The temperature's up, the temperature's down
But this makes for a time to drill
And tap the trees out in our bush.
For Richard, this has all been a thrill!
You can tell when the season is coming
The sunrises are glor'us once more
And the days are so much longer
We can be out in the woods after 4!
The first step is to mark the maples
And while all plastic puts me in a FUNK,
We already had this roll of yellow-
So Richard tied bows 'round the trunk.
He found about 15 good maples in all
And drilling holes was the next stage
(He broke my Makita, so we used his big thing,
Which naturally put ME in a rage!)
Next step is to put in the spile
(Again, plastic was NOT what I'd choose.
But since that's all they had, Richard taps
With a hammer, then POOF! In for a snooze!)
Yup, that's a big morning, he figures.
15 holes drilled - what a lark!
But after lunch and a nap, what's he find?
The sap's running down the tree bark!
So he hurries and fits in his hose
(MORE plastic, "oh NO!" Julie raves!)
But at least the 'buckets' are recycled
From the milk jugs - a year's worth of saves!
There's still so much snow that just walking
Is impossible in the deep white
So Richard and I ski or snow-shoe
While Smitty prances on top, he's so light!
And that toboggan is handy for tools
(Yes, the damn thing is PLASTIC again!)
But on days when my knee is too sore
Richard 'mushes' me down the back lane!
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We collect sap for two days, in fridge
In many more jugs that we've kept
Then Richard takes over the kitchen
All newly pet-free and floor-swept.
('Cause we have to do enough straining
First with coffee filters, then in the pot
With a tiny sieve or cheesecloth
So we DON'T want hairs in that lot!)
Richard waits for a roiling boil
Then boils for at least half a day
Keeping an eye on the temperature
As well as straining what joins in the fray!
He calls himself a middle-class-billy
So one not-QUITE-from-the-'hills'
But "geek" springs to mind as I watch him
And wait to mop up any spills!
The windows are fogged up with moisture
And the paint will be peeling from walls
Next year we'll have to cook outside
Out where all of Nature enthralls!
On the first day, the smoke alarm sounded
(We'd left a pot boiling an hour
That we went to woods to collect more
And the burner was too high a power!)
So now Joy comes down to monitor
And put in her two-cents worth, al-so
Richard LOVES to create drama, so I
Hide down where seeds start to grow!
R.'s back and forth to the woods
Running quite a nice little crop
But a pause is made to throw balls-
That snow-dust's the dog's sliding stop!
Richard checks the larger trees
Then has to stop and throw the tennis ball
Smitty’s sliding stop in distance
Richard heads back to trees as Smitty returns with ball
After hours and hours on the boil
The sap starts to thicken up well
Richard loves this high drama the best
As the bubbles go white and up-swell!
Ready or not, we pour in cool bowls
Then transfer syrup to jar
But leave a bit out for candy
The taffy's the show-stopping star!
Richard pours some to cool and go into bottles and jars for syrup.
He keeps the rest boiling a little longer until it’s at the taffy stage (eat with snow) and a little longer yet for the hard candy!
Now Richard makes ME run outside
And grab fresh pee-free snow
And he pours the taffy on top
For a treat about which he'll CROW!
And a little further along on the boil
We get the hard-candy-works
Pour in a cake pan, stick in the freezer
And now - it's the greatest of perks:
The licking of sweets from utensils
That have stacked up in my kitchen again
There's pots and pans- mess all over!
But R's intent on his Purpose Main.
That is, to lap up enough treats
Before I notice his hill-billy teeth
Will need more dental work than money we've got-
What that guy eats is beyond belief!
Now we take out the quick-cooled panned candy,
And smash the pan down with a bang.
It all breaks into jig-saw pieces.
All set for R.'s broken old fang.
For no sooner have I put it away,
Then he's caught with his hand reaching in
For that hardened gold treat he wants badly-
And I've got to pretend it's a sin!
Chipped teeth when you haven't a 'plan'
Are not going to help us live
In a self-sufficient manner
So it's back to the pot and the sieve,
While I take a turn at collecting...
But I can't find the toboggan at all!
And there's that hard-working nut-bar
Setting himself for a great fall.
And later still, cleaning the kitchen
I wonder why it's gone so quiet.
I check the pantry candy
To see if he's gone off his 'diet'.
But no, all the candy's still there...
Why on earth can't I hear a wee peep?
