Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Walking into the New Year....

After a week of eating, drinking, and celebrating with friends and family, reality hit when I stood on the scale! So it's off to the gym, or better still...out the door to meet my neighbor, Deb, for a walk along our beautiful rural road. We left just as a few very fluffy snow flakes were aimlessly floating down from the grey sky. Hmmmm...
There had been only a slight indication that snow was in the forecast. During the hour that we were gone the snow steadily increased, and by the time I wandered home, there was close to 2 inches on the ground, with the landscape becoming a magical place. What a gift. We had all been missing the copious amounts of snow that gave us a very white Christmas last year, so it's nice to see a bit of the white stuff while the Christmas decorations are still around. We've been feeling sorry for friends on the East Coast and in the Midwest who had to battle the nasty snow storms that arrived right around Christmas. Snow can certainly be both good and bad!

I love the way snow can make ordinary objects totally different....tree branches become arms covered in lichen sleeves, and forested hillsides appear ghostly and surreal. Small ferns pop out into view against the protective trunks of the large firs and cedars.

Now as the light fades and every branch on every tree is covered, I can watch the squirrels run from tree to tree, and see the varied footprints of the other assorted critters that share this land with us. There is a 4 inch thick blanket of white covering the ground so I know the deer will soon be emerging from the forest in search of the green leaves that remain exposed under the eaves of our house.

Hopefully the snow will still be around tomorrow so I can take another walk...

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Merry Christmas....

Santa was surprised

to see a tree so bare,

But a star was brightly shining...

In the tree top's hair.

Every branch was gilded.

Every Jewel did shine.

Yes, this tree was different

from any other pine.

From a book on trees that I wrote and illustrated back in 1961, when I was in High School! I titled it 'The Twist of a Twig' and filled it with drawings and poetry. It hardly seems possible that close to 50 years has evolved since then.....and I'm still drawing trees!

Yesterday my husband and I spent the afternoon wandering around Portland taking photographs. I started out at the Portland Art Museum, which is having a very interesting exhibit on modern Chinese design. After checking out the maze of exhibit rooms and stopping to see what the gift shop had to offer, the adjacent sculpture courtyard turned out to be my favorite spot. Bright red Chinese lanterns appeared to hover over the space....at times giving the illusion of being giant decorations on a large tree across the street. People hurried by, trying to finish up their last minute shopping. The city felt vibrant and alive.

Meeting my husband at Pioneer Courthouse Square where Portland's Christmas tree resides, we lingered there to take more pictures , and as darkness settled in, made our way over to the Williamette River to take night shots from the bridges. The river flows through the city, dividing it East and West. It isn't often that I have the opportunity to walk across any of the many bridges that span the river. I discovered that walking is so much more of a sensory experience!
I just have a small Olympus digital camera but my husband has a much more powerful Canon digital with a large lens and tripod. Taking time exposures from the bridge would be a bit of a challenge since the traffic caused the entire structure to shake and vibrate! Just as we settled in to take some shots I noticed a distinct buzzing sound coming from under the sidewalk that carries pedestrians across the bridge. Was it about to collapse? Lights flashed, horns beeped, and crossing gates started to lower as the center section of the bridge started to raise....a large barge was about to go under the bridge! We watched, along with a large crowd of shoppers, joggers, and cyclists who by that time, had gathered at the West end of the bridge. Photos taken at that point resemble abstract paintings composed of numerous bright wiggling lines ! The barge was followed by a single small pleasure boat decorated with Christmas lights....a stray from the Christmas boat procession that is scheduled on various nights the week before Christmas.

Once we were on the other side of the bridge we found a great overlook on the East side Esplanade that runs along the banks of the river, enabling us to get better 'in focus' shots looking back at the bridge. Portland is a great walking city, and yesterday, on December 19th, it showed us it's best. Last year at this time the 'big snow' was just beginning to fall, and would leave the city with over a foot of snow, but this year it is sparkling in another way. Cheers!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BRRRRRRR!.....It's cold outside! This is looking like a repeat of last year. After a few crisp, sunny days in the upper 30's, that we took advantage of by going on a few bike rides, the weather turned really cold. Around the Portland area, temps below freezing are rare, but this week we've been into single digits. Waking up to 16 degrees is cold enough! We had to act fast and drain our fountain and water pagoda. The photo above was taken just before we turned the water off, and if you look closely in the upper left corner you'll see a deer running at a blurred speed past the vineyard! I didn't notice him until after I took the picture. I am wondering how all the animals are managing. Don't the poor birds get cold? The deer have been seen lately running at a fast pace across our property, as if being chased.....perhaps by a reported cougar that may be in the area. Our hungry squirrel, I am sure, has settled in nicely for the Winter under our hot-tub.... with a good supply of stolen walnuts!

On a quick walk around the house to inspect my garden I discovered that some rhododendrons appeared colder than others! This yellow 'Hotoi ' has curled up it's leaves to the point of looking like a conifer with needles! Interesting that the 'Jean Marie' around the corner looks unchanged.

