Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Good Morning from the Garden - Early September 2019

The garden is quite glorious at this time of year. We had a nice rain one evening and when I woke up early the next day, it was if the garden and landscape was all aglitter with sparkling rain drops. The clouds were sitting just above the valleys. I grabbed my camera and took these photos for you. It has taken me a couple weeks to process them but here they are. Enjoy. 

If you look closely at this photo, you will see the sheep coming through the fenceline at the bottom of the hill. They graze all night long and then move up towards their favorite spot behind my pottery shed to rest for the day. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Pottery Making + Sunflower Vases

I've been a pottery wild woman - that is if I can be a wild woman which most would not consider me ever to be. My sweet little pottery shed has been seeing lots of making. And I have been keeping up on my 100 Day Challenge on Instagram that I call 100 Days of VasesYou can follow it here.  

I only have one month until the Garlic and Arts Festival on September 28 + 29th in Orange, Massachusetts. I want to have a nice amount of work to sell. I have lots of things made but now for the time consuming part - decorating the wares and then firing them and then glazing them again. 

I fired my first bisque kiln in a long time and it failed. I was so bummed. The kiln turned off before hitting the correct temperature. Not sure why? My electrician came yesterday and he checked everything out and couldn't find anything wrong. Maybe a power surge or maybe there is a problem lurking down in the bottom of the kiln. It is firing again and I am hoping it will work. Literally - time will tell. 

I have been recycling the odd bits of clay that are leftover from handbuilding, handling mugs and pitchers, and throwing. I will mix it in with the regular bagged clay at about 1/3 recycled to 2/3 fresh new clay. 

To recycle the clay, I let it dry completely to bone dry. Then I use a hammer and knock it into little bits and store it in a large lidded 5 gallon pail. 

When I have time, I fill a small gallon plastic bucket with the odd bits, cover it with water and let it soak for a couple weeks. I cover this slurry so that bugs don't get in. Every once in a while I stir it up and check the consistency. 

After it has soaked, I spread it out on a large piece of MDF and let it dry for a couple days. After some of the water has evaporated, I flip it over and let it dry for a couple more days. I check the consistency a few times a day.

 and when it is right, I knead it into a solid hunk, bag it and use it for throwing. 

I will say this isn't my favorite part of the process but I am frugal and don't want to just throw out the clay that can be used. I find it more difficult to throw pieces that have part recycled clay in them versus the clay that comes out of the bag from the clay processor.  

Here are a few sunflower vases in progress. Since the sunflowers just started to bloom, I am celebrating that event by decorating lots of vases with sunflowers. 

My 100 Days of Vases is continuing over on Instagram - #100daysofvases. It's fun to watch the process - even for me! Now that the kiln is cooling, I look forward to gloss glazing the vases and filling them with flowers and photographing them for my feed as well as continuing to decorate more of my hand-thrown vases. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Late August Update + First Sunflowers!

Hard to believe the end of the traditional summer is almost here. In our area, the public schools start Wednesday and the school buses will be back on the road. I get a bittersweet feeling about that time of year - and I need to go out and buy me some pencils and notebooks even though I have many floating around the house and studio. 

Julia and I were away last week visiting Mom. When we got back, my garden had exploded into the late summer madness that always ensues. The zucchini and summer squash are pretty much over. I've got a late crop of green beans that are just perfect. The taller flowers are starting to get heavy and fall over. The Sungold tomatoes are taking over my garden world. 

I really love this time of garden abundance - it is all just so crazy and hodgepodge and luxurious. I love being in it wandering through, trying to squeeze my way through the rows and the weeds and trying not to knock over and squish plants and veggies. I would say it is my favorite thing to do late in the day just before the sun sets. 

As with every year in my garden, the sunflowers have grown taller than the weeds and they are starting to bud up. No matter how many times I plant the little seeds and then wait for the bloom, I can't get over the miracle of it all. 

Yesterday, the first sunflower plants started blooming. Since I grow a large variety of different sunflowers, I hope there will be continuous bloom through the end of September. I will try to share photos here and over on Instagram. You can follow me here.