So I look in the bedroom, and there on the bed
Is the Maple Chief - quite fast asleep!
Finally! Had enough warmish days to not only get the maple trees tapped (next week’s blog, and Richard is excited!) but to get enough earth moved in from the porch planters (permanent bricked-in wall) to mix with the MINIMAL potting soil we purchased.
Now, lecture – time. Earth day is in exactly one month, and there’s a world-wide campaign to BAN PLASTIC if you care about the land and forest, both of which, whether or not you homestead, SUPPLY US WITH OUR FOOD! So, either you start being more conscious about every single thing you buy that’s just going to end up in a landfill (or worse yet – in a roadside ditch or waterway) OR you at least find multiple purposes for every shred of plastic in your possession. Because I’m bossy, we do both.
The photos and stats below are just a few tiny examples of what plastic is doing to our world. And it all makes me sick to my stomach. But not as bad as that tortoise!
seas of plastic everywhere!
plastic killing so many varieties of wildlife
both swans died
landfill full of plastic bags and wrappers – and they NEVER bio-degrade!
North Americans use more than 4 million plastic bottles every HOUR! Most of them are thrown away, not recycled. Plastic doesn’t bio-degrade. It’s there to stay. Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. Yet, when you DO recycle – plastic can be then made into: clothing, fiberfill for sleeping bags, toys, stuffed animals, rulers and more.
Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year! Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s twice the size of Texas and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It’s also 80 percent plastic, and weighs in at 3.5 million tons.
When the small particles from photodegraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.
Only 16 % of plastic packaging in North America (and much less on other continents!) was recycled in 2008.
However, the total recycling rate of 32.5 percent overall in 2008 saved the carbon emission equivalent of taking 39.4 million cars off the road, and the energy equivalent of 6.8 million households’ annual energy consumption, or 222.1 million barrels of oil. COME O N !
827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in landfills.
Because plastic water bottles are shielded from sunlight in landfills, they will not decompose for thousands of years.
Recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,000–2,000 gallons of gasoline.
66% of energy is saved when producing new plastic products from recycled materials instead of raw (virgin) materials. ***************** T H E R E F O R E :The reasons I didn’t want to buy more potting soil than was absolutely necessary are three-fold:
a) I wanted to make sure that enough of our own soil, which is very gravelly, was
introduced to the seeds right away.
b) We are very careful with our expenses. Anything deemed unnecessary, we DO NOT BUY.
and most importantly,
c) What to do with those darned thick plastic bags in which the potting soil is encased,
which, once in our possession is then OUR carbon footprint heavy-treading ??????
I take the bringing home of ANY plastic item very seriously, and am trying to retrain the brains of Richard and Joy to do the same. NO plastic bags allowed unless it’s just one or two per shopping expedition (which is only once every week or even two weeks) and then those MUST be used for multiple times’ garbage liners, or food wrappers. I do NOT use such horrors as saran wrap or tin foil, EVER. So everything in the fridge is either covered with a plate over the bowl, OR wrapped in a plastic shopping bag- the very few allowed in the house at all. Same with things in the freezer, and now that so many of the commercial items we all buy are being packaged in zip-lock bags, these are even BETTER for keeping and re-using over and over. They are thick, and so great for freezing! Simply put masking tape on the bag and label it! PLEASE don’t throw all this plastic out! If you MUST have it in your home, then KEEP it in your home for forever or until it’s worn right out. And then, RECYCLE when it’s tossed, of course! It saves you buying and using such nasty stuff as saran wrap or (gasp) tupperware – (there are MORE than enough plastic containers that you’re buying anyway with other things in them! Just reuse those containers!) Your pocket-book AND the environment thank you!
