Monday, October 2, 2017

Different strokes for different folks

I've been on a portrait painting kick lately.  I've mentioned before how I've been trying to figure out what my painting style is but it never seems to get any clearer, because one day I can paint a face a particular way and it feels really good.  Then another day I'll paint another face in a different way and it feels equally as right.  Here are 3 portraits I've painted just a few weeks apart.  Maybe it just happens to be the mood I'm in that day that affects my style.  Or maybe the face says, "paint me this way".
 Casual pose, palette knife.
 More serious, serene, smaller brushes and more realistic.
 Loose and happy.

Beef tongue tacos

This was one of my more successful offal dinners.  We try to use what we can from every animal we butcher but some parts just aren't palatable.  Remember my kidney fail?  Well, turns out, beef tongue is very tender and delicious, and is also very large.
It was very simple to cook too.  I boiled it for 2 hours, peeled it, cut it up and prepared it like you would any other meat for tacos.

James thought it was good.  I thought it was great.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Painting workshop

James and I spent 3 days in Boone, NC this week so I could take a realistic impressionism workshop a friend had told me about.  This was my first workshop ever and I loved it and learned so much; at least I hope I did.  There were 7 of us in the class.  My friend, Dottie, and I were the only ones to paint with oil.  The others, including the teacher, used acrylics.  Dottie paints exclusively with a palette knife, which I haven't done, other than a tiny bit here and there.  The teacher also used a palette knife a good deal so I thought this was as good a time as any to explore its uses.

I paint a lot of people and animals, rarely landscapes.  This was an opportunity to stretch myself and I was a bit anxious about it.  Our teacher and my classmates were very laid-back and fun so it was silly of me to feel that way.  You know I'm not a shy person, so it wasn't because I was worried about fitting in or anything like that.  I get anxious before just about every painting I begin.  I can't explain it.

Egie Antonaccio was our teacher.  Google him to see some beautiful paintings.  He has a thick Italian accent, which was fun to listen to, and entertained us with anecdotes.  He never seemed bothered by us chattering away as he did his morning demonstrations.

Here's my first, and favorite of my paintings from the workshop.  I like the texture a palette knife creates.
Day 2's painting didn't go as well but I'm looking at this as a work in progress and maybe in the next few days I can complete it and pull off something respectable.  I didn't want to work on it the last day because I wanted to get in as much painting of new things as I could.
Day 3 painting is a little wild and colorful but as I look at it today I'm liking it a bit more.  I may change the background.  This was my first pig, Roxie and her little buddy, Wassie.  They do look happy, don't they?
Some pretty spectacular paintings came out of other classmates, especially one man, Terry, who was picking up a brush (or palette knife) for the first time ever.  I was so impressed with him.  Here are 2 of his paintings.  I'm guessing Terry is somewhere around 70 years old.

My friend, who has been painting for just 2 years, did some awesome paintings.

Some more paintings from the class.

I think all of these paintings look better in person than in these photos.

We bought one of Egie's demo paintings to have a memory from this week.  Maybe one day I can paint something like this in just an hour.
While I was in the workshop James ran, wrote and sketched.  Yes, he's getting the art bug too.  It won't be long till he's painting.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Building picture frames (warning, not for the faint hearted)

I love little projects that I can complete in a short amount of time, and building picture frames is just that kind of project.  My friend, Laura, asked if I'd build some frames for 2 of her paintings of her dogs.  I'm going to post one of those pictures so it will appear as the first photo on the blog, so when I post this on Facebook that will be the photo displayed with the blog.  You'll understand why I don't want these other photos posted as you read on.  First, here's one of her framed paintings.
 I kind of like this frame because I used some tongue and groove flooring we have leftover and instead of removing the groove part, I used it to slide the hardboard into.  I'd never done this before so it was fun doing something new.
The other frames I made were also made out of tongue and groove flooring but I cut off the tongues and grooves and the hardboard was mounted from the back.  That made for a much deeper profile though.
Now here's where you should stop reading if you don't want to be grossed out.  I don't use my bandsaw very often and sometimes mice build nests inside.  I should have opened it before I used it.
I turned it on and heard a thump and then had a bit of "matter" fall onto the deck of the saw.  I just knew I'd killed a mouse. I hated to open the door and was tempted to continue on and cut the trim I needed because the saw was running just fine.  I couldn't do that though.  I dreaded opening it.  It wasn't a mouse, though it was still very disturbing.