Hope you are enjoying the waning days of summer. I've got peaches on my peach tree and for the first time, I have harvested some and given away plenty. I'm hoping to make a peach crisp  - that is if I can stop decorating pottery. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

August 2019 Garden Update + Hollyhock Madness

Early in the gardening season, I almost gave up on my veggie and cut flower garden. With Mark having surgery I wasn't sure if I was going to have the time to plant, mulch, weed and harvest my garden. I talked to The Farmer about it and he urged me to do it. I also thought about how much I love having fresh flowers and fresh food in the summer and so I gave it a go once again. 

I never plant my garden until late in June. I buy plant starts instead of dealing with seeds - except for sunflowers which I do plant from seed. I buy my plants from Walker Farm up in Dummerston, VT. 

Now that the end of August is getting close, I am really happy I got my garden in. We have been eating zucchini and yellow squash every night. Green beans are coming soon and the basil needs to be turned into pesto. The cukes got some kind of blight and died but I replanted with zucchini and am hoping it will grow and give us some late season squash. I planted Kuri squash and Butternut squash and they both seem to be taking over the world.

Last year I bought one of those spiralizers and it is a great way to use up some of the larger zucchini. I feed the really big ones to my chickens and they devour them in seconds. 

The sunflowers are slowly growing. We haven't had much rain this summer so they have been slow to grow. I think they will bloom in September like they usually do. I didn't plant them until July and they took forever to germinate because of the lack of rain. One day, we got some rain and like magic, they germinated in a few days. I can't water my garden because we don't have much water in our well so I do a heavy mulch with leftover bales of hay. The mulch really helps things grow. 

The zinnias are doing fantastic after a brief bout of black spot. I ripped all the affected leaves off and gave them a hit of Azomite and they are now performing beautifully. That stuff is like magic. I think I shouldn't mulch them as heavy as I do because I think it causes the black spot but it also makes them grow. I get that black spot every single year. 

I usually only grow the large Benary strain but this year, I bought a 6 pack of Come and Cut Again and they are doing great. 

Here's an overall view of the garden with my Pottery Studio behind it. I love this view. The little building is so sweet and the flowers just make me smile. 

This year for some crazy unknown reason, I had an outbreak of Hollyhocks in the garden next to my office. Usually I plant sunflowers and annuals in this ramshackle garden but with the emergence of small Hollyhock plants, I decided to see what happened. I didn't know what color they were going to be but I guessed they would be lemon yellow. A few years ago, I had one lemon Hollyhock plant (just one) so these seeds must have been just waiting to do their thing. Has anyone else ever had an explosion of Hollyhocks? 

I hope they come back every year although I would love some pink and red Hollyhocks too. They are almost done blooming now and I will harvest the seeds and give some to friends and maybe spread them around our place. The bees and the butterflies love them. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Making Pottery + 100 Days of Vases on Instagram

I've been working away in my little pottery shed for the past couple months. I have signed up and been accepted to be a vendor at The North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival at the end of September. This is the first time I have done an "official" show selling my pottery. Most of my pottery sales in the past couple years and over 20 years ago were done at my own home at Open House formats or on-line. 

I have never been to the Garlic and Arts Festival but I have heard it is a great time. It is similar to The Common Ground Country Fair in Maine but on a smaller scale. I got accepted to sell my ceramics, my tea towels and my books. I will bring our 10 x 10 pop-up Farmers Market tent and hope for the best. My good friend Kay has volunteered to help with sales. Thank you Kay!

I've got lots of pottery in progress. This summer I have been throwing lots of vases and mugs getting ready for the fall selling season. I've also made a lot of smallish platters and some larger ones. My plan is to list all the leftovers on-line on my website after the Garlic and Arts Festival so if you want something but are far away, you will have a chance. 

When I am sitting at my wheel, I look out to the hill behind it and the field that some of our sheep spend the warmer months in. They hunker down during the day and sleep next to our portable corral. In the beginning, they were skittish of me but as we spend more and more time together they just look on. 

The dogs come down to check on things too. They are curious as to what the heck I am doing spending all this time in the little shed. 