A 1970s BBC popular show I watched on repeats when I lived in the u.k. in the 1990s is called The Good Life. Although it’s a sit-com, it’s inspiring, and motivates one to think more and more about how to reduce and more importantly re-USE. They give up their city jobs in London in the first episode :
and after that we watch most of them on Dailymotion, which is better for a variety of reasons. Homesteaders or Dreamersof – do WATCH! You’ll truly enjoy! (Yes, you will recognize all 4 stars from their other BBC shows since then: Monarch of the Glen, Rosemary and Thyme, Yes Minister and A Fine Romance with Judi Dench). Here’s the link to the 2nd episode and you’ll find the rest there too: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xvmb1w_s1e2-thegoodlife-say-little-hen_fun
So, back to why I didn’t want to buy a lot of potting soil. We have only purchased three bags, and then we had a number of squabbles over how to ‘line’ the bottoms of the seeding tables so that the wood (unfortunately NOT reclaimed wood, as it will take us 5-10 years to get enough of THAT sitting around the farm…) will not rot in a year or two. I wanted to re-use the plastic (oh, shudder! ) that we had to put on some of our north-facing windows in the farmhouse for the winter but Richard felt that was too thin. Richard wanted to buy a roll of big garbage bags, but that made me see red, as I just explained that I can’t ABIDE buying plastic ANYTHING. However, we came to a good compromise. As long as we promise that the garbage bags will later be used for garbage, so they will have had two purposes (and we don’t generate a lot of garbage as things are either composted, burned, taken over to some recycling depots (rural N.B. does NOT pick up recycling blue boxes – grrrrrrr) , re-used for containers, taken for exchange/remittance, AND, will soon be being also saved for goat and chicken feed… So the 20 garbage bags I did buy yesterday will have been around here for a couple of years. And the best part is, that THOSE POTTING SOIL PLASTIC BAGS WILL ALSO BE PUT DOWN AS LINERS. A N D – wait for it… instead of burning the long boxes that the full-spectrum flourescent lights (replicating sun) came in, I’m also putting THOSE in the seed tables to help align the planters and keep the bottoms of the tables protected.
So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!
Let’s start back at the beginning of the seed tables, though – here we are building them, putting the finishing touches on, and hanging the lights (must be full-spectrum). That was all done a few weeks ago, and again, if only the wood could have been recycled/reclaimed I’d have been so much happier. But we haven’t saved/collected enough yet for building extras, and sadly, N.B. is sadly lacking in anything like a RE-STORE (Habitat for Humanity building reused building supplies -check them out!) or equivalents. As always, if you wish to see any of these enlarged, simply click on the picture.
Here’s one of me putting the finishing touches into a corner of one of the seed tables and one of Richard hanging all the lights. We have 2 long (double) boxes and 3 regular-sized.
Someday, all the electric plugs (see in the following) will be joined to our solar panel system, but that’s many years away. Right now, we just have a few things on solar, as we can afford the panels/batteries…
The next step, then, was to dig up as much of our own soil (reasons at beginning of blog if you somehow missed the lecture!) and I did this yesterday and Sunday (as well as helping with tree-tapping and trail-blazing/maintenance in the woods – a warm day without yet-mushy snow is best for the forest work, and Sunday was ideal! We skiied and snow-shoed ’round the trails we’ve laid out, and back and forth to the sugar bush.)
So, the earth I brought in from outside looks like this:
Quite a lot! That’s why I was waiting for a few warmer days of it in the sunshine.
Next, I started lining with the bags, both garbage and potting soil, and then laying in the boxes from the lights.
We have saved (and even hauled from Ontario!) many little containers for planting seeds. Last year, of course, I just planted directly into the garden, as I didn’t get out here until the May 24th weekend. But we really need to extend our growing time by about 6 weeks to 2 months out here, esp. if you want enough to live on all year, so we were planning ahead! Some of these are bio-degradable that I bought SECOND HAND. Some were actually cardboard packing from some car parts that Richard bought in Ontario, and I first used them piled up and turned upside down as an end table, but now they will be pots! Some old muffin tins because the teflon is scratched off and Mom/Joy is worried about health issues with that… And some – yes, that’s right – Richard had the possibly great (we will experiment and see!) idea of using all our loo-rolls instead of just burning them.
all the various containers we’ve been saving for this purpose
Richard had the possibly great idea to use toilet paper rolls.
Richard has used all the ashes from our wood furnace and fireplace to either put on the garden, OR to use on the icy walks this winter. So this morning I took some from the old coal scuttle we use for this purpose, and then mixed a very small percentage into the bin mixed with potting soil and our own earth. That should give it a touch more potassium, plus a titch more phosphorous and magnesium.
Next I began filling all the little pots/tins/rolls with the mix.
The loo-rolls were a pain. More earth falling in between them rather than IN them. So I remembered on my workbench something that might work as a funnel, with a bit of the ole Rustic Revivals repurposing:
I duct-taped the holes on the sides, leaving only the larger one (the perfect size for the rolls, as it happens!) open. However, this involved more shaking to get the earth directly down. So I gave up on that and ended up just picking up each roll and scooping the earth in, quickly putting my hand over the bottom until it got placed back in the box!
