Monday, April 20, 2015

Halfway Out the Door Drawing

We're leaving in the early afternoon tomorrow for two weeks in Spain-- Barcelona, then Girona just up the Costa Brava from Barcelona, then back to Barcelona.  Today was the expected flurry of packing, finding a house key, wrestling Jesse to Top Dog for a two week spring break vacation, etc etc.  Finished up with a sweet meeting of my journal group from 6 - 8 (only I came home early), a run-thru Whole Foods for a take-out dinner, and now home.  I came so close to not drawing anything and not posting today BUT while the little quiche was in the toaster oven I sketched the delicious salad, and then when the quiche came out of the oven, I had to draw it, too.  Both were so good and very simple foods.  They should be easy to duplicate.  I especially liked the crust on the quiche, which had no flour in it but was made of sprouted almonds ground up, golden flax (seeds), rosemary, coconut oil, and Celtic sea salt.  It had been pressed into a little pie pan and filled with the spinach, sun-dried tomato, and white miso and pureed squash filling with some nutmeg sprinkled on top.

I'll be drawing a lot in Spain but probably not posting due to lack of scanner and poor quality of phone photos of drawings.  So look for gigantic catch-up posts after May 5!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Moss Garden Replenishing

The perfect time to harvest moss to replenish your moss terrarium is in a drizzly rain after it has been raining steadily for long enough to refill all ephemeral ponds and saturate the ground enough to create a sucking mud.  Really, the moss is happy and bright, and it doesn't even seem to notice that it has been transplanted.  My moss garden was dried up and dead after a period of neglect this winter.  Step one was to put on the ancient, heavy rubber raincoat that I bought for the equivalent of about $5 in a gift shop on the rainiest, coldest, bleakest day of travel that I can ever remember-- on the Isle of Wight in the south of England -- and that I have failed to put a dent in in 25 years.  This coat is heavy but perfectly rainproof, unstylish and not cute, and it only comes down to a little above my knees, leaving my legs to get soaking in heavy rain.  But the thing is so sturdy that it defies getting rid of.  So I slithered into its chilly, rubbery embrace and set out to find moss.

Step 2 was to clean out the old dead garden, immediately followed by step 3, putting back the gravel into the bottom of the jar.  I also sprinkled in a little compost to sort of anchor the gravel.  Then step 4, which was to stuff the new moss into the bottle, not planting it, but just sort of pressing it toward the ground with a chopstick or a dinner knife.

The cork on my bottle has an interesting story connected to it.  I've had this very large cork for several years, and it happens to fit perfectly in the mouth of the bottle that is my jar.  I found the cork in Italy behind some abandoned buildings that included a cantina (wine cellar).  There were some very large jars for storing wine, and a couple of them had old corks stoppering them still.  I took one and brought it home, and I carved a relief print on the top of the cork.  The abandoned buildings were in a very old village named Salci, and a friend who had been born there told me that the coat of arms of Salci had been a bull standing over some snakes.  So that's what I carved on the cork (drawing 4463 is actually a print made by stamping the cork on a stamp pad and then on the parchment).  Drawing 4464 is of the cork itself, now serving as a stopper for my moss garden, which dries out very quickly with out it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Botanical Garden

At our family outing at the UNCA Botanical Gardens this afternoon we discovered the following unexpected curiosities:  J and M found a viaduct through which a creek flowed, the walls of which were covered with really interesting graffiti. J leapt across the rocks and went into the viaduct to take some pictures while M watched him.  P and I found a plant called a perfoliate bellwort that has leaves (folia) through which the stem pierces a hole (per), hence its name, we assumed.  D and I admired dense clumps of star chickweed;  H and I found an unusual sculpture that was formed like a cup held by giant tree-like hands.  A very sweet visit and walk under lowering skies, and a few raindrops just as we were heading to Greenlife for dinner.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Walking the Other River Trail

This looks at first glance like the walk to Michelle's house, but it's the opposite direction on the river. Again, the walk starts in the  upper left hand corner, only this time I first walked a short trail that we mow in our back woods, and I noticed how the wooly adelgids are really flourishing on the hemlocks.  Well, too bad, but we are just going to let nature take its course-- $700 to treat them, and the treatment lasts for only three years.  We treated them once and now they're back.  We can't put poisons down in our yard because the adjacent field is part of the organic farm.  Along with the adelgids, we are hosts to several families of groundhogs.  I drew a few of their mounds and holes, down by the fence line.  I think about tossing a cherry bomb down some of the holes, but that would probably just cause them to move closer to our house.