I'm so sorry, snake.  Next time I'll open the door first.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Oscar videos

Raisa and Oscar are doing great.  He seems so much bigger and livelier than our past calves.  Maybe I just forget from year to year.  Every time I try to get a video of him bouncing he stops just as I hit record.  I did get him running a bit.

Lennon and Mo are fascinated with him and keep trying to lick him through the fence.  You'll see in this next video how full Raisa's rear udder is.  Oscar isn't nursing off the back yet and she hasn't let me relieve her.  We go through this every year.

He's still friendly but doesn't stand still for long when I pet him.  Usually around 4 days old they become a bit skittish and I have to win them over, but so far he doesn't seem afraid of me.  They all come around eventually as long as I spend time with them.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another Boy

I guess it's just not in the cards for me to get that baby girl calf.  Raisa gave me an adorable, healthy and big baby boy this morning.  I missed the birth again but not by much.  She still hadn't passed the afterbirth but I could see the baby had already been up and nursing before I got there.  He's very sturdy.  He's red like her and Franklin but a lighter red, like jerseys tend to be.  He definitely has the Jersey's eyes.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Not the Labor Day I'd hoped for

This will be Raisa's 4th calf born since we got her.  She's around 10 years old so she's probably had 7 or 8 calves in all.  While calving may not be new to her, it still feels new to me.  With each baby born here I revert to a newby farmer.  I doubt myself.  I wonder if she's really pregnant or if I got the breeding date wrong.  I imagine the mother is farther along than she is in her gestation and am sure a baby is going to pop out any minute.  Nine months and 3 days ago I saw Franklin breed Raisa so I was sure she was going to calve this past Friday.  Yes, I understand 3 days late is nothing.  Her past 2 bull calves were born right on their due date so it just feels wrong to have to wait.  Some days she looks very pregnant and then other days not at all.  I take lots of pictures of her these days, from all angles, and then compare them to the day before to see if I can see changes. I do this with goats too.

 Her udder may look big to you but this is really not all that big for her so I keep wondering why she hasn't filled up more if she's 3 days late.  She'll really get huge the day she calves.
 Yes, I take lots of vulva pictures too.  I can't help myself.  How will I know if it's more swollen a day later if I don't have a photo to compare it to?  I know I have many friends who completely understand this.
And so I wait, and wait.  I'll be sure to post many pictures once baby arrives.  I really, really, really want a red girl, not a black boy.  She hasn't had a girl for me yet.  If she has a girl we'll keep her.

We get a lot of fog here, living in a valley on the river, so it can be pretty wet in the mornings when I go out to feed and milk.  On foggy mornings there are almost always sparkling spiderwebs to photograph.
Every morning the animals hover at the gate waiting for me to fill feed bowls.  The lambs holler but Pessa is the bossiest of them all.  She barks at anyone who comes near her.  She MUST be the first to be fed.  The only one she'll share food with is Dagwood, and she's not always sure she wants to share with him.

James took a kayak out while the river was still lightly blanketed in fog.  He took a few (89) pictures too.
More spiderwebs.
Happy Labor Day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Perhaps I'm Naive

I've recently decided when I hear something negative or read something that irks me on Facebook I'm going to respond in a positive way.  That's what I've been doing this week after the horrible events that happened in Charlottesville.  As I've read posts by friends and family who, in my opinion, don't seem to believe there is still oppression in this country, I've decided to respond with a painting.  I'm calling it Embrace.  I know it accomplishes nothing but it makes me feel better and it's better than saying something I'll be sorry for.  I'd prefer to think about people embracing rather than spewing hate.

