Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Busy Days and Autumn Arriving

This weekend is the last Creative Retreat of 2016 here at our Leyden Glen Farm. The subject is knitting and color and folks are coming from afar. Looking forward to spending two days with the women who are coming in and sharing my love of color, home, stitching and the handmade.

The other evening, after a long day of fabric printing, I rushed out to the garden to grab some zinnias. The light was so pretty - it was dusk and the zinnias glowed. All the plants are getting that almost done look to them. Even though it will be a bit sad to see it all go when frost hits, it has its own particular beauty. 

The sunflowers are pretty much done except for a couple of 110 days to bloom varieties - Sungold and Autumn Beauty. Here is a bouquet from last week. I love this combo of amaranth and sunflowers. 

I've been particularly busy trying to get through lists for projects for my new book. I've got to keep plowing through it all, crossing out the lines as they are completed. Some things haven't worked out as planned and some things are better than I envisioned. That's the fun part of the creative process even if disappointing at times. I always learn something for sure.

Here is a block print design I did today. I like the combination of green and brown. What do you think? 

I made this the other night with my glut of Sungold Tomatoes. It was good the first night but better the second when I added a handful of greens. Super simple and fast supper. 

I've had an excellent tomato harvest this year. I almost didn't plant any and then a farmer at the market talked me into some plants she had on sale for $1.00 each. I decided to risk the space and see what happened. You see, there has been a nasty tomato blight for the past 4 years and I harvested nary a tomato. But this year - oh my! The dry weather has been fantastic for tomato production. Sauce, salsa, soups, and lots of tomato based dinners. I'm especially loving tomatoes with eggs since my hens have been producing like crazy. It was an excellent investment of $7.00! 

If you are a fan of Suzani embroidered fabric, check out this blog. What eye candy! Gorgeous.

Enjoy the season as it begins to change everyone! Tomorrow is the beginning of autumn in the northern hemisphere. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Creeping In

I can feel it. Autumn is creeping in. The days have noticeably shortenend. The sun is lower in the sky. When I turn the corner onto our road, the sun glares and I am blinded. I hope noone else is coming around the corner because there is no way to see. 

The colors are changing. They are getting darker and more mossy toned. In the garden, the zinnias are putting on a massive show. Rows of colorful blooms. I gather them in my wire basket, strip the leaves and fill my vases in the kitchen. I spread the vases around the house and think about what winter will be like without their bright cheerful colors. 

The amaranth varieties I planted are more like small shrubs. Crazy, spiky, falling over branches filled with miniature seed pods. The blooms almost look like spiky coral you might find under the sea. They flop over and then grow again. It is such a miraculous site. 

The cosmos are starting to struggle after putting out blossom after blossom since July. I regularly deadheaded them to help the blooms persist but then became overwhelmed with all the other gorgeousness and let them go. Now they are producing seeds.

Every autumn, I am amazed by the crazy bounty that keeps growing and growing as the days shorten. It is as if the plants know that winter is coming and they must produce in order to make it through to the next year. I wade through the thick stems, trying not to smush any of them so they can keep growing. I know that it will all be gone soon. Until next year. Just thinking about it makes me want to stay outside for hours. But I can't because I have other pressing things to do. 

I have discovered a new book called Autumn: An Anthology for the Seasons put out by The (British) Wildlife Trust. Looks like a perfect read for this time of year. You can find a couple of excerpts on-line here and here

Have a great weekend everyone. I have a knitting retreat coming up next weekend here at the farm. Fall festivals are beginning around here and there are so many that it is difficult to decide which to go to. Enjoy the photos, the changing weather and cooler temperatures. 

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Autumn Farmers Markets + Creative Things

Tuesdays I do the Northampton Farmers Market behind Thornes Marketplace. Commerce was incredibly slow in July and August but Tuesday it picked up a bit. I guess folks are back from vacation and getting back into the routine. Thank goodness because I find it incredibly demoralizing to stand in a hot booth for hours barely selling a thing. I think about all I could be doing that I'm not. It is frustrating. I try to bring some stitching with me. I'm almost done with the piece below. 

Folks tend to start eating a bit more lamb in the autumn. Fingers crossed both the Amherst and Northampton Markets pick up some. I guess it is time for some more recipe development. I'm working on a Lamb Korma now. Made it for dinner on Sunday and it was delicious but I'm going to tweak it a bit more to make it a bit easier for my customers. 

This month I've really got to start cranking out the projects for the upcoming book. Here is a photo of a fabric design I am trying out on Spoonflower. If I like it, it will be the backing for a pieced quilt style duvet cover in my new book. 

I carved a lino-cut block with the design. Then I printed it in black and white. After the design dried, I scanned it. Then I brought it into Adobe Illustrator and turned it into a vector image. Next I colored it with the LivePaint option. It is a process. After the first flower was LivePainted, I set it into a simple repeat and recolored it 3 different ways on each of the different colored colored backgrounds. It was lots of fun to do. 

Because I have trouble stopping any designing, I re-colored it one more time in some muted tones. Not sure I am in love yet. We will see when the samples come in, hopefully this week. This is all a learning process for me and I love this challenge of learning to design fabric and putting it into repeats. 

Here are a few other lino-cut prints I have been fooling with. Oh, the possibilities! 

As you can see, I am flower obsessed but that probably doesn't surprise you. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Sunflower Season 2016 + Back To School

The sunflowers are doing their thing. All that worry about drought and birds stealing the seeds on my part and those little seeds came through for you and me. The garden is a splendid sight. What is amazing to me is that I began planting the sunflowers in late June and then did 3 more plantings through the end of July. I thought I would have a staggered crop considering planting dates and "days to flower" from the seed catalogs. But I was wrong. Over the past couple weeks, pretty much every single variety of sunflower has popped. Some are already done and I never snapped a photo because I was away.