I'm glad that I managed to haul some of the more tender potted plants into the green house for protection...but I don't look forward to getting the electric bill next month! I have a small heater that keeps the green house at a 'cool '39-40 degrees when the temps dip below that outside.

Aside from trying to stay warm, I've been busy finalizing a landscape design, and preparing for the upcoming holidays. Luckily we put the Christmas tree up early and were able to cut it down....a nine foot Noble Fir, while the weather was both warm and sunny! Since we have been in Oregon, we've never had to buy a tree...started cutting Douglas firs down on our own property and then moved around the neighborhood! We have some small Nobles planted now that should provide some trees in the future.

Perhaps I should decorate our new water tower for the animals! We are hoping that once the temperatures moderate and the water can flow again, we won't find that the ice has done any damage. I really miss the sound of the water though! Before bed we usually sit out in our hot-tub, which is located on our deck with the fountain just below. The clear, cold weather has made the stars appear brighter.....and with the outside temps in the teens or lower and the water temp at 104, it's a great experience! But with the fountain frozen solid it's so quiet now............

Wishing everyone a peaceful and happy holiday as we approach another new year!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just a pencil....

I took part in my first 'Sketch Crawl' at Portland's Central Library yesterday.....what fun! A few of my former students had told me about the group, and I was inspired by the genuinely beautiful sketches that they had produced as a result of joining other people for a day of sketching. I knew that I needed something to jump start my own drawing. Sometimes it takes being with other people and just the sharing of experiences to make things happen. Five people showed up, and after walking around and looking at the three floors of the magnificent interior, we all settled down on benches with different viewpoints and subjects to observe. We all had various tools, from the lowly pencil, to fine point ink pens, to watercolor brushes. Two hours later we reconvened for coffee at a nearby coffee house and looked at the results. Some went back to do more sketching, but Deb, my associate, and I had a client meeting to attend to....so reluctantly left the group at that point. I can't wait to attend another session!

My subject turned out to be the grand floor and columns at the top of the second floor staircases... a bit more than I had time for! I decided to use just pencil since there was l lot of perspective and proportion to deal with, and I knew I might need to make numerous revisions as I went along. Recently I've been working mostly in ink, which I prefer for detail work and vignettes. I've also been drawing a lot of trees and natural landscapes. Architectural subjects present a whole new set of problems. The nuances of light and the many different angles of the ceiling planes that existed in the stairwell made the drawing very challenging but fun. I'd like to go back soon...on another rainy day....and draw some of the details of the light fixtures and balustrades, as well as some of the people.
When I got home and started looking through by sketchpad, I found another architectural sketch, also in pencil, that proved to be a real contrast to the one I had just finished.
Late in the Summer I had taken a hike down into the woods belonging to my neighbor. She has built a wonderful tiny cabin as a retreat for reading, writing or just plain daydreaming. It's only about 6 feet square, nestled next to a stream and surrounded by huge cedar and fir trees, with moss and lichen covering the roof and dripping from the tree branches. Inside there is a little wood stove, a small desk and chair and a sitting alcove under a large window that looks out to a stream and fern covered hillside. Antiques, old books and colorful pillows have been carefully arranged. I sat down that Summer day and sketched the cabin. It probably took just as long as sketching the mighty marble columns in the Library! I was outside, looking in, so nature's details were my main focus.
But the atmosphere, while not grand at all, had the same feeling of repose that a library can have....quiet, studious, surrounded by books and your thoughts. It gave the moment meaning. When I look at these two sketches I am reminded that we need to take the time to do simple things....read a poem, sketch someone or something that you love, listen to music or the rain, plant a small garden. Create something beautiful and share it with someone. Find a new friend and learn something from them.
In Oregon, in sharp contrast to our bright and sunny Summers, it can often be rainy and dreary by late November when Thanksgiving arrives. I plan to do some sketching that day....after the dinner, when the family gathers around the fireplace. I'm not good at drawing people.......but that could change.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Harvest Time

We've been busy.....on Monday, October 12th, we harvested 17.7 tons of Pinot Gris from our 5 acre vineyard..... one of the earliest harvest dates that we've had since planting in 1984. It was a perfect harvest, with cool temperatures and no rain. Rain was predicted for most of the week so we knew that Sunday or Monday were our last shots before the weather changed ( and the dreaded migratory birds appeared). The sugar levels were at 23.5 BRIX and the grape clusters were large and full. The picking crew of 20 arrived at 7:15 am....just as daylight hit the vines. Armed with 5 gallon buckets, they quickly filled the 500 lb wooden totes that were positioned throughout the vineyard, and 6 hours later were finished! The rest of us all had our jobs to do and were finally ready to sit down for a meal of Tuscan bean soup and harvest bread by 7 pm or so. Son Brent helped load the flatbed truck and then drove it 4 times to the winery and back. Husband Fred operated the big rented forklift, loading the truck. Friend and neighbor Roger zipped up and down with our tractor, picking up the individual totes and bringing them down to the staging area. I did a bit of gleaning after the crews were done, with help from both daughter-in-laws and my grandson, but spent most of the day cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and bringing food and drink to keep everyone energized.

