Perhaps that’s an unfair title. One’s sphere of awareness usually revolves around work, play, family and not necessarily in that order. Unless you have a farm, know personally a farmer you may be unaware of the fine line a farmer walks regarding his very survival. You go to the store, you buy apples in a bag. You take them home and wash them and see that one has a spot on the skin. OMG. Unfit for human consumption?
Some people are like that. They want perfection and wholesomeness. If that’s about what your expectations are you might consider rethinking the importance of this in the scheme of things. This Spring a local farmer had a problem with a particular crop that had a dent in each, lets say, cucumber. He had to throw the whole crop out because he knew it wouldn’t be accepted by the public. That is incredibly sad. It was perfect fit for consumption. Expectations have been set high by the media and ordinary is nearly unacceptable. For perfection to happen the farmer would have to toss most of the apples out. The plight of the Massachusetts farmer this June and July is hanging on by the grace of God and wits. We have been in a drought for two months and the pastures and fields are dried up with no hope of a second cutting of hay never mind a third. Dairy and beef farmers are selling off their herds and closing up shop because they have had to spend the money that gets them through the winter, buying hay to feed the cattle this summer.
|A parched field|
Farm ponds are low and any irrigation done is on the money crops like corn and tomatoes. Some farmers who offered CSA have had to reduce the variety in the weekly box or even give up if they haven’t a way to irrigate, The tree fruit crops were kaput from the late frost which occurred after the buds had formed. New England farmers don’t have a cushion to get them through a weather calamity and the government or their insurance doesn’t pay anything near what the crop was worth. It is hardly worth the effort to fill out the ridiculous number of pages to put in a claim. These farmers are not like the Midwest’s huge expansive farms measured in square miles. On the farm where I live we got 1/4″ of rain the other day. I was great but not enough. The potatoes and onions are small size. Maybe if we get more rain they will grow.
The best thing you can do to help farmers is to buy locally grown vegetables, meat, and dairy even if it is from a supermarket that buys local produce and they will proudly advertise that. So when you look for produce, don’t be so picky if it is just a surface blemish. Could you pass that test?
One more thought. Scientists are thinking about combining human cells with animal cells for the purpose, they say, to cure diseases. Imagine the odd creatures they could come up with? If you are a person that doesn’t like the idea of GMO vegetables, you can’t very well like the human/animal combos. Same thing. Right. This playing around with human life experimentation has been done before during the Nazi Regime and also in America on poor people in the 1920s forward until about the 50s. We viewed that with revulsion. What has changed?
Here are some pictures
to cleanse your thoughts.
“What is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.” James Russell Lowell’s poem is one of my favorites. He goes on to say…”Now is the high-tide of the year, And whatever of life hath ebbed away
|A single iris plant|
My epiphany came the first week of December, Yes, you can do too much, be overextended with projects and responsibilities. I missed two important appointments and began to doubt my mental acuteness age-wise. I did all the necessary things to insure I would remember the appointments and still I overlooked them. My resolution in 2016 is not to do too much. I was getting ready, making things for two Christmas Fairs, practice piano and guitar, rehearse the choir for Advent and Christmas music, I had a commissioned painting due for framing, made Christmas earrings, painting purses, my old friend Nanny and I made 55 fresh greens arrangement to sell at the local fair and I had functions to attend, Christmas shopping and I told my daughter I would help decorate her house. Stop. Something has to give. It did. Lesson learned. Fairs require a lot of lugging and it is tough on the back. That gave,too.
My resolution lists ‘Give up painting purses unless I get a request. They don’t sell very fast, they take up space. I put them on Etsy and Ebay. I never sell anything on Etsy. Etsy is a good showcase for customers to see what I do. If they see something they like they can email me and I will send it to them. Earrings are fun, don’t sell much but they are lightweight,take up little space and are lighter than paintings and purses.
|Oil, Three Boys in a Dory|
I stopped painting for fun because I have run out of room to store the darned stuff. I like commissions. In November,I did a copy of a Winslow Homer for a present for my son’s birthday, Three Boys in a Dory. The original was a watercolor but I copied it in oil. I don’t remember ever doing a copy before. It wasn’t slavish copy because it was a different medium.