Finally, all the containers were full and awaiting seeds. Remember, the following section is just one REGULAR box-size (under one light). I have FIVE MORE TO GO like this space, and then one table will be left for transplanting some of the quicker-growing plants.
Next, I had to read each seed packet to decide which needed planting now, which could wait a month, and which could just go directly outside. One of the reasons (besides their plain brown paper packaging!) I love the Hawthorne Farm Organics (same as I used last year, from Palmerston, ON) is that the front of the package explains what the plant will look like and what it can be used for, but the back is detailed and BIG PRINT re: how and when to plant! When I’m planting directly outside, I can’t be bothered with too much of these details (could be another reason we didn’t have a ‘bumper crop’ last year!) but inside, sitting comfortably, there was plenty of time to go over the info. they so kindly lay out for us.
Once I had the piles of seeds sorted and organized, I began meticulously planting. That took close to two hours, for all those containers, in case you are wondering! What we do to avoid buying store-bought produce! Then I labelled the cardboard boxes, and watered. Seeds should really only be spritzed with a spray bottle, but I had so many I just turned the dial on the watering can to ‘light mist’ and hoped that wasn’t over-watering! After today, I’ll just spritz and only when they seem dry.
The final step after watering was to put the plastic I cut from the windows over the seeds (stretching from sides of table at back, to front, so not touching containers) until the sprouts start to show, then I’ll leave it off. (but of course, save it for the next planting!) The seed tables are right behind our furnace, so as long as we keep the room warm for the next 6 weeks (have to keep reminding Richard of this, as he’d rather turn the furnace right off at night to ‘save’) we should be doing well. They also don’t need much light at first (some don’t need any!) but once they sprout, we have a chain system that will lower the lights to just 4 inches or so above the plant.
If I need more earth, (I don’t think I will) I brought in some weeks ago all the other planters from the falls’ pots of chrysanthemums. They’d sat all winter in minus 20. I just carelessly broke off the stems because the roots were still frozen into the earth, threw the old plant on the compost heap, and took the pots inside where they sat in the dark of the basement until I noticed them today. Those hardy little buggers are growing from the ripped off stubs! They’ve been warm, near the wood furnace, but had no light or water at all – total darkness for 2 weeks and dry as a bone! But there they are growing. If I’d TRIED to restart them as plants, I guarantee I wouldn’t have been able to do it! I haven’t the heart, after their effort to grow, to discard them, so I’m going to try and nurture them along and see what happens …
I’ll be spending the next week planting down there, and then fingers and toes crossed and lots of praying that we get healthy little sprouts coming along, of veg., herbs and flowers (gotta keep those birds and bees happy for cross-pollinating!). That’s our groceries for the entire next year! Should you want a list of all the basics we ordered from Hawthorne Farm, it is here:
Next week, be sure to ‘tune in’ for all Richard’s maple syrup adventures as he learns the how-tos and how-not-tos! He’s been boiling away all day today (again, wish that was wood or solar powered, but it will be next year!) whilst I’ve been planting and writing and we just tried our first syrup poured over some snow. mmmmmmmm-mmmmm!
Despite my having to, last month, ‘ draw his attention’ (that’s putting it tactfully!) away from watching uneco-friendly drag races on Youtube and ordering more car parts for his uneco-friendly ’73 Nova, and ‘encouraging’ him to instead research how to produce our own maple sugar and syrup, I gotta say, he’s done INCREDIBLY well. He’s hauling in quite a loot! In fact, he was so giddy a few hours ago he actually crowed “Wooo-heeee! Self-sufficiency! This tastes WAY better than any I’ve ever bought!” He’s really surpassed my expectations for this year’s tapping experience.
I have always loved the Farmer’s Almanac – the original, now called “The OLD Farmer’s Almanac was begun in 1792 and is the oldest continuously published periodical in North America. In the 1848, it officially became theOLD Farmer’s Almanac. The Smithsonian has the full set of this, AND ONLY THIS Almanac, though many others have come and gone…
The one we are reading now, because it was a Christmas gift, is “The Almanac – for Farmers and City Folk” ! Nooooooo – haven’t we given in enough to the onslaught of cities/civilization? I refuse to share one of the last good old-fashioned traditions about planting, harvesting and eating with the yuppies in the metropoles who are making it more and more difficult to have clean organic earth, plentiful fields and forests and healthy FOOD, but too late! This particular Almanac has gone and done it!