The best part of the day was realizing that we didn't have to take down the bird netting after the harvest this year, (since we never put it up)! Our usual late harvests, near the very end of October, necessitates that we put up bird netting a few weeks before harvest to keep the birds from eating the entire crop.

On Tuesday it appeared that thousands of birds, along with our 5-6 resident deer, were all descending on the vineyard, eager to nibble on the remaining clusters that had been dropped on the ground or left on the vines. There was literally, a symphony of bird calls and excitement in the air as all of the critters rejoiced! Even our big grey-tailed squirrels stopped eating our walnuts long enough to chime in.

After the harvest, while Fred did the usual clean-up of the totes and buckets, and started the long process of getting everything put away again for the winter, I started to do the garden clean-up....processing the last of the tomatoes and picking the many bucket loads of apples.

The Fall colors have been spectacular this year, stopping me dead in my tracks as I walk around the property. We've also had lots of visitors this Fall.... friends from college and our childhood years on the East Coast, who have come to spend some time with us here at Cloudrest. What a blessing to share memories and adventures together! We love showing off Portland and Oregon's wine country. It pushes us to get out ourselves and explore all the nooks and crannies.... places like the Columbia Gorge, The Chinese Garden and the Pearl District in Portland, and even Hillsboro's Saturday market, where I discovered the best green beans !!

School has started too...I have two Co-op design students this term, and am also taking on a young high school student as part of an internship program. Two landscape designs are also in the early stages, so it appears that keeping busy won't be a problem.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From Peaceful to Pop-Ups!

Wow....what a month! I had a really hard time deciding what to write about first. I decided to open with a photo of our latest water feature, mentioned in an earlier post. Our 'Water Pagoda, standing over 12 feet tall, was installed during mid Summer in a grove of fir trees to the West of our house. My husband, Fred, took two years creating it from steel that he cut and carefully welded together. Water recirculates from the top pinnacle and flows down the trays into a basin at the bottom, creating the most wonderful sound....like a gentle rain shower.... as the water drips from tray to tray! I've done my part by placing a few plants around it's base, along with river rock, and a small bench located a few feet away. It's the perfect place to sit and reflect. From the footprints that I've seen in the clearing it appears that the deer and a few other woodland critters like it too! It's a great addition to our garden.

Earlier in the month we took off for Central and Southern Oregon....Fred took part in the week long Cycle Oregon event with his fraternity brother Jim Dauber. The ride this year, which includes 1200 hardy cyclists, started in Medford and went across the Siskiyu Mts. into California...then back into Oregon for a picturesque 440 miles or more! While they were riding, Jim's wife, Chris and I were enjoying ourselves biking and swimming at Black Butte Ranch, tucked into a small cabin that we had rented from a friend. We drove down to see Crater Lake at the end of the week and then met our two super-cyclists for a grand celebration dinner at the historic Jacksonville Hotel. The weather for all of us couldn't have been better. It was a week that celebrated the sheer beauty that nature can provide if we only take the time to enjoy it.

Home again, we were hit with pounds of ripe tomatoes and garden produce....so the counters are once again covered and the kettle is boiling! I've discovered the delights of tomato pie, roasted tomatoes, and untold variations of tomato salads. The dry, warm weather and sunshine have continued, only giving way to cool mornings and the feel of Fall just recently. Our grapes are doing beautifully and may actually be harvested in a few short weeks....early for us, since we usually have to wait until the end of October before the sugars are up high enough. This Summer seemed to fly by.

I ended the month with a two day Pop-Up Book workshop, which now has me anxious to create books and cards for everyone that I've ever known. What fun! There are so many enjoyable things to do that I'm not sure which to do first. I've decided that this dilemma is a good thing and will help keep me young. I know that I will always enjoy designing, sketching, gardening, reading , and traveling....these are the threads that make life a meaningful, beautiful quilt.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Working the Farm

This week, pictures will say it better than words......
Every week my grandson and I walk to the farm just down the road, where a vast array of animals enjoy their days in an idyllic country setting. We help feed the chickens in enchange for eggs that he has learned to gather from the hen house. He also feeds the pigs....and sometimes, the goats, and Llamas! It is a magical time.

We have a farm of our own here at Cloudrest, but it is a farm without animals at the moment. I, instead, fertilize and weed my vegetable beds, and tend to the many grapevines that we have in the vineyard. At this time of year it's a chore just keeping up with eating and preserving all of the food.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Garden Bouquets and Country Rides

After a cool down and a day or two of showery weather, everything is looking refreshed! The dust has been washed off the leaves and colors are brighter. On my morning walk around the veggie garden I was entranced by the 'garden bouquets' that emerged around every corner. It's really hard to pick the deep purple Russian Kale when it looks so beautiful with the Basil and tall yellow Helianthiums. Nearby Echinacea sits among Queen's Ann Lace.

