Friday, June 24, 2011

Cinderella Pumpkins

my Cinderella seedlings!

Last autumn, I bought the best pumpkin of my life so far at The Garden Patch in town.  A Cinderella Pumpkin.  It was a beautiful dark orange.  It was shapely.  It remained as vibrant and solid as ever for eight months... first on display for the autumn, then on top of the trunk at the bottom of my bed while it snowed, and Christmas came and went, and spring unfolded.  And then last Monday, the same day my sister and I squished beetles, I cracked it open and planted its seeds.  The Cinderella pumpkin is the French heirloom 'Rouge Vif D'Étampes' which means 'bright red of Étampes', a place I think is about 30 miles from the center of Paris.  Supposedly these pumpkins take about a hundred days to mature.  Unless they are fickle, I should have my very own Cinderellas around September 20th!  Maybe I'm just going through a phase, but I can't imagine liking any other variety of pumpkin nearly as much as this one.

I managed to paint a few zinnias, and hope to do more in the coming days...

I also painted the potato blossoms, and realized they are very sweet smelling flowers.  They smell like honey - not  light and sugary like clover honey, but a musky, rich sweet like chestnut honey.  

We have raspberries galore in the garden.  My sister picked these (and many more) and she and my mom made a big batch of delicious jam.  Today I think I will visit the neighboring farm to pick some blueberries!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beetle Juice

One day last week, my sister and I spent the whole morning in the garden.  We planted pumpkins and gourds, we weeded, and then we squished hundreds of Colorado Potato Beetles.  Most of them were in the gummy larval stage, and my arms got covered with brown beetle guts.  One squirted on my neck, and thankfully missed my eye.
We have a pretty good potato patch this year.  I like the blossoms and leaves of the plants and think they might make a good fabric pattern.  Hopefully I'll paint them before they vanish.

My Maran rooster is all grown up, and even crowing!  But there are no eggs from the pullets yet.  His name is Hercules Poirot, his hen is Miss Marple and the two other hens are Nancy (Drew) and Thumbelina.  If you remembered that I began with six, the other two were roosters, and hawks swooped down and got them while I was away in France.

And the seeds I planted before I left turned into flowers, so I now have lots of zinnias, my favorite blooms!

Today I made all of my fabrics available for sale on the Spoonflower website:

And tomorrow my wonderful great aunt is coming for lunch and I'm hoping she might be able to teach me how to oil the sewing machine!

Here & There



Saturday, June 11, 2011

Euro Bobbles & Clary Sage

Three nights ago, I went to the Firemen's Fair in town.
It was a hot night - magic with the glowing lights from the rides, the rhythmic cranking and whirring of the mechanisms, the murmur of hundreds of people's voices together, and the ecstatic shouts of kids flying through the air.  There were all sorts of people... one in particular was a body-builder-type wearing a slinky, muscleman t-shirt with spaghetti straps.  The straps delicately cascaded over his tattooed muscles, he had curiously feminine legs, and he was carrying two plastic bags from Food Lion that were bulging with things that seemed to be cube-shaped.  I imagined what steps he took to dress and groom himself before coming to the fair, and what sort of person would like to meet him for a blind date.  And what in the heck was he carrying in those bags?  I saw another man, with no shirt on at all, who exuded aggression, but when he walked, he leaned on a wooden cane, similar to the one my great-grandpa used.  There were lots of girls wearing shorts the size of underwear, and a large woman who stood still in the midst of all the chaos, holding her very tiny baby close to her.  They both looked around blankly with the same dark eyes.

In one area, there were kids in harnesses, suspended by stretchy straps and gracefully bouncing way up high and then down to touch their toes on individual trampolines.  Most of the kids were very delicate in their bounces, and went up and down in slow motion with tentative looks on their faces.  But there was one girl wearing glasses who bounced with real enthusiasm and a big smile on her face.   Next to the quiet, dreamy jumpers was a loud, towering ride that swirled the passengers up and around and upside down in little metal cages.  Then, just across the grass path, was a dingy little pool filled with brownish water and attended by two robust men.  The pool was surrounded by half eager, half anxious kids watching the middle of the pool, where a boy was rolling around wildly inside something that resembled a clear plastic beach ball.  He seemed to be in a state of hypnotic rapture, throwing himself against the inner walls of the ball, and splashing in a puddle of water that had leaked into the bottom of the ball.  When his time was up, the two men pulled the ball in to 'shore', which was a set of wooden steps down from the side of the pool.  They unzipped an opening in the ball, and the air drained out of it almost immediately, and to try to get the boy out of the ball (which had become nothing but a pile of deflated plastic) so he could breathe, the two men grabbed him under the arms and pulled him quickly out of the zipper opening, his legs limp behind him.  Grinning and damp, he descended the stairs with wobbly knees.  Next in line was another little boy, who climbed the wooden steps bravely, but then when the men took his arms and told him to hurry and put his head into the opening, he panicked and went back to his mom.   A little girl dove in and squatted in it, like it was a giant placenta, and one man quickly zipped it up, leaving a little opening into which the other man jammed the end of a machine resembling a leaf blower, which inflated the ball.  Meanwhile, another boy was sobbing inside one of the balls, but you couldn't hear him... You could just see him inside the clear orb with a red face and tears streaming down and his mouth wide open.  So as soon as the girl was all blown up, the men roughly pushed her ball out into the pool to make way for the crying boy.  The girl was in heaven, in high-speed, super-hyper fashion... inside the ball she let loose with kicks and wild thrashing and tumbling.  Meanwhile, the boy was pulled out by the men and walked down the steps with his chin tucked under and wiping tears off his cheeks.  That is what it is was like to see young humans in 'Euro Bobbles'.  It was weird.  But maybe a good illustration of how funny people are.

