trees are poetic. The mist is so thick . . .  that while standing down in the far north field . . .  I can hardly see the giant Rock Maples up by the house. 

The funky Crabapple Orchard is dreaming of spring blossoms and lovely tea parties. I inhale a pleasant fragrance, while strolling under the small orchard and other Apple trees. Most of the fallen apples have been eaten but there is still a sweetness in the air.

This yearling might find a few more fallen apples along the garden floor.

My favorite native Black Cherry solidly stands before the ghostly White Birch . . . barely seen through the veil of mist.

Then further over and down east, Gray Birches and native Blueberries clump together below an old Apple carrying its burden of branches. 

Blueberry tips are a beautiful rosy tone adding a splash of bold to the more muted landscape. 
Shimmering bejeweled spiderwebs are draped between sleeping buds.

Queen Anne's Lace is all closed in on herself holding seeds and captive Milkweed fluff.

A Milkweed seed may have landed on the open flower and became a prisoner as the 'Queen' folded her lace tightly in. 

Empty and emptying seed cases of Milkweed still stand as ornaments in a fall garden.

Mist seen in the landscape appears like a gauzy, gossamer swathe softly enveloping the plants, shrubs and trees. Upon closer observation of Milkweed seed fluff, I find hundreds of tiny drops of clear spheres clinging to the silken threads.

These native wildflower seeds will not be flying today, for they are bedecked with heavy drops of moist gems.

The saturated white silk is akin to that of snow in the subdued autumn gardens. I am thankful for the absence of the other wet stuff thus far.

A dainty Milkweed seed caught by a wild aster is equal in beauty to any crystal chandelier creation. 

Most of the seeds have escaped this Milkweed pod, while precious new tenants have taken up residence.  They will not reside inside for too long, and once dried out . . .  the remaining seeds will fly away in a cool wistful breeze. 
These are my wildflower offerings for the very gracious Gail's Wildflower Wednesday. I hope you will visit her over at Clay and Limestone . . .  to see other wildflower contributions. I am also making this my Blooming Friday post, for there is a bit of white in most every photo. You can visit lovely Katarina's Roses and Stuff to see other touches of white from around the world.

I would like to end this post with a special thanks to all of my readers for your enduring support in my venture here. I am truly so thankful for you all and wish you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving! I know there are many, who do not celebrate this American holiday, but I am wishing you a lovely day as well.

 Each year at this time many gather with loved ones and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving . . . it seems like the perfect time of year to discuss our true native 'wildflowers' . . . the Native Americans and what they had to endure from the Puritans . . . who were far from pure . . .  from where they came . . .  or here . . . where they remained. Our President did sign a Native American Apology Resolution back in December 2009, though I never heard it spoken. I am happy for this beginning in working towards a healing of our tragic and violent beginnings here on this great land. A vast land we call 'our' land . . . this land is 'your' land . . . this land is 'my' land . . .  was, when the settlers arrived . . .  inhabited by Native Americans, who were soon overcome and uprooted by the invasive settlers we call Pilgrims. Our Thanksgiving story is such a myth. The true story deserves to be told and retold. Here is a link you might find helpful. History can be honest and even though there is shame and heartbreak within the seeds of our country, there is always a place for healing and reparations, when we own our true story. A mist can be beautiful in a landscape, but in our history . . .  lies that hide within intentionally woven veils of deception . . .  must be unwoven and hung out into the full light of day and truth, to be understood . . . so that perhaps we will grow and learn not to repeat the same unjust mistakes over and over again. Peace be with you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

An Added Dream of Painting Sharing A Creative Process

The process of painting can be likened to that of gardening. Beginning with planting a seed . . . where a seedling forces its way out . . . like a creative spirit and with time and growth moves into being its fully blossomed self. This is an unusual post for me and I hope you enjoy visiting this side of my mind. My plan is to do a monthly post on my exercises of painting my land and gardens. I hope you might be inspired to pick up a brush or palette knife yourself!

Day One 'Underpainting'

Each painting is like a seed . . .  in that I just begin with an idea of how I want the composition to live on the canvas. Sometimes I might do plein-air or work with one of my photographs. I never wish to copy any photos, but more I try to capture the feeling of life and movement in the garden and landscape. I am only painting Flower Hill Farm these days . . . using my house . . .  surrounded by lushness of land and gardens . . .  to represent . . .  my own sense of the relationship I share with the land. I start with a thin underpainting. Blocking out the forms with bold colors . . . that will in the end only glow through the final painting. I will most often use complementary colors for this . . . so if my final work will be mostly greens . . .  I start by laying down reds, oranges and purples. 