Anyway, regardless of the Almanac type, we tend to read it the most on the toilet – studying it in small increments of time. (Well, MINE are ‘small increments of time’ !)
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It is the original Almanac, however, that has a section I am most interested in, as so much of the farming cycle is based on the moon’s. (By the way, we still haven’t been able to get the planting tables’ earth in, considering one of the biggest storms of the season just happened last night – the last vestiges of what Ontario and New York got at the beginning of the week – – so our planters are still covered and frozen outside! We are certainly not going to use ALL potting soil, as a) it needs to be a mix with our own earth, and b) I refuse to generate that much plastic bag rubbish!) Having lived and taught on the reservation in Montana for 4 years, I am most interested in the natives’ names for the various moons, and their meanings.
“– Full Wolf Moon – January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon. ”
The Wolf Moon, taken from my bed in January, above
By the way, just as a post-script, wolves do NOT howl AT the moon. They ALWAYS howl at night, calling to each other, and it’s just that when there is a full moon, they tend to be SEEN more!
– Full Snow Moon – February Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February’s full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.
Early morning Snow Moon up the hill and round the bend on Blue Bell Road (rte. 380) (above)
– Full Crow Moon – March The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.
Taken LAST March (by the previous owners of Blue Belldon Farm) of the Crow Moon, or Sap Moon from the side of our barn looking out at Blue Bell Mountain. (above)
While it’s all very nice to have the time changed, it’s ridiculous to do it this early. Global warming climes or not, we’re NOT needing the extra time for harrowing or planting just yet. With shingles being blown off the roof last night (Richard actually managed to get a roofer here by noon today! Usually we wait weeks if not MONTHS every time we call in a tradesman in New Brunswick!) and a 30 cm accumulation on top of what we already have, it feels utterly inane to have it light out at 7:30 p.m. and be staring out at massive snow drifts.
Although it IS pleasant to hear the crows cawing in the mornings now, which is why the northern tribes CALLED the full moon in March “Crow Moon”. But we want to tap our trees and it isn’t even quite time for that yet, with minus 20 temps at night! So calling it a Sap Moon isn’t quite right either, not this year, anyway. WE’RE the saps for thinking we could have our planting boxes full of earth and seeds by now, not to mention having the maple trees producing… What a March it’s been!
But now that it IS March, I can look back at the predictions using the moon/sun/stars of ALL the Almanacs on offer, and discover that – surprise, surprise! The only one that was accurate was THE OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC! This was from a statement on CTV last Sept:
“Dust off your parka and unpack your boots: according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, Canada is in for a cold, snowy winter. “The winter is looking pretty crazy,” Almanac spokesperson Jack Burnett told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “It looks as though it’s going to be colder and snowier from coast to coast to coast.” According to the Almanac, most of Canada can expect a snowy winter with below-average temperatures followed by an unseasonably cool summer.
So, since it claims to be 80 percent accurate for the last 225 years, why use another Almanac, I ask you? They were definitely right about the winter of 2016/2017 here in the Appalachian Mountains, at least! And in some parts of the northern province, the wind and gales last night were so horrible, the golden arches which have been upright since 1970 decided they’d had enough. Last month, New Brunswick men got arrested going through the drive-thru on a couch. www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/02/10/new-brunswick-men-arrested-after-going-through-mcdonalds-drive-thru-on-a-sofa-police.html And THIS month, Northern N.B. McDonalds are again in the news today:
Talk about yer fallen arches! But I suspect it’s how most of us are feeling after this rightly predicted ‘long, cold and bitter’ winter!
preface: I know this week’s blog was supposed to be about the seed tables and the planting in our basement. Richard has the tables ready to go, but due to the massive cold snap (minus 20 all this week again!) we haven’t been able to get the earth out of some of the bigger planters that we were planning to mix in with the potting soil downstairs, and also the seeds haven’t arrived yet. So- hopefully next week? Besides, I haven’t done an Artist in the Attic feature in a long while!