There is lots of produce to pick now that Summer is on the wane. It's been a busy week....I finished up a large landscape design and tried to fit in some bike riding so I'd be ready for the annual Vineride, which took place yesterday. Mid-week I had taken a 20 mile ride and was caught in a deluge of both rain and hail that fell out on a country road where I had no place to take cover. I was so wet that I decided to just continue on. When I finally got near home the sun was out and it appeared that our area hadn't received any rain at all!

Yesterday about 500 people cycled through the Oregon vineyard country of rolling hills dotted with farms and vineyards. The weather was overcast and only in the 70's which made for perfect conditions. My husband did the 100 mile route, leaving the start in Newberg at 6 am. I started with a friend around 9:30, and we did about 38 miles, going through the farm towns of Carlton and Yamhill. Near the end my legs and hands ached a bit and my neck muscles were tight, but on the whole, it was a great ride! The money raised goes to help children with cancer.....a truly worthy cause. ( http://www.vineride.com/) This ride takes place every August and is a great way to see the countryside just South of Portland.

Today I plan to do some garden puttering, and make sure everything is well watered. I also have a big bag of beans from the garden to blanch and freeze. They are predicting another change in our weather...with a swing back to the mid 90's and maybe even another 100 degree day! Hope that doesn't happen. The poor plants are having a hard time adjusting to these wild swings in the temperature. This past week we had night temps down in the low 50's and I had to get my fleece shirts out again!

If it does get hot again I'll make up some batches of Gazpacho soup...since we'll have all of the ingredients. It's the best on a hot day: Take 4-5 ripe tomatoes, a cucumber, 1 garlic clove, 1 onion, 1 red sweet pepper, 1 cup cold water, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, plus 1 cup of diced bread and salt and pepper...then put them all into your blender and churn until you have a slightly chunky texture. Voila!...dinner.

I'm anxious to get out riding again now that my legs are broken in! It's such a great way to really see things up close. Just the ordinary dry grasses and weeds along the roads were beautiful. Perhaps I'll tuck a camera and sketch pad in my pack and make a few stops along the way. Next week we'll be heading for the Oregon coast while my husband takes a photography workshop.... so I'll have another area to explore!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Celebrating fresh vegetables

Did I say it was going to get a bit warmer? Try 10 consecutive days above 90.....and four days over 100, topping out at a record 107 degrees! That was Portland.....up here at Cloudrest we were slightly cooler....at 103 for a few days. The grapes loved it, along with the hot peppers and tomatoes. Everything, as long as I watered, seemed to be growing as I watched. I did have to cover the lettuce with a sheet everyday, and worried that the grapes might get sunburned. We had put off 'hedging' the vines so at least they were partly shaded by the long arching canes. Once the heat wave broke, we had Gilberto come with his machete to do the needed trimming. So aside from a rather brown lawn ( we don't go overboard on that since we have a well ) and a few plants that suffered some scorched leaves, we're looking pretty lush around here. The veggie garden in particular is a jungle...and we're eating well!

I hadn't grown Broccoli in awhile and am amazed at the size of the heads. The plants, along with my purple kale, Japanese eggplant, and rainbow swiss chard are almost too gorgeous to pick. Fresh veggies right out of the garden are hard to beat for tenderness and flavor. The kitchen counter top is filling up with bowls of ripe tomatoes ( I love the bright orange variety) and piles of too many zucchini. Italian flat beans and French stringers add to the global mix. There is something very soothing about wandering about a vegetable garden on a warm summer morning or evening. The produce may feed the body but it also feeds the soul. Everyone should experience it. When we have decidedly urban guests for dinner I make a point of having them help me pick the vegetable that we'll be having for dinner that evening. It's amazing how many people have no idea how their food actually grows!

Besides the vegetables, my garden also contains roses, herbs, and perennials like rudbeckias, echinaceas, helianthiums, phlomis, lavendar, geranium, and alchemilla, along with annuals like sunflowers, and verbena bonariensis. The bees are everywhere doing their thing. On a large coneflower plant, nearly every flower often has a bee working diligently....providing a fascinating science lesson for my 7 year old grandson. Once the heat wave was over I was forced to wade into the jungle and hack away at the encroaching rose branches that were leaning into the tomato patch ( 22 plants). I also discovered that the winter squash plants had woven their way through the tomatoes, making it quite a challenge for picking! It was a good thing that we had
put in drip soaker hoses before the plants had gotten too big. Needless to say, a vegetable garden is serious business and does require both time and effort. You can't just leave it for a week. Here in the Portland area there has been a concerted effort to encourage small edible gardens....even in front yards, where there is often more sun. It's amazing how many raised beds are popping up. Large pots and containers, lining the front walkway or porch steps, can also house an amazing amount of produce.