Also recently did the Varnum Funeral Home commission. An oil, 16 x 20.
|Varnum Funeral Home|
Resolutions are great because it focuses on your goals, long term and in the year. In my diary I wrote down a quote from Zig Zigler ” If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
I wish when I was in my teens someone had advised me to make a series of long term plans. Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years. How will you get there and then plan out by working backwards to the present day. What do you need to do, to get to where you want to be.
The other thing I have learned is… don’t do or not do something out of fear. Don’t get married because you are afraid to be alone, don’t not be an actress because you are afraid to get up in front of people and speak, don’t not go to the doctor because you are afraid he (she) will say you have a disease. Take the bull by the horns not the tail. I found the best way for me was to consult the I Ching. The message you get, gets beyond your ego, which lies to you constantly, but get to the truth which you know in your brain and you can make the best decision from knowledge rather than ego. Question your motives. A wise woman once told me that I have all the information in my brain to function in this world. That is a difficult fact to grasp. The I Ching is not a replacement for The Bible.
I am happy when I think of the number of years I had the same thing on my list-to illustrate a children’s book and I was finally able to check it off. I fulfilled that goal. My 2016 list says work more on the Godfrey stories and get them published.
On the topic of cats, I have a new cat,Pierrot. Pierrot is a Christmas gift from my daughter. He is a Turkish Van, from the pound. White with black earpatches, a black tail and three spots on one side of his body. He has webbed feet, likes water and is smart. He has one coat which means he doesn’t have the usual guard hairs over the soft short fur. He has just the soft short fur.
My former cat, Tex, I got from a pound in Kerrville,TX. He disappeared this summer. He was street-wise, coyote and snake and eagle- wise having encountered them in Texas. So I figure a fisher-cat or lion got him here in Massachusetts. Cats cannot escape those predators in a tree. I mourned his loss as Larry had given him to me as a Valentine gift and I loved the cat.
I still mourn Larry’s passing but it isn’t painful anymore. I am not able to listen to his recordings yet, but I will. I know he would want me to.
I took up the guitar this summer because I wanted it to be played. It made so much music with Larry. Christmas Day I went to his kids’ Christmas party and I brought his Takamine guitar. I told them what I was doing and I told them to keep his music going by learning to play the guitar or some instrument or to sing. He didn’t want to teach them how to play because he felt he didn’t know the right way to do it and he didn’t want them to learn bad habits. He learned by watching others. He strummed and knew chords and copied strumming techniques from listening to pop records like Johnny Cash or Elvis etc. He played confidently and boldly but could also play sweetly.
After Christmas my daughter had a party and I invited some people in who played an instrument and I was able to jam with them a little. I am not very good yet and I can’t shift from one chord to another very fast but I am working on it. I have a teacher, John Kinear, who is so good I would like to just pay to sit and listen. He teaches at the Lashaway Music Center in East Brookfield,MA.
My computer tower lived on the floor,upright, under my desk. It occupied the space in front of a neatly contained bunch of wires connecting the printer, speakers, keyboard, internet antenna and screen. As soon as the wires left the velcro constraint it exploded into a snarled mess like a nightmare fishing line. The thing that happened to change all this was a certain cat who decided to mark his territory and let the the tower have it…right through the perforated side G. came in and we opened it up and with paper towels and spray cleaner we quickly mopped it out. It worked for a while but the insult was too great and it quit. had it repaired 2x and gave up. The motherboard was damaged.
|One of the Stillman Farm orchards|
Cape Cod, of course is noted for the visual arts although they do have a summer playhouse. Apparently writers go there to contact their muse.
The Berkshires has Moma, Norman Rockwell Museum, Chester Daniel French Museum (sculpture), Jacob’s Pillow (dance) and the summer res. of The Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, and Edith Wharton’s place The Mount in Lenox. So that’s a popular area for New York artists, writers, musicians in the summer.
Naturally, Boston is the cultural center with the Fine Arts, Gardner and Moma Museums plus all the art schools(colleges) and nearby Lincoln has the DeCordova and Concord has claims to the writers of olde-Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott etc. Longfellow used to hang out in Sudbury next door.
The North Shore has Cape Ann, Marblehead and Newburyport-attracting, seascape artists with their fishing ports.
Northampton/ Amherst, which is between Central Mass and the Berkshires, has The Five Colleges; they attract everything there.