The farmhouse at Blue Belldon Farm is full of artwork because we all love it. My collection of pottery, Mom’s and her aunt’s weavings, and mostly, paintings, etchings and sketches with deep sentimental meaning to at least one of us. Richard himself was immersed in art in his younger years, and so quite a bit of his own early work graces our walls (as well of that of his fathers’).
Richard’s sketch of his German grandfather hangs in a montage on our bedroom wall, and two oil paintings he did of his time in rural Saskatchewan hang downstairs in his office:
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His artistic talents were passed on to his youngest son, Nigel, who has honed them into a lucrative profession as a rather well-known tattoo and portrait artist in Toronto. Richard is proud to announce that Nigel is booked a year in advance, and has even had commissions from folk as far away as England and Japan. I especially love the romance (not often evoked by Nigel, believe me!) of the first one, and the amazing reality of the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton one.
Artistic talent may be often inherited or at least somewhat naturally instinctive, but art APPRECIATION should be cultivated by those who truly adore it. My love of art really began with my Grade 5 art teacher, who was then Miss McBeath. She was a neat ‘hippi’ type of self-confident young woman with long hair to her waist and wearing long peasant skirts (which I still prefer wearing myself to this day) with a slightly sarcastic and quick wit (which I’d seemed to have been born with but which was, shall we say, NOT encouraged around my house!) and with a talent for passing on her passion of all things artistic, creative, and most important to me – INDIVIDUAL. It didn’t matter HOW good you were, she said, as long as you tried and you loved what you were trying… I also found out about her that she, like me, had been a tomboy who struggled with her weight, and we also bonded over the fact that I did NOT find it amusing that my class had to give up art to go and take a semester of Home Ec., as it was then called. (Ironic, then that so much of this blog is dedicated to recipes and kitchen how-tos!)
The following year Jane married my Grade 6 social studies teacher, Peter Wright, and we found more in common – they drove the exact same V.W. van as my parents, Peter and my Dad were obsessive tennis players/followers, and both Wrights accepted me as a strong-willed tomboy with a sarcastic sense of humour and respectfully called me by my requested nick-name, “Chip” (which few others were wont to do). Our families have since been life-long friends.
Originally, Jane was more a textile artist and found joy in the creation of pottery, batik, knitting, quilting, rug hooking and woodworking. She definitely was one of the last, true “hippis”, in my opinion, and could very well have settled into a live of self-sufficiency as we are trying to do here, with her many talents. In fact, she and Peter DID take their 3 children and live in the French mountains for a year of self-exploration!
However, this amazing woman has, in recent years, found her medium/niche in watercolour, and, as former president of the bi-lingual “Artistes Hudson Artists”, a group of more than 80 talented artists in the artist colony of Hudson, Quebec, she has also publicly defended, in various media, ART and the right to individualism. From one of her articles:
“Why should you buy original art? A good question, when you can buy pleasing, inexpensive, mass-produced things for your walls. The answer is that all art is a form of self-expression and communicates the artist’s message. How you interpret that message is intensely personal and therefore unique. If a piece of art “speaks to you” in some way, it will give you a jolt of delight every time you look at it or touch it. Original art should always start a conversation whether it is with yourself or someone else; conversations teach you things and enrich your life. Artists are compelled to produce art; buying original art produced in your community supports local artists and by extension the local economy.”
We have several favourites of Jane’s at Blue Belldon Farm, all originals, because that’s all Jane does – including even her beautiful cards!
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I LOVE the way the sun streams through the trees in that first one, which is framed on our living room bookshelves (you may have to click on each to blow them up to see all detail). And the last one looks very much like our huge vegetable garden, with its mix of flowers in it to attract pollen-spreaders!
But the one which I think looks the most like a scene from Blue Belldon Farm (which is on Jane’s website: http://www.janewright.ca/ ) is this one:
I can just imagine standing at the side of the barn looking out to the back fields. Love it!
One of my favourite quotes from Jane reminds me very much of this farm, too:
“The use of colour and texture to express my awe and wonder at the beauty around me fills me with great joy. Spending time on the shores of Lake Huron and following my grandfather around as a child as he cared lovingly for his animals, orchard and gardens instilled in me a profound respect for the order, beauty, cruelty and power of the natural world and those that inhabit it. “
Here are some more of Jane’s landscapes that illustrate the above:
Jane even painted an original coaster for each person who attended their eldest son’s (my god-son) wedding a few years ago. Although I couldn’t make the wedding in Hawaii, Jane was good enough to give me this souvenir, which also sits on our bookshelves. A really original idea, if any of you have some artistic talent and a family wedding coming up~!