On another note....having been inspired by the colorful garden beds that I saw during the recent APLD Conference here in Portland, I decided that my 30 year old border just south of the house could use an overhaul. The Geranium macrorrhizum, golden oregano and alchemilla had engulfed many of the prized plants. Three days and many sore muscles later, I am excited with the new textures and colors that were added. It will take a season or two for the plants to fill in and achieve the look that I want. Now I just need to stay on top of it and keep up a more regular maintenance schedule. This winter I'll heavily prune back both the Viburnum 'Spring Bouquet' and Viburnum davidi, which have gotten way too big over the past 30 years. Luckily, they can even be cut down almost to the ground and like rhododendrons, will grow back to a smaller scaled shrub. When you live somewhere for over 35 years, you will need to do some major editing!

I may not have done much bike riding during the heat wave.......but my muscles tell me that my gardening chores gave me plenty of exercise. I look forward to a more relaxed August where I can reap the rewards that the natural environment can give...both spiritually and physically. Next weekend is the 'Vineride'...a charity ride through Oregon wine country where you can pick 35 to 100 mile routes. I'll do the 35 and hubby will be doing the 100! ( he's been in training for the big Cycle Oregon ride in September) There's nothing better than a summer in Oregon!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Seeking Shade

As predicted..... Summer is flying by! And the weather appears to be making headlines again. We are headed for another heat wave with temperatures into the triple digits during this last week of July.

I'm just recovering from a very successful week long design conference put on by the Association of Professional Landscape Designer's here in Portland from July 12- 19th. During that time we had temperatures in the mid 90's, which surprised a lot of people coming from other areas. Our last rain was back in early June, when I last posted, and we've had no rain since. ( this is very typical for us, but many people think it rains here all year long) Talks were scheduled for the morning hours, with garden tours in the afternoon. Our private gardens, as well as the numerous parks and commercial projects, seemed to be surviving the heat pretty well..... it was the people who were wilting! Now it appears that we're headed for even higher temps. And on the East coast, where rain and cooler weather have been the norm, I'm sure my friends and relatives are wishing I could send some of our heat their way! Extremes of weather do seem to be more frequent....a product of Global warming?

While touring the gardens and urban parks, it became apparent how important structures are to the garden. They not only help to connect the garden to the house, but also can offer up instant shade, (pergolas, arbors, and shade houses) and bring in cooling elements such as water, sound and the colors of a refreshing oasis. Our own house has a deck on the West side covered by a wooden trellis. Honeysuckle vines cover the top and hummingbirds hover overhead while robins nest in the large rhododendron below. It's our outdoor dining room, complete with an antique iron chandelier, and framed views looking out over the garden.

While I was enjoying the APLD Conference, my hubby was busy redoing the curved steps that were first installed over 30 years ago around the deck. The main treads were aggregate, surrounded by the then popular

'railroad ties'....which had rotted away to the point of being unsafe. Once the wood ties were removed, new forms were built to enclose the remaining aggregate with a new aggregate edge. Our old gate, brought from Pennsylvania, was given new posts and installed at the top. The path looks wider and brighter! Now I just have to keep the ground covers from creeping onto the path.

When you live on 12 acres, there are always projects to be done. Having neglected my garden for most of June and July I had a bit of catching up to do. Perennials such as Alchimilla mollis, Geranium, and Oregano had taken over some of the beds, covering up the smaller gems. Other plants needed to be deadheaded and trimmed. Needless to say....I've filled up my compost bins and lost a few pound in the process! The veggie garden is also producing an overflow of produce.....and so far the deer have kept away. We have seen a mother and two fawns return to the property lately, but there aren't many new fresh leaves available to them at this point, and the garden is securely fenced.

On a sad note...our little 'Kitty', who was 20 years old and grew up sleeping on top of both of our Rottweiler's, succumbed to old age last week. She enjoyed spending her entire life on our property under the protection of our two dogs, and particularly loved to follow me around as I worked in the garden and flower beds. She never wandered too far away, which probably accounts for her longevity! She was buried under the trees next to our new Pagoda Fountain. ( A topic for another post)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back to Normal

June has proven to be it's normal, fickle self....the sunshine left the day after my last post as the Portland area was hit with a violent thunder and lightening storm accompanied by high winds. These storms always bring back memories of my childhood days growing up on Long Island, not far from New York City, but they are not a common occurrence here in the Pacific Northwest. It was downright scary watching our large trees bend and twist in the wind, seeing branches flying through the air, and hearing the cracking of limbs. It bought the temperatures down and left a lot of debris. Anyone want to play 'Pick Up Sticks'? Luckily our grapevines had just been 'tucked' under the first row of wires so the majority of the new growth remains intact.