We are in the middle and have had to struggle for acknowledgement. People in the east think we are next to New York, well, they think anyone west of route 495 is New York. People in the western area think we are next to the ocean. We are just the glue that holds the two together. Nobody gives a fig about glue unless it fails. The glue wants to be recognized.
So why do I imagine Central Mass could attract the arts? We’ve got lovely scenery and farms. Lots of farms producing milk, ice cream,cheese of all varieties, wine, maple syrup, meat, fruits and vegetables, sheep and alpaca wool, and derivatives of all these in a craft vein, ie.,finished products like hats and mittens, soap, candles…
A half to three quarters of an hour away is Worcester-the Art Museum, Mechanics Hall, Tower Hill Botanical Gardens and a couple of live theatres.
Live theatres–Barre has one. It’s in the geographical center of the state, and Sturbridge has one. Ware has Studio 13, an art teaching facility with live music on weekends. Petersham, Barre and Spencer have art guilds. Brimfield has The Hitchcock Academy where artists can go and paint-they also offer music lessons. All the libraries offer lectures/ workshops.
It just seems this year there is more activity for artists, illustrators, writers and musicians here. We have many, many talented people already plying their trade while living here. I bet most of the general public has no idea of the quiet fame and accomplishments these folks have. Maybe they want it that way.
I have been invited to sign my books at Color fest in North Brookfield on June 20th. That is a collection of artists, writers and musicians to benefit a new land trust in that town. Also in June, in West Brookfield I will be signing and selling my books at the library. In Barre in July I will be giving a talk on agriculture, specifically CSA and reading from my book.
In August I am taking Amtrac to Red Wing, Minnesota to a Boomgaarden family reunion in Kenyon which is where I wrote ‘Up In Smoke”.
After searching for a venue in the Central Mass. area, I found a room at The New Braintree Historical Society where I can hold morning art classes for adults. I have taught before in various campgrounds when I was on the road so I know I enjoy this sort of thing. I love to see people discover they can put down on paper, something that looks like what it is supposed to. I like having people learn to see what they are looking at. I like working with pastels for this sort of workshop because right away it is colorful and budding artists can get right into it and moosh it around and layer color on top of color with out having to wait for it to dry or bleed into other areas. They can work fast or slowly. It is forgiving, it is very portable but it can be messy on hands and clothes so old duds are important and hands are soap and water wash up. Pastels are portable to take into ‘the field’ on a trip or just to have on hand if you have a little time to kill and you want to record a location. This is an old medium used by the old Renaissance artists and the modern Impressionists. It is rapidly gaining in popularity. Good pastels are nearly entirely all pigment with just enough binder to hold the powder together in a stick. Cheap pastels usually have more filler like chalk and are discouraging to use because you don’t get the intensity of color you may be looking for. By cheap i don’t mean ‘on sale’. Some great brands go on sale from time to time. Good brands include Rembrandt($$), Sennelier, Schminke, Daniel Smith and the cheaper but good-Faber/Castell. Art supply house brands can be good like Dick Blick and Utrecht and I will try Walmarts house brand and let you know. Pastels come in round crayon type shapes or square which I like for achieving sharp edges. They come in roughly 3″ sticks or half sticks. Half sticks are fine. Two types are called soft and hard. We will use soft. There are pastel pencils which I like for fine detail work. They are hard. Pastels can be in powder form in little tubs with an applicator or a fine sponge. Brand name Pan Pastels. All this is soap and water wash up for hands but some colors stain clothes. Be advised. Some professionals use disposable gloves. I like to rub it around to work it into the paper. I haven’t used gloves but I’m thinking about it.
This is an excerpt from DanielSmith – making pastels website. You might enjoy the entire article.
Blacks are reliable permanent pigments that are inexpensive and make nice pastels. Having said that, I advise you to rarely use them if you desire clean, bright-colored pastels. I only use Ivory Black if I want to produce a very deep-colored pastel. Without the black, these very dark values are difficult to achieve. If my aim is to produce intentionally grayed neutral tones, I also use a bit of black. My palette reflects my style of using color. Only a fraction of the pastels in my landscape set are grayed neutrals made with black pigment; neutral grays made by mixing complementary colors are far more varied and interesting. Cutting out black immediately perks up your palette and boost the color in your paintings.”
Never copy someone’s work without permission. It is against the law.
I am excited about the release of my second children’s picture book called Godfrey Finds a Home. It is the first in a series I plan about Godfrey the cat who is discovered up a tree on a farm in Massachusetts.