As I was painting today I was listening to John Denver.  I heard a song by him that was unfamiliar to me.  It's just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it back in the 80s.  It's called Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For).  Maybe you already know it.  Perhaps he was naive too but if everyone felt this way the world would be a better place to live.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keeping it simple

I just got done reading a book, Daily Painting, by Carol Marine.  Look her up, she's a very good artist.  In the book she talks about how important it is to paint often.  If not daily, then as often as you can.  She suggests painting small - many of her paintings are just 6" X 6" - because you're more likely
to take the time to do it if you don't feel overwhelmed by a large canvas that will take hours or days
to cover.  I haven't been painting every day but I do try to paint at least 4 or 5 days.  Monday and Tuesday I painted two small paintings.  I'm not thrilled with them and they could both use more attention but at least I stuck with them until they were recognizable.

Even though I'm not in love with this painting, I do like the subject matter because it brings back memories of a simpler time.  We didn't have stairs but my grandmother did and my aunt had a slinky we could play with.  I thought it was awesome.
I Googled Slinky to see some pictures and learned this about it.  I had no idea it was created almost by accident.


Slinky (1946)
In 1943, Richard James, a naval mechanical engineer stationed at the William Cramp and Sons shipyards in Philadelphia, was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships in rough seas.[1][2] James accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf, and watched as the spring "stepped" in a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright.[3][4] James's wife Betty later recalled, "He came home and said, 'I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension; I could make it walk.'"[5] James experimented with different types of steel wire over the next year, and finally found a spring that would walk. Betty was dubious at first, but changed her mind after the toy was fine-tuned and neighborhood children expressed an excited interest in it.[4] She dubbed the toy Slinky (meaning "sleek and graceful"), after finding the word in a dictionary,[3][4] and deciding that the word aptly described the sound of a metal spring expanding and collapsing.[6]
With a US$500 loan, the couple formed James Industries (originally James Spring & Wire Company), had 400 Slinky units made by a local machine shop, hand-wrapped each in yellow paper, and priced them at $1 a piece.[4] Each was 212" tall, and included 98 coils of high-grade blue-black Swedish steel.[7]The Jameses had difficulty selling Slinky to toy stores but, in November 1945, they were granted permission to set up an inclined plane in the toy section of Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to demonstrate the toy. Slinky was a hit, and the first 400 units were sold within ninety minutes.[4][7] In 1946, Slinky was introduced at the American Toy Fair.

For a few days I was singing the slinky song. It's slinky, it's slinky, it's fun, it's a wonderful toy.  It's slinky,
it's slinky, it's fun for a girl and a boy.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Throw back Thursday, a day late

I'm trying to come up with a name for this painting but it's still so new so I'm going to give it some more thought.
For some reason I became obsessed with finding a vintage sewing pattern to paint.  I don't really know why.  I went on Ebay and found lots of them for around 4 to 7 dollars.  I decided to check our antique mall first.  I lucked out and found a whole box of them (maybe 20?) for $3.00, total.  I had all kinds of ideas for what I wanted to do in this painting but many of my ideas were a little beyond my capabilities so I decided to just go ahead and paint the picture of the 3 girls and see where it went.
At first I couldn't decide whether to make them look more realistic or keep it cartoon-like.  As you can see I kept it like it appears on a pattern, with each form outlined.  It was very relaxing painting this; almost like coloring in a coloring book.

As I went on I couldn't figure out what I was trying to accomplish with this painting.  James asked what I was trying to get across or how it made me feel.  I guess it makes me feel nostalgic for the old days.  My mom sewed many outfits for me and my sisters but I especially found it exciting when she made our Easter dresses.  I like these old fashioned dresses and the innocent-ness of them.  I'm sure I had a dress like that.