Still in the back yard woods I saw a pretty stand of bluebells and so many Mayapples.  On through the broken stile and out onto the hillside the mountain view is gorgeous.  A lone Canada goose was strolling around;  then it took off and flew into the wheat field.  I walked along the road a short bit in order to cross the bridge, and right after that comes the trail.  One of the first little places along the river , which this trail follows, is the spot where J and I put in a coracle that we made a few years ago and tested it out.  It floated!  We played in the little boat all afternoon, the culmination of two summers of making that coracle.  We may remake it so that it's easier to paddle this summer.

The trees along this part of the trail are amazingly animated and hung with large liana-like grapevines.  It's a very rain-forest-like place.  Soon I came to a rocky part of the trail that climbs up high above the river.  Up here there were many wild flowers including crane's bill, Mayapple flats, blue asters, spring beauties, and Solomon's seal leafing out.  I passed a picnic with a guitar player on some rocks in the river;  then on the right I could see the white barn and some sheep sitting in the field facing the west.  It was getting ready to rain, very dark and cloudy, and the sheep were acting like cows before a storm.

Then I passed the spot where Michelle and I rebuilt our cairns this past fall, and I am happy to report the cairns are still stacked for the most part, and the plants have filled in so that the cairns will not be so easy to reach this summer.  I could see a field of something bright yellow in the distance-- mustard?  When I reached the River Bend area I hit 1.5 miles and turned around, making this an easy three mile trip.  The rain held off until right after I got home.  Oh-- the yellow on this page comes from the stem of the golden celandine in my garden.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You Can Install a New Fluidmaster in 15 Minutes!

According to the box, even I, the non-plumber, can install my new Fluidmaster in 15 minutes AND improve toilet performance.  How can I resist such a promise?  So at top left is the bucket of seriously black water from the tank, which I slowly removed from the tank using the ratty sponge at lower right (4443).  I believe I used up my 15 minutes doing that chore.

Next came the fun of locating our inadequate adjustable wrenches, both shown on the right.  The real killer of the project was removing the worn and impossibly- welded- to- the- end- of- the- threaded- thingy that sticks out of the bottom of the tank.  At least an hour of not-very-pleasant behavior on my part as I embraced the toilet bowl in order to stick my head under the tank and squeeze my left hand and the wrench or pliers or whatever they are in a death grip on the slippery plastic lock nut (4438) and turned it clockwise about 250 partial turns.  This process was described as "Remove lock nut by turning clockwise."

The rest of the process was easy;  so if I don't count the hour of creeping the lock nut slowly around the shank (warped and deformed), or the fifteen minutes of drying out the tank with a sponge, I guess I DID install my new Fluidmaster in 15 minutes!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Walking to Michelle's

My friend Michelle recently moved to a house on the diagonally other side of campus, and we can walk to each other's houses!  And not only can we walk, but the walk is completely on wooded trails and through farm fields.  Today I tested out the route and mapped it as I walked.  The walk starts in the upper left hand corner, leaving my back woods by way of a stile.  (I discovered today that a tree limb has fallen on the fence beside the stile, taking down part of the stile and a section of fence.)

From there the walk goes down the mountain by way of a beautiful grassy hill full of wild flowers, ending at another stile.  I crossed the dirt road and went into a field that has just been planted in wheat (last year it was corn), and I walked all along the edge of the field and looked at the mountains at the back of the field.  I crossed the river on a little bridge (not shown) and entered another stile that led to the trail along the river.  I turned left and shortly came to the gate to the trail, two trees that form an opening.  Shortly beyond that is a grove of golden bamboo, from which I was sad to notice Owl Man is missing.

Students were skinny dipping in the river near the grove-- it's the time of year when classes in the afternoon become sparsely attended on warm days.  Coming out of the grove I passed a wonderous knobbly tree, and then the chicken yard.  The trail took a dive back into the wooded river edge, under a wooden pergola-like frame and over a small bridge over a creek.