I've got so many pots made now and the next step is decorating them all with underglazes. This is the tedious and time consuming part of making my ceramics. It is also what adds to the price because each piece takes quite a bit of time. I treat each piece differently depending on the shape of the object. In the photo below you can see vases in different stages - unfired white clay, underglaze painted pieces, and glossy glazed finished pieces. On the bottom right side of the photo, you can see 2 vases that haven't had their black lines added yet. The addition of that line finishes the piece and makes the motifs stand out. I use very bright colors of underglaze but they don't look bright until they are gloss glazed. 

I started a 100 Day Challenge on Instagram! I've always thought of doing this kind of project but never really thought I could find enough time in the day to do it. I'm giving it a go and am on Day #12 coming up. Each day I post a photo of a vase or two or whatever I have been making in the studio. I hope I can keep it up. It does help to keep me focused on making and creating. 

You can follow my progress over on Instagram here. My feed also posts automatically to my Kristin Nicholas Designs Facebook Page here if you don't do Instagram. Make sure to follow me if you are interested in the progress. 

Hope you are enjoying the summer as it quickly turns to autumn!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

July Update - The Flower/Veggie Garden

Summer is in high season here at Leyden Glen Farm. We have had an extraordinarily hot July with absolutely no rain — unlike last year when the rain wouldn’t stop. Until a few days ago when it rained and rained and rained. So glorious. I got my annual flower garden/veggie garden in and we are eating lots of squash and cucumbers, parsley and basil. Lost the beans to the birds - bummer - they love bean sprouts. Two weeks ago I planted the sunflowers. With the lack of rain, the sunflowers weren’t germinating. But the recent rain changed that and they are popping through the soil. Yay.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother to plant this huge garden. With The Farmer’s hip surgery, I almost didn’t. But in mid June, just after before he went in the hospital, I decided to give it a go. I am glad I did because it gives me some quiet time outside by myself with the birds and the bugs and the disappointments and victories of gardening. I think that is what keeps gardeners gardening..... the possibilities of the next garden, the next year and what might be. All the unknowns - the weather, the bugs and blights, the weeds, the birds snacking on sunflower and bean sprouts - they all are uncontrollable by humans and they make it all so interesting and challenging and beautiful.

I have been spending a lot of time in my Pottery Shed getting pieces thrown and dried out enough for the underglaze decoration. Like I shared a few posts ago, I got accepted into The North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival which happens the weekend of September 28/29. The Pottery Shed is next to my garden and right next to the sheep pasture. It is a walk from the house and I have to tote buckets of water down the hill to use while making the pottery. It is a very sweet little building that is serviceable and simple. The renovation of the Pottery Shed was part of my last book Crafting A Patterned Home. I totally love this space and the hours I spend there working with the clay on my wheel and building slab pieces. 

Making pottery is a lot like gardening. Because I am no expert wheel thrower - nor do I every intend or want to be - I sit down at my wheel with a ball of clay and then see what happens. I “center” the clay with an idea of what I want to make that day. And then I see what happens as I work it with my hands. Lately I have been making oodles of vases. Cut flowers from my garden have always been an important thing in my home and the vases that hold them - whether antique or handmade - are full of color and pattern. The vases look so pretty on a shelf all year long. I hope that people at the festival will think the same thing too. 

Next week I am going to try to start making some mugs because I know people who love and buy handmade pottery love a new coffee mug. There is something so intimate about making a handmade mug that will be used by the purchaser often. There is a special connection between maker and buyer that a handmade mug makes happen. That a handmade mug will go out into someone else’s home and become part of their special morning or afternoon ritual of coffee or tea is just so sweet. 

Here are a few photos from the summer garden and work in progress in the studio. 

Hollyhocks in front of the studio. I didn't plant these - they appeared magically. A few years ago I had a lemon hollyhock that died off. These must have come from it. 

The veggie and cutting garden. All mulched except for the sunflowers. 

Zinnias all pruned - now waiting for flowers.

The pottery studio

Some of the vases I have been making

The sheep grazing every evening behind my pottery studio.

Vases in progress - before and after decoration and awaiting firing.

Some finished vases and some before bisque firing but already painted.

Hope you all are having a nice summer and getting some outside time and projects done!

Good Morning from the Garden - Early September 2019

The garden is quite glorious at this time of year. We had a nice rain one evening and when I woke up early the next day, it was if the garde...