Thursday, September 10, 2015

Summer's Brief Beauties in the Garden

September is here and soon we will kiss summer goodbye again.  It's Wednesday afternoon and I am so wiped out from a morning at the dentist...but I can't bear to see a week go by without a new post here.  I had figured to push hard and spend the afternoon getting caught up on work in the studio.  After two and a half hours in the chair, coming home with a numb mouth...thoughts of potato soup were in my head.  So thankful for my dear husband and his potato soup today.  He made it on our rainy Labor Day weekend.  I spent several hours comfy with a good book and a warm lap blanket.  Next, I just felt an urge for a nap and didn't fight it.  A wonderful time of quiet, hoping that Lucy, my feline assistant was behaving herself but not caring enough to not fall off to sleep. (Insert photo of hot potato soup and good book here.)  I have been so pleased with my ongoing weekly posts, with no lapses in holding to this challenge I've given myself.  It would be sad to let it go so whatever this post becomes by the end, I didn't give up.  Hang in there with me and we'll see how this goes.

The photographs I'm sharing today were taken the middle of August while everything was loving the sunny, hot days... well, the spinach and cilantro do not love the heat; they bolt right to seed.  So while much of our weather has changed, these photos were taken three and a half weeks ago.  Our growing season is short and soon I'll be pulling the rest of the onions, carrots, tomatoes and beans.

Not long after, the wildfires spread throughout the mountains of Montana (along with several other states) and smoke filled the skies for a week.  We have been so thankful for answered prayers in the form of rain that brought the fires to point of containment.  Over the Labor Day weekend, the higher elevations saw snow.   With such dry conditions, it was quickly apparent that only rain and/or snow would bring the help needed.  Heart Butte, the area I know well from my first years living in Montana was affected.  They were evacuated at one point and my heart just ached for them.  The community was spared, with structures and livestock safe.  I know there was an effort to rescue pets as well.  They have been able to return home but I'm sure they see evidence of the experience every day.  We drove up to Glacier National Park on Monday.  If we'd left earlier in the morning, we would have had time to drive through the Heart Butte area to see how it has fared.  We were able to drive over Logan Pass, seeing it all dusted with snow at the higher elevations.  We had an enjoyable day and I'll share those photos in my post next Thursday.

In March and April, I excitedly plan where everything will be planted this year.  It's a great experiment to change things around, see where plants might do better than the year before.  The sunflowers are such a sight to behold, peeking out to count the number of new heads or opened flowers since the day before.  They offer me a great source of art reference photos.  Many photos are taken while they are still brilliantly colored against blue skies, with bees and butterflies coming to seek out their nectar.  The ants and the ladybugs are there in large numbers as well.  It's just an amazing process to watch these giants grow from inches tall to several feet above my head.  

Three or four years ago, I began saving several of the flower heads from the fall.  I let them air dry in the house, most often in an old metal pail.  Later in fall, I break the heads apart and save the seeds in paper envelopes, labeling them with flower type and the year.  I suppose I could take them out and scatter them in fall but I have bird feeders and a faithful following of birdie friends.  They would probably figure I'm bringing them another snack. 

Summer of 2015, my sunflowers have had such a great number of blooms per stock, it's just incredible!  With all the different varieties of colors in their petals, I plan to save seeds again this year.  However many the finches and sparrows leave behind...  The goldfinches will not eat from my feeders but they love the sunflowers.  A few have already arrived and they are a great pleasure to watch as they flit from leaf to fence to flower head.  I'll some post views like this in the coming months.  For right now let's just savor the bright green leaves and yellow petals...

The herb boxes are new this year and I love the easy access to a dozen herbs on my back deck.  Now I find myself sadly wishing they could all come in for the winter.  Some are hardy enough to overwinter just fine but the thought of having to buy any at the grocery during the cold months is just sad.  The johnny jump ups have reseeded themselves all through my raised beds.  They are just too sweet to pull and sometimes I do transplant them to another spot.  Most of the time I leave them, they attract the bees to all the garden beds.  They are a lovely little surprise peeking out from the thyme in the photo below.

There must be quite a few aphids on the sunflower plants because the ladybugs have been commonly found in greater numbers this year.  At any time, it seems I can count up to six or eight of them throughout the sunflower plants.  While I'm outside to check on the vegetables, I wander over and am distracted by the way it all changes from one day to the next.  A little vacation, if only for a few minutes, escaping the mental list of to-do's and what one or all of the rest of my family needs next.  The garden is one of my therapies.  Relaxing, quiet moments spent observing the now and the changed.  Some of the photos I take are for art reference purposes, a future painting to be worked out.  Some are just a wonderful view I want to keep and be able to go see again.  It's a sight I discovered and want to be able to revisit, thankful that I was able to wander that way in that moment.  

What's your favorite color?  Do you have one?  Can you name it quickly without much thought?  The odd thing is, I can't name one immediately.  Maybe I think too deeply but I'm not sure which color I would choose.  I often say it is green.  Green is a common color in my paintings because they are usually wildflowers and landscapes.  The wide range of possible greens is hard to describe but vital to these subjects.  The color green is alive, lush, healthy, and growing.  Of course, a person's face being green is not good at all but that's digressing, huh.  Sorry,'s office, vanilla nitrous, and puffy face and all.

This is the flower box on my back deck.  It is the repurposing of an old wagon, minus the wheels and handle.  When we discovered it, it was missing its wheels and the handle was in sad shape.  Each spring, I fill it with flowers and this year we moved it up to the back deck from further out in the back yard.  Do you see that sunflower growing up in the back?  That is the result of birdseed being scattered and left to sprout up.  The birds are plenty messy when they eat, so it's always a surprise to see little sunflower plants popping up in random places.   I think this perfectly illustrates the saying, "bloom where you are planted."  Don't you agree?  

This sunflower is just a surprise visitor, making itself comfortable and causing others to take notice.  Maybe this isn't where it was supposed to be or the place typically meant for it, but it's shining anyway.  So here's summer, about to change and become fall.  I'm a little sorry to see it go this year.  Fall is lovely, too, but the summer pleasures will be gone for more than eight months.  I'm sure I'll be busy typing up blog posts and getting more paintings underway - but not too busy to be itching to get my fingers back in the soil again.  I'll be missing the fresh lettuce and spinach sitting in the colander.   Maybe that's a reflection of truly seeing it, delighting in the outdoors while it's here.  

The views here will change and so will my photo gallery here.  There are five painting in progress right now.  They are all landscapes with skies being my main focus as a starting point.  Three of them are coming along nicely.  If you are following me on Facebook or instagram(ChristySheeler.artist), I am sharing quick updates along the way.  These are also listed on my Contact Page.  I am not pleased with the results of two of them.  I hate to scrap them and begin again; it's always a struggle to decide when to bag it and begin again.  I'll think it over for the next several days.  Appointments and meetings are taking me away for more hours lately.  I'll have to breathe and relax, not being too hard on myself.  The Etsy shop has been up for about a week now.  I have more paintings to add but the multitasking is a bear right now.  I am reminding myself to be reasonable about my expectations.

I encourage you to enjoy the remaining days of summer, don't miss out on what seasonal beauty still remains.  I know we look forward to knee boots, scarves, leaves, apples, and all the other delights of autumn but remember summer will be a long time coming again.  Be excited for what's to come but don't overlook the present in the process.  Big Sandy melons and fresh corn along with the abundant zucchini from neighbors are here now.  Take note of your summer favorites and go enjoy them one more time...several more if possible.  What would be your favorite summer views/activities you will miss most; maybe leave yours in the comments below!

Until next week,

(the artist with a tender mouth)

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