Last year I bought a little clary sage plant and now, in its second and final year of life, it's blooming right on cue.   I would've liked to try to make some essential oil, but I'd need to build a small still to do it... maybe I will try it when I'm an old woman, but for now, I settled for making a quick tea.  I boiled some clary sage leaves with a few mint leaves for about six minutes, let it sit for a while and then sweetened it with a teaspoon of honey.  The tea smelled like melted butter.  My little sister said it tasted just like milk.  My mom thought it was revolting.  I thought it was pretty good at first... and I'd be happy if it does all the things clary sage is supposed to do...  help with mood swings, menstrual and general muscle cramps, supposedly can help you have vivid dreams...  I've got some left over in the fridge, but I can't bring myself to drink it again today.  I wish I could say that I loved it and I'll be drinking it each day and that it has enhanced my well-being, but I think my mom was right about the taste.  Supposedly it is good in beer, another project for another day...  But if anyone would like to try using it for beer soon, let me know and I will bring you leaves and blossoms!
(More info on Clary Sage )

Sunday, June 5, 2011

home again, home again

rose garden, Parc du Thabor, Rennes
Except it doesn't feel anything like a jig!   I'm bumbling around, having mood swings, unsure about what to do next.   The owls, the cuckoo birds calling, the bike rides and hours of painting in a trance, taking baths with rose soap and washing all my clothes by hand in the kitchen sink... that's all an old vacation, and now it's time to find my next path.  This time last year, I was trying to figure out how to apply to go to Dinan.  And now, I've gone and come back.  Until now, I hadn't given much thought to what would come next... I think Confucius said something like 'wherever you go, go with your whole heart.'  Usually I'm not too good at that.  But I think for the month of May, I did it.  And it brought me a lot of happiness.  Now I'm back on Gooch Lane and it's time for investigating and researching and scheming and dreaming until I find another exciting idea to pursue.  The trick will be to move forward wholeheartedly.  In the middle of a conversation last night, a really nice woman reminded me that 'everything begins with a dream'.  There's a whole bunch to look forward to in the mysterious (and sometimes unpredictable) evolution of imagination becoming reality.  I've got a lot of dreaming to do.  In the meantime, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" is stuck in my head and I need to brush my hair!

Hayfield, Finistère
aboard the ferry from Roscoff to L'Ile de Batz
ruins of Chapelle St-Anne, L'Ile de Batz
built in the 10th century in place of a monastery founded
by Pol Aurelien

Pol Aurelian, born in Great Britain at the beginning
of the 6th Century, otherwise known as Saint Pol
de Leon, who slayed the terrible dragon that was terrorizing the people of L'Ile de Batz.
L'Ile de Batz
Ile de Batz
L'Ile de Batz
L'Ile de Batz
St. Francis inside L'Eglise Notre Dame du Bon Secours,
the church which also houses St. Pol's scarf... 
L'Ile de Batz
Jardin Georges Delaselle.  Delaselle began the garden in 1897, and it now holds the roots of over 2000 species of plant (especially palms) from all the continents.  While Delasell was clearing the land for the garden, he uncovered a Bronze Age necropolis... you can see one of the stone tombs in the foreground!
Ferocious Jack Russell terrier guarding the wall near Eglise Notre Dame in Rennes
Parc du Thabor, Rennes
Les Amis de la Grande Vigne chose two of my paintings.  The sardine on the blue and white plate, and the painting of the wild foliage I collected in the woods.  Before leaving Brittany, I took a trip to Finistère for an 18 km walk and to visit L'Ile de Batz (, and then my last day I spent in Rennes.  The places put terrible spells on me.