If I decide to frame this I may decoupage the pattern itself onto the frame.  We'll see.  I may play with this some more and then decide.  Maybe I'll add a pin cushion to go with the tape measure and scissors.  I like painting the shadows.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Rooster photobomb

I've been in a painting and blogging funk lately.  I haven't known what to paint or blog about.  My painting buddies have been on vacation and I guess I need their inspiration to keep me going.  Oh, I've painted some things, but nothing I've been very happy with.  I've been watching lots of video's of other people painting though and that's fun and sometimes inspiring.

Here's my most recent painting.  The whole thing is done with dots and small lines, sticking with a pretty small color palette.  At first it was fun painting and then it got boring so I added the rooster and, as Bob Ross would say, a happy little cloud.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Back in December I cut my index finger on the table saw.  Six months later, it's still very sensitive. I'm not the most cautious wood worker, but I'm much more careful since that happened.  It's good I need glasses to see what I'm doing because I often forget to wear safety glasses.  The painting I did today was inspired by my carelessness with tools.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hog testicles, not bad at all

We were invited to dinner last night.  I asked the hostess what we could bring and she said, "nothing".   I hated to show up empty-handed so I thought I'd bring a little something I knew they wouldn't be serving but might compliment the meal.  I knew in advance they were serving pork, not that hog testicles wouldn't be a good addition to any meal.  Well, I know that now, but I didn't know that before I prepared them.

We've asked our butcher to save testicles from a few of our animals but we've never gotten around to trying them, until last night.  This is what they look like before I removed the membrane.
 To give you an idea of the size.  This was a large hog.
Here's what it looks like underneath the membrane, which you must remove or it will be tough.
I soaked it in a brine for a few hours but I don't know if it really needed that or not.  Many recipes on the internet said to, so I did.  I rinsed them and then sliced them into bite sized pieces, then dredged them in a mixture of flour, breadcrumbs and adobo seasoning and fried them in a cast iron skillet with butter.   James and I both tasted them before we took them and both agreed they were acceptable to share.  Actually, they were more than just acceptable.  They were pretty darn good.  Kind of like a chicken nugget.

I was shocked 7 out of 8 people ate them.  Some folks even went back for seconds and thirds.  Only one man wouldn't try them and he said he wasn't going to kiss his wife for a year after eating them.

I should mention, these were good friends we were with. I probably wouldn't have taken these to a dinner with acquaintances.

This was much more successful than our attempt at eating a kidney.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Most of you know I raise the livestock and James raises the vegetables.  We do, however, need each other's help now and then.  The past two days we had to take care of some things that required 4 hands and 2 brains.  Or maybe just one brain and 4 hands.

Yesterday was one of those anxiety-filled mornings of loading and driving a bull and 2 hogs to the butcher.  When we're done I'm always very proud of us but while it's going on it's stressful.  It was no trouble getting Franklin in the trailer.  He charged right in.  Unfortunately, so did Lennon and Mo and it took a while to get them out.  The pigs, Honey and Badger, weren't as easy but eventually we bribed them and they went in a side door.  Our livestock trailer is ancient, rusty and needs me to do some welding and other fixes to prevent animals from escaping while we're driving the curvy, mountainous route to Green Valley Butcher.  We've never had that happen but we always worry about it.  For all of this, James lets me call the shots and does what I ask (open gates, brings more food, helps close trailer doors, etc), because I know the animals best.  In 3 weeks we'll have approximately 200 lbs of pork and 600 lbs of beef so if anyone wants to buy some, let me know.

Today it was James' turn to be the boss.  We installed a drip system in his garden.  He's been working really hard on it this year.  He's put a tall fence around 6 of the gardens, got rid of all the grass paths, which are now mulch, and created smaller paths between rows so you can walk in the
gardens without stepping on things.

This drip system is pretty cool, but the air wasn't while we worked.  I don't know if I stunk more yesterday after mucking out the livestock trailer or today after sweating a bucket or two.  We laid out 4 main water lines and then attached many tiny drip hoses that go between the rows.  It's hard to see them in this picture.
We work pretty well as a team.  At least I think so.