I find it amusing that the ‘yellow room’, upstairs in Mom’s suite, (where we think poor Ida had all 5 of her children who were the first ones born here) holds one of my worst-ever paintings (circa Grade 9, playing abstract with acrylics) on the wall, but right across from it is a gorgeous watercolour still life of Jane’s!
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The Wrights helped us very much all three years of the running the Carlisle Country Craft and Old-fashioned Market Mercantile, not just because they are supportive of friends, but because they both love to promote the local arts as much as possible. Here’s a candid shot I love by Yvonne Parsons Photography (Artist in the Attic #1) of Mom, in pioneer costume courtesy of Joan Eagle, and Jane wearing one of Mom’s woven shawls:
As an extension of Jane’s connection with the CCC&OMM show, I also asked her to offer her cards in our Rural Creators’ Collective shop in Carlisle. Here are a few of the displays I made with these ALL ECO-FRIENDLY, RURAL-CELEBRATORY artisans.
Jane’s card is directly above in the bottom left, with other cards by photographer Yvonne Parsons, and lino-cut artist L’immaginaria’ Lisa Martini-Dunk as well as native works by Roni Walker of Metis Caravan, a rag plate mat by Ragged Revivals, an artisan original doll by Teena Mucicko Surma’s The Fanciful Doll and a few of my own, Rustic Revivals’ pieces as well.
Here is a close-up of a different display I loved in the shop:
In the above, Jane’s stunning sunset card is in the crate, and is surrounded by a quilt and business-card holders by Miriam Bauman’s MiniMade, intaglio and lino-cut prints by the above-named L’immaginaria, a framed crocheted doilie by Roni Walker’s Rumpel’s Wheel, a chickadee watercolour by Marla, a recycled map by Dillies Dahlias, and a few items in the forefront, as well as a rag doll on top of the crate by my own Rustic Revivals. I loved having Jane’s cards in our shop, and they are unique as, as I mentioned previously, each one is a unique original. You can still purchase one of Jane’s originals by contacting her through her website: http://www.janewright.ca/contact.html
In the same yellow room in Mom’s upstairs suite is also a small framed card by another watercolour artist and friend of the family, Marg Patterson, from Tillsonburg, whom I’ll be featuring in another Artist in the Attic posting down the road. She also does LOVELY work, and donates her proceeds to the Alzheimers Society! Mom has this one normally on the window ledge in that room, actually facing out to our own Birch Grove.
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And thus you have it – the Blue Belldon crowd LOVE their art-work. Other than these artists we consider family, our walls our also ‘littered’ with art-work from our travels around the world, with representations of some of the places we’ve loved best. Mom has carvings from Africa and Slovenia, I have paintings of my log cabin and stone cottage from Montana and Scotland, there are many water colours of the Bronte’s West Yorkshire, where Richard and I both have many happy memories, and I have several antique ‘horse’ prints as well as two large ones of James Lumbers’- one from his ghostly series, “City Limits” (a rural piece with the skyscrapers, so sadly but truly, invading in the far distance)
and another of his – a native girl studying from a text book, which will always remind me of my time teaching on the rez. He’s a Canadian, as is of course the nature-realist Robert Bateman, with whom my grandmother taught for a time in Burlington, Ontario. We have a few of his smaller prints on the wall downstairs, and Mom has a large one of his kingfisher (bought for Grandma, originally) above her couch upstairs.
As well as the above kingfisher of Bateman’s, Mom has quite a few of her own mother’s china-painting hanging on her walls. Grandma was another family artist that had great talent in all subject matter, but especially enjoyed doing florals. One of my favourites, however, is the platter, hanging above Mom’s ‘stove’, that depicts the Hawkins family farm, where her mother went as a young bride.
Yup, we ruralites sure appreciate our artists, and the memories their works evoke in us! I hope you have the same throughout your own home, and that you’re not, as Jane suggests above, buying ‘pleasing, inexpensive, mass-produced’ Ikea or Wal-mart ka-ka (you’ll note Jane’s quote stopped before this last bit).
If you fill your home with art that ‘speaks to you’, it will, as Jane says:
give you a jolt of delight every time you look at it or touch it