My weekend on the Oregon Coast, where I attended a fabulous sketch workshop, was even cooler and wetter than Portland....a typical phenomenon. The Sitka Center for Art and Ecology is truly a unique place. Located on Cascade Head, it is surrounded by lush rainforest and open meadows opening to views of both the Salmon River estuary and the wild Pacific. I stayed at a pole house right across from the cluster of buildings housing the art studios. For two days I sketched and was inspired by Ken O'Connell, a Professor from the University of Oregon, who has over 64 sketch books under his belt. His enthusiasm was catching! Aside from coming home with a filled sketchbook and new ideas, I gained a new appreciation for our natural environment and what it can offer. The beauty of a simple meadow, with long grasses and wildflowers laying over one another as deer and elk wandered through, will remain with me. I woke up to this image, for the bed was pushed up against tall windows looking out over the large meadow that came between the house and the estuary and ocean below. The house, a small cabin, had no phone, or television, or radio, or computer!

Back home, somehow refreshed and rejuvinated, I am waiting for the sun to reappear! It will.....for July is just around the corner, and that is when Oregon's Summer truly begins. I am happy for a bit of indoor time now....having a few designs to concern myself with. The clouds, with a few periods of fine drizzle, aren't hurting the garden, and actually make it easier to do some of the clean-up needed. And the Rose Festival just wouldn't be the same without a little of that
'liquid sunshine'!

I look forward to starting another sketchbook and incorporating some of what I learned into my August workshop here at Cloudrest. I have come to feel that art, in all it's forms, is an ingredient of life just as important as food and drink! It can nurture the soul, slow you down, and sustain you when life becomes too complex.

We need this in today's world. We need to go back to a simpler time when things didn't seem so frantic or hurried. As we get older .....we need to stay busy and active doing the things that truly matter to us ....and not what is expected!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June is HOT!

For the past two weeks we've had many days with temperatures in the mid to high 80's and it's felt more like July than late Spring. It is especially unheard of to have warm, dry days during our annual Rose Festival in Portland! (our big downtown float parade is scheduled for June 6th) June is usually a transition month, with our 'real' rainless Summer starting in early July and often extending into October....an important weather trend for anyone with a vineyard!

The high temperatures have caused an explosion of bloom and growth in the garden.....Iris, roses, peony, daisy, rhododendrons and azaleas are all at their peak....and the grass is still green from all of our earlier rain. It is truly a beautiful time in Oregon.

But it's created a lot of work. Just when I've got a full schedule of designs to work on, I'm also having to think about sprinkler systems and daily watering. ( not to mention the burst of weeds that have sprouted and need to be pulled ) The Veggie garden is taking off.....16 tomato plants, beans, cukes, squash, lettuce, basil, eggplant, kale, spinach and swiss chard.... and the grape plants are doing a lot of catching up. The vines have been sprayed with their first round of sulfur and are in the process of having the trunk suckers removed. Every day I make new discoveries walking down the vineyard rows and wandering through the garden spaces.....and it brings both inspiration and renewed energy. It's becoming harder to find places in the garden for the iris my neighbor keeps bringing me....but who can resist? The birds are also singing a virtual symphony during the early morning hours. We've discovered a wonderful Robin's nest built of grasses, twigs and lichen with three robust and hungry babies inside. It was built in a large rhododendron next to our kitchen deck making for perfect viewing. The three babies are growing fast and are having trouble fitting into the nest!

I've come to the conclusion that birds have to work a lot harder than we do when it comes to raising their young and keeping their house in order!

It's not all work and no play....this weekend I'll be heading to the Sitka Art Center on the Oregon Coast for a two day sketching workshop. I'm looking forward to being in the beautiful and rugged Cascade headlands, which juts out into the Pacific Ocean and runs along the North boundary of the Salmon River just above the town of Lincoln City. Nature is at it's best there, and should provide unlimited possibilities for sketching.

I'm wondering what the rest of the Summer will be like.....I only know that it will go by way too fast!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Color of Spring