He is rescued and has adventures on the farm. He learns about CSA-community supported agriculture which is a subscription sold to the consumer by the farmer who depends on it for his winter livelihood. In the North there is no produce farming done as the fields are locked up tight by Jack Frost. This is a great idea as it enables the farmer to pay his mortgage and all that housekeeping entails. Seeds and other amenities can be purchased for the following Spring. On the other side of the deal, the consumer gets a weekly box of fresh picked vegetables beginning in June and going to or through October. The Stillman’s CSA boxes are varied as Glenn grows a HUGE variety of vegetables and fruits mainly for the Boston market where there are numerous ethnic tastes. CSA boxes do not reflect all those tastes however, as a lot of households don’t know what to do with really ‘different’ vegetables-these are my words, my opinion. If there is a ‘different’ vegetable Genevieve tells what it is and what to do with it in her weekly newsletter. You are welcome to subscribe to her online letter which she has designed and built it and it is very pretty, as well as, informative. www. Stillmansfarm.com.
But, getting back to my book,
The book includes Genevieve, Glenn, Faith, Reid, me and Larry as well as the men who work here on the farm. They are from Jamaica and come in the Spring and leave in the Fall. They work hard and are dedicated and do their jobs well. There are others who live locally who work here too.
The book is 32 pages and half of them are illustrations done by me in watercolor, colored pencil or oil. The men carrying baskets
is done in oil on canvas. I am learning as I go about how to illustrate for ‘modern’ methods of publishing as the illustrations are either photographed using my Samsung phone camera app which is incredible or they are scanned into my computer. They are then emailed over to the publisher as is, of course, the copy. I have read a half dozen books on illustrating for children’s books and none of them told me how to do this.
The story was written before Larry passed away so this is a memorial to him as well as clue-ing kids into how vegetables are grown and prepared for market. Corn does not appear from a can, box or bag. Ears of corn are, in fact, ripped of a tall stalk at the peak of ripeness. Picture a raised bed of strawberries, sweetly fragrant, ripening in the June sun. The romance of the farm is in this book. It’s all true and the only down side is the winter.
From the shameless commerce division (quoting from The Tappit Bros.)…
You can order the book,$11.50 from me, signed if you wish.
I offer free shipping on orders of 4 or more books or you can get it from Amazon or order it from B&N. ISBN # 978-1-4575-3120-0
Thanks for your support for CSA,also.
Since mid-October I have given little thought to painting except it didn’t interest me.
I started up again with my friends at Hitchcock Art Group to be social. I painted animals on rocks. I fooled around with Zen doodling. I progressed to finishing my illustrations for my book (at the publishers now) called Godfrey Finds a Home and edited and reedited the story.
That got me moving. Then I bought some apples and pears and did some watercolor still life paintings. The winter was long and cold. I accepted that I wouldn’t be going South for winters, anymore. I wouldn’t be seeing Utah and Colorado. I had the motor home listed for sale on Craigslist and E bay and gave several hundred dollars to two different folks who said they would advertise the motor home on magazines and other places. Rip-off. Not a bite in six months and I didn’t hear from those folks after the first couple of check-in calls. I cannot drive it and I cannot afford to park it. I am walking away from this millstone.
My choir had a special Sunday in May and I painted a watercolor of the Church for the program. We did some interesting music from Vaughn Williams, for one.
I watched Last Love on Netflix. Actor Michael Caine, a retired philosophy professor, is speaking to a young friend. He was ‘treading water’after his wife died. The girl asked him if he loved life. He says yes, but, life is people, food, music, art, nature. When you lose someone you gave all your love to, everything else dies, too. You are surrounded by countless others that cloud your vision, an unwelcome distraction. You seek oblivion in isolation. Solitude make you wither.
I am studying piano for the second time in 60 years. I figure if I’m going to direct the choir I’d better get some solid music background. It is different for me this time as I am learning the bones and structure and not just tickling the keys with kiddie tunes.
I wish I had done it 10 years ago so I could have played chords with Larry.I have been accepting commissions for pet and house portraits and I am unpacking boxes (after 6 months here) and settling in. Larry’s children and his sisters and brothers have been wonderful to me, very caring. He would be pleased. The river birch I planted in his memory, is doing well.