Usually the sunflowers don't peak until about the the 18th of September. Not this year. They peaked in late August. I think it was the extreme heat that really made them grow and mature. 

I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't even have time to harvest bouquets for the house until this past weekend. I was running around with the end of summer trips and chores while the sunflowers were doing their thing in the garden. Luckily I got into the garden to take these photos to share with all of you today. I'm going to try to get out again this week although the look of the flowers has really changed. 

Summer is officially over here. Julia started her Senior Year of high school last week. It is amazing how fast it has all gone. I'm sure many of you feel the same about the years your children or niece's and nephew's or neighbor's kids have been attending school. As a Mom, sometimes it seemed to take forever but now I look back and feel the years whooshing by. How did it go so fast and I haven't aged one bit? 

Julia has been in the local school system since she was three years old, beginning pre-school at the age of 4. It has been challenging at times, dealing with her special needs and health issues. I have learned to try not to measure her against other children. That has really been the hardest part of being her parent for me. I have to remember that she is Julia and not someone else. I am a typical oldest child (#1 of 5 kids), over-achiever somewhat Type A kind of person. I have had to learn to shed those personalities as a parent. I've learn a lot about myself but there is always more to learn. I cannot say I am always patient with Julia and sometimes I get incredibly mad at myself when I find my temper flaring. We have made it thus far though and I just love her so much and am so proud of everything she tries to do - succeeding or not. She is such a sweet and caring kid. 

We were talking the other night - her Dad and I - about how she really seems to be shining this last year of high school. She has some fun classes including wood shop and her favorite Yearbook class. (In "shop" she is beginning a "quilt inspired" table top.) She has volunteered to lead the entire school over the loud speaker each Monday morning in the Pledge. I think that experience will do her lots of good - her first chance at public speaking - even if she doesn't realize it. 

Here I will indulge you with 2 of her last "first day of school" photos. She complained to beat the band but she did it. 

That is her custom mocha I make her every morning to get her day going and on the bus at 7. 

I hope you all are settling into your fall schedules. This week is the 168th Annual Franklin County Fair held at the Fairgrounds in Greenfield, MA. It is one of those old-timey family friendly fairs and if you are local-ish, I highly recommend a visit. Animals, races, quilts and needlework, apples, fair food, and a demolition derby. Just walking into the Round House brings tears to my eyes. I'm volunteering at the local church food booth which should be a fun time. 

Thursday, September 01, 2016

End of Summer Visit to Cogswell's Grant

It is hard to believe it is September 1st and the Labor Day Holiday is this weekend. Last week, Julia and I headed off to Newburyport to sneak a couple days of vacation in before school began again. We had a great time visiting our friends Rose Ann, Kristin and Leslie. Newburyport is on the north shore of Boston. It is a very old town that is very beautiful. It is loaded with amazing big and small very old houses. The downtown area is vibrant and full of life. 

One day, Julia and I headed off to Cogswell's Grant. I had heard about this historic home years ago and have been meaning to visit it. It is owned by Historic New England (formerly SPNEA). The home was built in 1728 and is the former home of Nina and Bertram Little who were early collectors of Early American Folk Art. 

First off - you just have to love the color of the house - Pumpkin Orange! It is so distinctive, isn't it? 

The Littles collected Early American Antiques when there was a large supply available - not like now when it is really difficult to find and afford old things. The home is filled with pottery, furniture, primitive folk art paintings, textiles, and more. It is arranged as they lived with their things. The home is a bit crowded and dark but it is a great place full of visual delights. It was their summer home and is not winterized. There is no air conditioning (and it was hot). I do not know if it is handi-capped accessible - I tend to doubt it because the stairs are very steep and they have kept the place as it was in the 1800's. There is a big beautiful barn that houses the welcome center and tells the long story of the property and all the inhabitants before the Littles. The site can also be rented for weddings and special events.

I found this photo of Nina and Bertram on the Historic New England website

I asked if I could take photos inside the home when I arrived. The guide said that it would be okay without a flash. She also said that it took a winter's worth of conversation to decide that photographs would now be allowed inside the house. I told her that it was a good thing they have joined the 21st century as more people will be aware of their museum and Historic New England via the internet. Although these photos are less than stellar they will give you an idea of the home and the collection. I hope they might serve as inspiration for you all as they are for me. Here is a sideboard full of incredible old pottery pieces. 

I loved this old sideboard with painted decoration. 

Isn't this woman pretty? 

Here are a selection of the needlework pieces I found inspiring:

Embroidered pictures
Hooked bedcover!
Hooked spotted cat rug at Cogswell's Grant. The paws are huge. 

Part of the border of the hooked cat rug
These three photos are details of an embroidered bedcover that came from Italy, New York. I loved the motifs. 

A pinchusion
A hooked rug serving as a mat on a chest. Love the different heights.
Another rug which we had to step gingerly around.
A needlepoint cushion featuring dogs and flora
The Littles had a huge collection of wooden boxes. Here is a pretty one. 

I loved these hat boxes covered with wallpaper. 

I am crazy over the painted decoration on this old blanket chest. 

These photos are from Nina's tiny study where she wrote her books on a typewriter. I loved the wallpaper. 

Nina Little wrote several books on antiques that are still available. Little by Little is her story about how they built their collection. This is a good article about both of them and their contributions to collecting Early American art antiques. 

If you ever get to the North Shore of Boston during the summer, I highly recommend a trip to Cogswell's Grant in Essex, Massachusetts. The town is also full of many good antique shops. 

Poor Julia -- getting dragged to another historic house on summer vacation. She was a good sport and after we continued on to Rockport to visit with our friend Leslie who some of you might know from sheep and knitting festivals. 

I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend if you are in North America. So hard to believe summer is almost over.