I'm back to drawing leaves.....a photo of Fall leaves touched with frost inspired the sketch to the left, but the soft colors are also reflected in the new leaves of Spring. Our typical fickle Spring has brought on a chorus of fresh leaves. It's amazing how many different shades of green exist, but leaves can add more than one color to our outdoor world. Flowers aren't the only vehicles that add additional hues to the Spring palette. Our walnut trees are usually the last to leaf out and the orchard develops a hazy, rusty, burnt umber canopy as the new coppery leaves emerge. Then there's the Tri-Color Beech with its bronze red leaves fringed with white hairs! And the wonderful Cornus Hedgerow Gold bringing flecks of golden yellow, white and green leaves into the picture. Rosa rubrifolia is one of my favorite foliage plants and seems to sprout up in the best places around the garden, showing off blue-grey leaves, followed by tiny pink flowers in June. We can't forget the new leaves of Spiraea Goldflame or Limemound, and the rich reds of Berberis.
I haven't posted in over a month, partly because the garden and classes occupied more time than I realized! We also traveled North, spending a few days in Seattle and then participating in the 'Tour de Lopez' bike event on Lopez Island in the San Juans. I took it easy....only doing 21 miles! Sunny weather but only 52 degrees made for an invigorating ride. Back home I started my Colored Pencil Workshop here at Cloudrest that continues every Wednesday this month. After some warm up exercises with the pencils, my students started out by doing a leaf study.....selecting from a collection of dried Fall leaves that exhibit interesting colors and veining patterns. We'll be moving on to sky studies and more complex scenes over the next few weeks.
Hints of Spring have also brought out interest in renewal.... leading to three new garden design clients. Deb, Izzy, and Adriana are all in various stages of getting plans drawn up. It's always exciting to cooperatively work on design solutions. I'm also hoping to plant out my seedlings in the vegetable garden soon, but the cool nights and frequent downpours have slowed things up a bit. The fountain has been cleaned ( and for some reason, our resident frogs survived the ordeal!)...the grass has been cut.....it's time for Summer!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Misplaced Summer

Since my last post, Summer came and went in Oregon.....and it's only April! It just shows how fickle the month can be. With temperatures above 70 degrees for a few days, it appeared that everyone was out digging in the garden or visiting the garden centers and nurseries. I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to move my Lemon tree out into the courtyard where it could be washed down and renewed after a Winter inside. Still holding on to about a half dozen lemons, it seemed to welcome the change. My resident frogs appeared to croak louder in a chorus of agreement, and the bugs seemed to multiply and dance around the property in droves. Nature was celebrating! With the ground not quite so soggy and the plants perking up, I spent the first day of 'Summer' just walking around taking stock of what was actually reappearing after our nasty Winter. The standouts this year are my Hellebores, which have increased in quantity and seem fuller than usual . A new favorite is 'Pink Beauty'.....just one of the many hybrids that have been appearing. They sure do brighten up the Winter landscape, with the fading flowers lasting all the way into early Summer, not to mention the large clumps of decorative leaves that are renewed each Spring. On the East side of our house a large clump of Helleborus foetidus has massed itself with Forget-me-nots and Carex. I love the fresh green flowers tinged with red edges! One note....the deer don't seem to like them, which around here is an added bonus. They do like the large leaves of Bergenia though....mine were all eaten down to nothing over the Winter and are now trying to grow both flower stalks AND new leaves!

It's been a busy month ( the reason why I haven't posted as often as I would like to) I've started teaching my Landscape Illustration course for Spring term at Portland Community College, and also have a Workshop planned for May at Cloudrest. (see my website) that will concentrate on colored pencil ) We've also been busy in the vineyard and garden. All the Winter pruning is complete and the grapevines are tied and ready to break bud later this month. The deer fencing will be going back up during the next few weeks and Round-Up will be sprayed in the rows before the tender new shoots appear. I have lots of new vegetable seedlings coming up in the greenhouse and have started cleanup of the flower beds and our enclosed 100 x 30 foot vegie garden. Our Winter snows and cold temps did more damage than I had realized. Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata) is one plant that suffered and had to be cut back....but from past experience, I know that it will recover nicely with new growth.

Over our warm weekend I finished a fun project which left me aching and sore ( the curse of being afflicted with severe osteoarthritis) ....but it was well worth it for the satisfaction involved. I created a 'dry streambed' running along a section of our South-facing foundation that gently slopes into an aggregate patio below the house. This space is shaded by both a large Dawn Redwood tree and a Walnut tree. A 30 year old Viburnum davidi had been pruned back and opened up to allow light into a basement window. This left some empty ground space for new low-growing plants, but also exposed dry dirt and cement along the foundation. After carving beds out of this property for over 30 years, it's not often that I have new space to deal with, so I saw this as a great opportunity. A trip to the 'rock store' brought back 4 large rocks and about a dozen buckets of river rock ( in three different sizes). After the ground was contoured with a slight swale, landscape fabric was pinned in place and the rocks were strategically placed. ( throwing them seemed to work best since I wasn't able to even lift the buckets!) My husband helped by bringing all the buckets down to my work area. It's amazing how hard it is to imitate nature. The trick is to make the 'stream' both narrow and wide in places and not to line it with the largest rocks. Over the years we have hiked in the NW Cascades and I've taken many pictures of real streams. Studying those helped me to see how the flow of water moves stones into certain pockets and channels. Once the stream was in place, an assortment of fern, Hellebore, Carex and Heuchera were planted. It will take awhile for the plants to knit together but the tapestry of color and texture that they create should really compliment the space. I can't wait for our real Summer, when steamer chairs occupy the patio and we can gaze upon the new garden. But .......today......it is raining again and the temperatures are once again in the 50's!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Carib thoughts.....

With the rain (and occasional snow showers) still coming down , it is hard not to think of the warm water and breezes of my recent travels! The garden clean-up will have to wait for dryer weather. I have all my seeds in hand....just need to get the greenhouse organized for Spring and emptied of all the plants and pots that were hastily put in before our December snows hit. Even my Meyer Lemon tree, housed in a large Italian lemon pot, is looking forlorn. It spends it's Summer outside in our entry courtyard, but Winters here at 1000 feet elevation require that it be brought inside under the North facing skylites of our living room. It obviously perfers being outside, but must wait another month before it will be warm enough to chance it!

This is the time of year when I gravitate to my sketchbooks, preparing for teaching my Spring term 'Landscape Illustration' course at the local Community College. Over the years I have forced myself to switch to sketching with a pen rather than pencil. I combine sketches with my journal writings and have enjoyed the way my sketches help to slow down the pace of a vacation. It takes quite an effort, especially when traveling with others, to sit in one place for 30 minutes and just absorb what you are looking at! The Granadines are a very colorful group of islands, as my last post illustrated ( not only the flowers, but the boats, houses and dress of the people reflect a love for saturated colors washed by the sun), so drawing in black and white can be a challenge. You realize that you are paying more attention to edges and to how the light molds a shape. You must also translate the value of the colors (their lightness and darkness) to the various textural scribblings of your pen.
March in Oregon is a very fickle month! Everyone is anxious for the rains to stop, but still loving snows in the mountains so skiing can continue into the Summer months. Our Mt. Hood has a glacier on it and even boasts a 'Summer Ski Season'. Right now it is still covered with a deep mantle of white. The valley is displaying it's Winter dress of green, with grass, moss and lichen in their glory! During the Summer months when the dry season begins, watering systems will be needed to keep gardens fresh looking. I like these seasonal changes and even though Caribbean weather seems ideal, I think I'd miss the anticipation that change brings.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In with the new

It's been awhile....After our cold and snowy end to the year we slowly dug out and resumed our normal routine. The garden looked as if a giant had visited and sat down for a long nap! I watched as the snow melted and the deer continued to munch on our back lawn. We put a temporary fence around the new Magnolia 'Edith Bogue' that had replaced our large white pine in the front yard. ( the Eastern White Pine was one of the first trees we planted on our property over 30 years ago, but it had succumbed to a root disease, with needles that became smaller and smaller as each year passed!) Renewal is part of life. When designing a garden you can achieve just as much by editing as by adding, so while I will miss the original soft-needled stature of the larger pine, I am delighting in the open space and new textures of 'Edith'.

With the economy crumbling and the weather severe, I contented myself with ordering vegetable seeds from Oregon based, Territorial Seeds. Cleaning up the garden beds would have to wait, but I have big plans for a larger vegetable garden this year. I am also convinced that, come Spring, clients will be eager to do the same. Edible gardens with decorative touches will be the new niche! Looking back on my garden log of over 30 years, I am amazed at what I attempted to grow and how the garden adapted to our changing family. When our youngest son was married in the garden, roses, flowering herbs, and lawn took over where the corn and beans had been....now I was making room again for the vegies, and the flowers will be forced upwards onto pergolas.

In February we escaped the cold, snowy weather and flew to Southern Florida ( Sarasota and Venice) to visit my sister as well as college friends. Visiting tropical areas is great- you can enjoy the gardens without feeling obliged to remember, or even know the latin names of the plants! I am one designer who doesn't try to grow tropicals in our NW climate! But I certainly appreciate the wonderful colors and intricate compositions of both the tropical foliage and the flowers. The Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota is over 9 acres of tropical paradise. The photos that I took will one day form the basis for a botanical drawing.

We continued on our journey East and spent 10 days sailing with college friends who have a 40' boat based in the Caribbean. We've been sailing with them almost every Winter since 1999, but getting there has become harder each year. This year our destination was the island of St. Vincent and the Granadines....not an easy place to get to! Delta got us to San Juan and then LIAT, a Caribbean airline took us to SV. ( we later learned that LIAT stands for 'leaves island anytime, which proved to be true...and another story!) We discovered this year that the short rain squalls and constant winds were more frequent and bigger. Great sailing, but not so great for snorkeling or sleeping. On the last day of our trip we hired a driver to take us into the interior of the big island of St. Vincent. Our destination was a private tropical paradise called the Montreal Estate Gardens, owned by Tim Vaughn. To get there we drove along a rugged coast that reminded me of Oregon.....then up through the lush Mesopotamia Valley to the side of a hillside transformed by one man and a small crew. The photos that I took will provide me with years of sketching inspiration! I especially marvelled at the complexity of the plant and floral structures, not to mention the hidden creatures who suddenly came into focus on a stem or leaf.

So already it is March and I am anxious for the soil to warm and dry up , giving my newly arrived seeds a home in the ground. I am planning my Spring term Landscape Illustration course that starts March 30th, and setting up a few design consults.....I am reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and cleaning out the closets......ahhhhhh Spring!