Soon I came to some frog ponds, now alive with tadpoles, and two bird blinds.  After that is the old archaeology shelter, where we stored our equipment when the dig was open in the 90s.  All along here the air smelled like roses and honeysuckle and the river gurgled and birds sang.  The main trail continued on along the river, but I left the river and headed up the mountain on the Muhl Trail.  I couldn't really show it on the map-- this is NOT to scale in any way-- but this trail goes steeply up and up and up, passing overlooks through trees where you can see the farm fields down in the valley.  At the top of the hill the trail has a T intersection, and I took the right fork, which led sharply back down and into Michelle's subdivision, which has beautiful views.  It was 1.82 miles to her house, but I added a little on to the return trip to come out an even 4 miles round trip.  Took about an hour and ten minutes.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Eight Original Necco Wafer Flavors

Have a Necco!  Which was your favorite flavor/color?  Mine was chocolate, a Necco in a class of its own, all the other flavors being a little too spicy, a little too tart.  But it was worth slogging through the whole roll just to get to the occasional chocolate one.  In our neighborhood we saved the white ones (cinnamon, and nobody's favorite) to use as Communion hosts/wafers for when we played Mass.  If we didn't have a stash of white Neccos we had to use a flattened Merita bread slice cut into little circles with a small jar lid.  We much preferred our Communion spicy and with a satisfying snap when we chomped it, and with a nice cool powdered sugary bloom.

I learned today that Necco no longer makes lime/green because a few years ago when they removed artificial flavors and colors they were unable to achieve a satisfactory lime flavor or color.  So if you buy a roll today you'll have only seven flavors, and they aren't exactly the right flavors either.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


My snow peas are growing so fast I could almost see these grew while I was drawing them!  When I would look back at the first one I drew after drawing a later one, I could swear the tendrils were longer.

The funny little tubular thing (4407) is a straw wrapper from a Thai restaurant downtown, where we ate this evening.  And the window, not an especially interesting or lovely drawing, is a significant milestone for me:  This window was in a building on the far side of the next street over from the restaurant.  I was sitting facing a window and looked across a vacant lot/building site, and I could not only see the window but I could count the panes with no trouble-- without my glasses (which I have worn since I was 8 or 9 years old) and with no contacts or surgery.  Nothing beats regaining clear vision after so many years of blur and depending on the crutch of glasses. And best of all with no loss of super clear close vision without reading glasses.  Thanks to the Bates method and my teacher, N!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Greens Quiche from the Front Yard

This two page spread was a little too wide to fit on the scanner as a spread, so here is the left hand side of the page, and just below it is the right hand side.

Our friends L and B came over this afternoon and we made a quiche using dandelion greens from the front lawn as well as leftover kale that had overwintered in the square foot garden and new growth green onions also from the square foot.  This was a spectacularly good quiche!  I wrote the directions around the edges of the pages, but here they are in more readable form:

Make the crust out of 2 cups of medium grit cornmeal and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup cold water.  Mix it together with your hands;  then press it into a pie pan.  Meanwhile sauce a medium sized yellow onion in olive oil.  You can at this point add the spices to the pan and salute them too, or else add them later.  Put the sautéed onions into the crust.  Then beat up seven eggs (three of ours were Banty hen eggs, so you will need maybe 5 regular large eggs), add the tumeric, cumin, coriander, and black pepper if you haven't added it to the pan with the onions.  Put in 5 dollops of full-fat plain yogurt and 1/2 cup of half and half or other milk-like liquid:  coconut milk, almond milk, etc.  Add 2 T Dijon mustard, 2 T dry white wine, 3 T tamari or other soy sauce.  Sprinkle paprika over the top.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  If it's going too slowly, bump the over to 375 and lay a tent of aluminum foil over the top so it doesn't scorch.  It's done when a dinner knife comes out clean and nothing looks wobbly.  The top will also puff out a bit.

Friday, April 10, 2015

One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four--

I bought a bag of tiny fingerling potatoes today because they were so, well, cute.  Then I painted them before chopping them up and smashing them for dinner.  Does anyone remember standing in a circle in the schoolyard, everyone holding out a fist, and the leader tapping each person's fist in turn while counting One potato-two potato-three potato four, five potato six potato seven potato more.  You-are-well-and-tru-ly- IT!  And whoever's fist/potato was landed on was IT.  This was a deadly earnest ritual, never subject to questioning or arguments.  I always think of the potato chant when I see a bunch of little potatoes.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Late Afternoon

Really, there is no organizing feature to this batch except the rough time span in which the drawings were made.  On the left, two sketches made while waiting for dinner at our neighborhood restaurant:  a Mexican hat that hangs on the wall right above a large mural painted on plate glass windows (this section includes a man wearing crossed bullet belts (??) and a serape and carrying a sword in his right hand (which didn't make it into the sketch).

In the center of the left hand page is a small passport and credit card case that I made for P today.  He bought one of these cases at a luggage store earlier this week and tried it out for a couple of days to see how big of an annoyance factor it had.  He quickly decided it had more compartments than he needed and was too bulky.  So he asked me to design something minimal that was RFID proof, and here it is-- made out of a foil-lined matte black Counter Culture coffee bag.  This view is of the side that faces the wearer and holds the credit cards.  The passport slips inside, and the outside is plain black.  There is a small line of text that says certified organic.  The cord is a plain black cord from our supply of straps and handles, all gleaned from the giant Goodwill by-the-pound store.  If you want one or something like it, FB message me or email me at  It's not on our blog yet.

Next to the passport case is a chimney that I drew in the woods when it was nearly dark.  And on the opposite page are some mayapple stems and an ant event.  I had noticed that there are two kinds of mayapple plants-- single leaved stems and double leaved stems, and only the doubles bear flower buds.  I learned tonight that these plants are actually members of colonies of plants growing from a single root.  And nearby was a colony of ants that seemed to all be coming out of a single hole and moving grains of pigmented clay a short distance away from the hole.  A few steps down the path were several more of these single hole projects.  I remember spending the time of an entire baseball game happily watching ants move grains of soil with then-two-year-old Barnaby up in New Hampshire.  Colonies of insects and plants-- fascinating.  I think those single-leaf stems must be just food factories while the doubles handle reproduction.  The clay color is just a blob of the real thing rubbed on the parchment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Letter Folds and Sketches on Them

     At the meeting tonight of the Book & Print Arts Collective  (click here for information about or about joining the collective) we had a short pre-meeting demo of making a book cover with pockets out of a single sheet of paper.  I was very much reminded of a letter I received from a friend in Barcelona that was folded in a tricky manner (4376), and that letter had reminded me of really old letters that folded into their own envelopes.  Once in a museum in NYC I saw a letter in which the negotiations for the purchase of Manhattan island were laid out;  it was written on one side of a piece of paper, and the paper was folded down into a tiny envelope.
     When I finished folding my envelope-like sheet of paper, I sketched a few people during the discussions that followed:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Maya came over after school today and is having a sleepover tonight.  After dinner we were racing through her homework and my drawing in order to watch a movie.  So I switched to speedy contour drawing mode when I drew some of the seashells she brought home from the beach in South Florida last week.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chiaroscuro Environments

A big part of chiaroscuro drawing is including the whole environment withs.  Only then can the object merge with the surfaces around it and become contiguous and a part of the whole rippling surface.  I counted separate objects for the sake of my bean-counting;  it's really not possible to separate out individuals from the whole in these kinds of drawings.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

More Chiaroscuro

For today's chiaroscuro drawings I started out with Jesse but then switched to some of the nuts and seeds left over from last fall's frenzy of seed and nut collecting.  Those with dehiscent lines have split open; others have wrinkled and are beginning to lose their outer husks;  and one is beginning to expel thousands of tiny dandelion-like feathery seeds.  The pecan has developed a few splits and some chunks of shell have fallen out.  I don't know if the pecan was helped along its way by someone playing with it or if the inner meat froze and swelled when the temperature dropped below zero, thereby starting some hairline cracks.  All of these nuts/seeds have sat on a table on our back porch all winter.

It was very tempting to use lines on these small objects;  but I made myself slow down and draw the values and textures.  Slow and oddly relaxing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Chiaroscuro is an Italian word that means light to dark.  A chiaroscuro drawing is more visually real than an outline or contour drawing, because we don't actually see outlines around forms but we do see darks and lights.  Jesse was sleeping this morning , rolling over every few minutes.  I decided to draw only the darks and skim over the patches of light, allowing the form to emerge by itself in this way.
It's not so easy to do a chiaroscuro drawing if you like to nail things down, as I do.  I had to keep resisting the urge to fence in the form with firm outlines (to which I would then add values, sort of in the manner of coloring in a coloring book).  I started at the darkest place on Jesse and worked out from there.  Sometimes I didn't get very far because he would roll over just when I was getting into the drawing.  Some, like 4346, are hard to make out.  There is a little grin line that can hint at what's going on there, just as the ear forms hint at the head in 4347.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Little White Mystery Flowers

In the woods today up on a high trail, slightly different ecosystem from the trails on Jones Mountain, A and I came across a large group of little white flowers unknown to us.  At first we though Solomon's seal for the unfurling feeling, but Solomon's seal only unfurls leaves and then drops its little flowers.  We would guess liliaceae family for the parallel veining on the leaves, but beyond that it's a mystery.

Up in the left hand corner of this page is a nice sample of yellow celandine sap.  The flowers are beginning to emerge, and the sap is up and plentiful.  Has anyone out there ever used this sap as a dye or ink?  The docent at The Cloisters told me it was used in Medieval times, but she didn't know details about how it was prepared for use or if it could be used as is.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Moving the Cows

F and I are both getting ready to leave on vacations; so we rushed last week to finish orders, and now we're actually getting some time to make bags for ourselves!  Drawing 4331 is of a nice, slumpy, soft little bag that I made out of a market bag from an epicierie in Carpentras in the south of France that F and I got when we were in France two years ago.  I like the relaxed slumpy aspect to this bag and am trying to get it in the larger carry-on bag (see yesterday's drawings).  This is easier said than done, but much analysis and prototype-making today has finally given me a good idea of how to proceed tomorrow.

I pulled into our road this afternoon on my way home and had to halt in front of a group of students who were getting ready to  move the herd of cows from a field on one side of our road to the pasture on the other side of the road.  I love to watch the moving of cows, and it was especially fun this afternoon as there are so many babies, and not everyone was happy to comply.  The students encouraged them to leave the little field, walk down a short slope, then cross the asphalt road (and keep going in spite of the distraction of a few cars), travel over another patch of grass, and then go through the gate and down the hill into the pasture.  A large cow and three babies refused to leave the little field.  The students were yelling Hooooooo bow-ah, c'mon!  The cows ran to the back of the field. Finally a student caught one of the babies and carried it across the street (4334) while the other students walked behind the mother, who was interested in following the student with the calf, and chased after the other two babies (4332 and 4333).  I drew as fast as I could but only caught the gestures.  Like drawing a river flowing!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Designing from the Inside Out

I want to make a travel bag to take to Barcelona in a couple of weeks.  P and I travel very light-- never check bags and like to use public transportation and our feet to get from airports to wherever we're staying.  So I need a bag that will fit under the seat in front of me and also be light enough to easily carry through long hikes from concourse to concourse and from the airport shuttle stop to the hotel.  And of course it needs to hold everything I plan on bringing.

I already have two bags that I like very much-- drawing 4319 is one that F made as a market bag prototype and that I've used as a carry-on bag before.  It 's just a little bigger than I really need and lacks a flap.  Drawing 4320 is a canvas messenger bag that I bought in Brooklyn and that I use on most trips these days.  It's a good size and is relatively light;  but it has heavy, clunky hardware on the strap and en excessively stiff patch of Velcro.  I would also like a flat outside pocket for magazines or small books.
On the right side of this spread are obsessive drawings of everything I need to bring along for two weeks in Spain.  Included are two pairs of jeans, two sweaters, four shirts, four pairs of underwear, 2 each of socks and bras, a small canvas bag of toiletries, and the all-important Scrubba and its companion thirsty, featherweight laundry drying towel for doing super fast hand laundry at night,  thus enabling the clothing supply to be sparse.

On the left is a drawing of my proposed bag.  I piled up all the folded clothing and measured to get the dimensions.  I stuffed everything into the messenger bag, which was closest to the dimensions I had gotten, just to check, and everything fit fine with a little extra space.  So I proposed a shorter height.  I redesigned the strap so that there was no hardware at all and thinned out the velcro a bit.  Plus I added a flat pocket across the front (but have since decided it would be best across the back so that the flap doesn't interfere with it).  I decided to go with a lined birdseed bag, super lightweight but strong material, and put a Lotus fish recipe bag design- a lazy dog fishing with a school of fish eluding the hook- on the flap for fun.  More fish will swim across the back pocket.  Can't wait to make it tomorrow!