The painting slowly emerges from layers of oil paint. Light and dark marks creating dimension and forms.

Until the painter must decide to say "Finished!". There are a few paintings within this process. Photographing the various stages, like I do with my plants and gardens, is a fun way to see the growth of each painting. I am not at all sure that the final is the best. I lose some wonderful brush strokes in the process . . . the painful process of growing . . . akin to losses in the gardens. Sometimes I work on more than one painting at the same time. This post shows three paintings created last year . . .  over the same period of time . . .  using the same vista from the garden for all three. Each takes on a life of its own, similar to the way plants may grow in different parts of the garden, depending on the soil, competition and amounts of sun.

Again I start with my underpainting . . .  covering the canvas with the complement of what will later be applied . . . with exception to the sky. I am not putting in the dormers that were added to the old farmhouse. It is fun to be able to build anyway I choose. It works great for pruning too. A painting can be anything I want. 
I take a rag and rub out my forms.

Then applications of paint follows. My focus along with the farmhouse . . .  (my alter ego) . . . is on a few trees that stand out in the gardens. Two giant Rock Maples (Sugar Maples) near the house . . .  and one younger one . . .  just in the right foreground. My Metasequoia and an Apple tree finish off the dialogue. The Crabapple orchard is mostly hidden mysteriously over on the far right.

The sun was magical this morning and created glowing pathways about the garden.

The finished, mature painting. 
I gave more diversity of language to the arboreal conversation, by including an English Hawthorne and a Japanese Tree Lilac . . . which are standing over to the left . . . just before the blue range of mountains.

Day One Underpainting

This painting is quite different, as well, in that I have place the house more between the two giant Maples. I feel these old majestic trees are standing like guardians to the little farmhouse and try to convey that feeling here. 
So another new life is spread across the canvas, as with the living canvas of garden . . . I plant and lay out my ghostly ideas and forms, as I do new seeds or small saplings, within my living composition of earth.

Then I nurture and watch my marks grow over the hours and weeks that follow.

Lines and forms are filling a space where they did not exist before. In nature a rabbit might decide he would rather enjoy digesting my seedling 'line' of verbena or a 'mark' of a young native rose. I might destroy a magical brush or knife  stroke on my painting . . .  and there it is . . . each will take on their own form depending on outside influences of will or elemental happenings.

Something new and alive will always come forth from any creative process. Painting is as personal as a garden and takes on the experiences and vision of its creator, along with their mistakes. I try not to judge myself too harshly . . . I am not a good painter yet . . . but I do dream to be . . . I strive to be . . . to find my way. That is what our lives amount to in anything we do . . . at least in part. We find our inner voice,  for each of us is as unique as any snowflake. In order for a plant to grow it must be planted and nurtured. In order for a person to grow towards a goal . . . they must work towards that goal. Too often there are briars of criticism . . . mostly 'self' that keep us from branching out into creative beings. We have to be brave . . . to cast off self doubt and try not to care about what others think. We are all attracted to different styles in gardening and painting. The important thing is to create and keep creating.

Presentation is important too and perhaps this background color is not the best way to show these paintings to you . . .  (of course they will look different framed too) . . .  but . . . it is a wall in my studio and here they are . . .  mostly finished . . . with exception . . . when this photo was taken . . .  to the one on the left. It is more finished in the previous photo above. These paintings are simply reflections of me along my path of discovery . . . a young painter of only six years mostly during the winter months. I did study painting in college . . . an art major . . .  but that was so long ago . . .  I feel I am beginning anew. I have been a photographer for nearly thirty years and do not wish to be a realist or photorealist painter . . . though I love and admire that style of painting. I find these three paintings to be too representational and not showing the magical flow of movement I have captured in earlier paintings. Just now I am trying to learn more about the mixing of colors . . . my palette . . . and their application. I will hopefully be able to go back to the free movement . . .  with the added knowledge of understanding color . . .  when I am ready.
I am so thankful for the process of learning and my generous coaches/teachers, who give me feedback, while sharing their important knowledge of color, composition, and mostly their own discoveries along the way. I know the best way to paint is from nature. I must overcome the fear of biting insects . . . especially ticks, before I can set up outside again and truly learn to paint. . . not to mention continue to work with my garden, which is a living canvas that is never finished. 

If you would like to see other paintings, you can visit my Paintings page at the top of my blog. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails