Thursday, August 21, 2014

project 52:46

ink and colored pencil on paper
It's late August and things are starting to wind down. Or so it feels in the garden. Plants seed and fade, but the sedums are still (always) going strong, their little chewy, succulent leaves tipped in cheery red. My neighbour gave me these plants a year or two ago, just little slips of things that were encroaching on her patio, outshoots she was going to compost - if I didn't want them.

For years, I've dreamed of one day having one of those big iron balls for the garden, of lining its outer edges with coir or landscape fabric, filling it with rich soil, and sticking a wild array of succulents all over it, so that they gradually grow together and coat the outside: a hanging ball of succulents. Someday, somewhere.

So I eagerly potted up those little guys when my neighbour offered them to me; from such small beginnings, a grand succulent ball! (one day!) Or perhaps I'll cave and make a half-succulent ball a whole lot sooner; I have a nice, heavy hanging pot (a half-globe), and I'm wondering if, when the nasturtiums that have been so weakly hanging on all summer finally crisp and wither away, I could pick little holes in the coir lining and start tucking these guys in all over it. Goodness knows, they're getting packed enough in the pots, the tight quarters twisting and perverting the neat geometry of their perfect little whorls.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

foraged 2014: huckleberries

As the summer berry picking season winds down, there are a few treats still in store: we've been picking huckleberries.

For some reason, I was so excited about the huckleberries this year that I kind of froze; I couldn't actually decide what to do with them. So, I put three jars up in a kind of sweet pickle, and then I made some eight or nine half-pint jars of barely-cooked jam. More like a preserve; in fact, I hadn't originally planned to add any pectin or anything at all, but the berries started producing masses of juice as they cooked (even the slightest bit), that I figured I'd better thicken it up a little. So I added some pectin and sugar - not much, though - and stopped cooking it while the berries were still intact. That way, I figured, some of these jars could be scooped into a pie shell, or folded into hand pies, smoothed over a tart or just ... 

over a toasted, buttered English muffin. For breakfast. Every day since last week. Yum!

Monday, August 18, 2014

summer in a glass

Got some things a'brewing in my kitchen - literally! This tall drink of beautiful is a riff on the cider recipe in Yvette Van Boven's Home Made Winter cookbook. The original, which is brewed in a bucket at room temp for 8 days, then aged in the fridge to build up bubbles, uses 6 1/2 pounds of grated apples, water, sugar, and spices. For this batch, I used 6 pounds of apples and 1/2 pounds of red and white currants, generously given to me by a friend who is blessed with some seriously heavy-yielding currant bushes in her garden (are we jealous yet?). Seeing as Van Boven says it's okay to just grind up the entire apple - seeds, stems, cores and all - and seeing as the mixture is later strained - twice! - I actually just put the bunches of currants (with their stems) through the food processor when I grated the apples, and figured I could strain out any organic bits later.

Now, a confession: the color wasn't quite this brilliant watermelon-hue on its own. As I'd just been reading an article about how the appearance of food really does affect our perception of it, I took my cider (which was naturally just a slightly-rosy amber color) and stirred in about 1 teaspoon of beet powder. That's right: dried, powdered beets. One teaspoon turned four liters of cider this gorgeous color, and didn't add even the faintest whiff of earthiness to the flavor.

These bottles have been ageing for a month or so in the fridge; they should be drunk by mid-September, though I'm thinking of holding on to them just a week longer and doing some kind of to-do to celebrate the equinox with friends - and this bright, crisp, berried taste of summer.

Currently, the bucket's host to the early stages of our next cider - apple-blackberry! I won't bother trying to adjust the color on that one; it's already a gorgeous deep purple.

Monday, August 11, 2014

project 52:45

ink, acrylic, paper collage on paper

More studies, more experiments, more practice, more discoveries - all for a future painting that I haven't even begun to sketch yet.  This time, I'm testing ideas for a background, with Wallace Stevens on the brain. Specifically, Sunday Morning, a poem with special resonance for both me and the subject of my painting. In the fourth section of the poem, Stevens writes:

But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.

It's that last bit, the idea of "June and evening, tipped/ By the consummation of the swallow's wings," that I have on the brain. The water's a reference to another repeating phrase in the poem. I think I've discovered (or re-discovered, or remembered) during the course of Project 52 how very much I like illustrating, creating images to pair with words - by which I mean words that have already been written, not the words on the back of the cards, of course. It's a good thing to know about myself. And besides that bit of self-knowledge, these studies are particularly useful. I definitely figured a few bits of the final painting out in the course of making this card!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

a shifting sense

Lately, it seems, I've got autumn on the brain. Seattle's basking in the heat of August - the most reliably warm and dry month of the year - but I find my nose picking up the scent, here and there, of ripe decay, the richness of fruit melting into soil, and I can feel myself on the alert for the spicy incense of rotten leaves and the first hints of smoke from nighttime fires.

I've a few kitchen projects going on today, and they're all rather nice, little, simple things, the kind of things that require more sitting time than working time - and which make a girl feel rather accomplished at the expense of a minimum of effort. Nice, that. First, I'm experimenting with a new bitters (for drinks), using rowan berries (the very ones pictured above) as a bittering agent - it was a bit of a lightbulb moment a few weeks ago, when I was thinking about the intractable bitterness of these berries. If they turn out well, I'll recount the whole process on the blog later. For now, here's a pretty picture of rowan, in my harvesting basket, in a lucky photo that looks rather lovely and picturesque. And autumnal!

And below, those bounteous late-summer beauties: dahlias. My mother-in-law sent us home from the mountains yesterday with three cut-off plastic milk jugs, each stuffed full of dahlias. I made three arrangements for our house, and two big ones (in quart-size mason jars) for my neighbours. I snuck out of the house in my nightgown, a towel still wrapped around my wet hair, and left the jars on their porches, a sweet surprise for this morning. I've since added a brilliant, hottest-pink spidery dahlia from my own garden to the arrangement on the right, tucked just above the ginormous dinner-plate one. I love all their orange, coral, and purple brilliance. So happy, so carefree, so saturated with color.

A new postcard to show you tomorrow; I'm off to attend my haul of huckleberries, picked by the side of a mountain lake yesterday. Ah, perhaps it's not so autumnal, not yet. Just me, as ever, leaning into this, my favorite time of year, that shifting late-summer/early-autumn.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

project 52:44

acrylic and ink on paper
prints available here
Okay, I love this one. Yep. My friends Ibti and Jacinthe and I did a photo session for my next portrait for the Hedgehog Feminist series. I wanted to start experimenting with some of my ideas for that painting, and the postcards are a great place to test ideas and try things out. Yes, that's an ouroborus in an infinity shape around her eyes. That is the crucial element in this one, that I was testing out. I love love love how bold and starry-eyed she is. It makes me smile just to look at; this is SO Jessie.