Archive for June, 2013
Zounds! Two posts in one month! Looks like I’m picking up some momentum in posting to the blog.
I’ve been busy around the old place. Each summer, I make a mental list of projects that I hope to see completed. Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan, but it’s good to set the odd goal. High on this year’s list was doing something about the old wooden floors. They’re in pretty bad shape – some slanting planks in the upstairs, and rolling or wavy hardwood strip flooring in the downstairs. Over the past couple of summers, I had done some experimenting with scraping, sanding and varnishing test sections of the floors. The results convinced me that attempting to take the wood back to a sanded state followed by varnish, would be too tedious and not really in line with what pleases me. Besides, when I bought this place, I had it in the back of my mind to try to find ways to incorporate artistic creation into the house. In a former life, I was quite a busy painter and carver of folk art pieces. I’ve been missing that work, so after deciding that painted floors might be a good route to explore, I began working up a plan. There’s no doubt that it is a time consuming project, but it greatly appeals to me. At this point in my life, I feel like this will probably be my last house, and if it pleases me to surround myself with my own or the art of others, then so be it. Anyhow, that’s how the idea for painted floors came into being.
Over the winter, I mused over possible designs for the floors. At first, I considered some type of painting inspired by patchwork quilt designs. However, that really isn’t me. I’m more inclined toward paintings of flora and fauna, so that seemed to be the way to take this project. From that point, I came up with a plan to choose different background colours for the floors and then add theme-based paintings. In the tower room, I put down an aqua base and painted several species of ocean fish — see above – click on image for a larger view. The resulting floor is bright, clean and, in my admittedly rather biased opinion, rather cool.
After the successful completion of the tower floor, I began work on the living room floor. It’s a goodly sized room of about 14 x 20 feet, with a projecting bay window section on one side. Large windows along one wall look out onto a forested hillside with a beautiful brook down below. This room begged to be painted with a Woodland theme. I began by putting down a base of parchment coloured paint to mimic the pages of a book of natural history illustrations. Then, I chose a soft mineral green to use as a wide border along the walls all the way around the room. Upon that background, I began painting woodland flora and fauna using mainly my own nature photos as reference material. The above image (click on it for a larger view) is the completed bay section of the floor. I’m now working on the larger rectangular section. As much as possible, I’ll be trying to represent the rich diversity of plants and animals that I’ve encountered over a lifetime of interest in the natural world.
Now, I’m beginning to think ahead to some of the other rooms of the house. The kitchen is probably next on the agenda — also a very large room. I’m not yet sure of the theme, but I expect that some idea will begin to grow by the time I’m finished the living room floor in a week or two.
Below is a fairly recent photo taken in the front garden. Unfortunately, Shelby managed to wander out of the scene once I had camera in hand, so it’s just Sage holding down the lawn. I’ll try for a photo of the two of them together in my next post. The house and gardens are looking good. Lots of wonderful rhododendrons, rose bushes and perennials in or coming into bloom. Larry has been visiting and putting his green thumb to good effect around the place. Much creative stuff happening here this summer. More about that in upcoming posts!
As usual, it’s taken me forever to update the blog. I’ve had most of these photos uploaded and ready to assemble into a post for over a week, but it seems that there is never enough time to stop and write about what’s going on. Gardening, hiking, going to the farmers’ market, cooking, playing music, painting the floors of the house (more about that project in an upcoming blog post).
However, today, I wanted to share some of the good things about hanging out in this part of Nova Scotia in summer. Let me give you an illustrated tour beginning with a recent pie made from locally grown Cortland apples (see above). Larry has been visiting and trying out the local apples. He started with Golden Russets and then the Cortlands. I made an experimental pie out of each. I think we agreed that the Cortland pie was the winner. This weekend, I’ll be baking a pie from Ida Reds to see how that compares. Next to the pie in the above photo is one of my old folk art pieces. I used to do a lot of carving at one time and these fish were some of my favourites. I’ve got a few boxes of my carvings left over from the occasional studio shows back at the farm, so I’ve been gradually unpacking them and putting the pieces around the house to enjoy.
For the past three summers, one of my weekly rituals has been a visit to the Annapolis Royal Farmers’ Market – at least until my own vegetable garden takes off. I’ve been to the first three of the season since the market moved from its winter quarters over to the market square by the waterfront. It’s great to wander around checking out what everyone has to offer and stocking up on local maple syrup, vegetables, eggs, baked goods and preserves. Upon arriving home, I try to come up with a dish that incorporates some of that bounty. A generous serving of sautéed fiddleheads (young shoots of ferns before they unfurl), and a quiche made with free range eggs, green onions and green garlic from my friends, Nicole and Stewart at Whippletree Farm. They are just down the road from me – they farm with horses and have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in which members receive a share of the weekly produce – read about that here. They have a nice blog – check out a recent post which features lots of photos of their up and coming vegetables.
Another weekly tradition has been to buy a loaf or two of bread from one of several bakers who has a table at the market. Although Larry and I both enjoy baking bread, it’s hard to resist loaves such as the olive or sourdough from Boulangerie la Vendèenne of Mahone Bay.
Visitors often ask me about dulse after seeing signs for it, or packages in local shops. In fact, throughout the summer, down the road from me, there is a cardboard box marked “DULSE” sitting on an old wooden chair by the roadside. You can stop, put your money in a jar and take a bag. After arriving here, Larry asked about dulse, so I picked up a bag of “Fundy Dulse” from the local grocery store. If you’re curious about dulse, ready more about it here. Above is a photo of the bag and, yes, another of my folk art carved fish.
The weather has been quite changeable this past few weeks. However, we finally seem to be into warmer weather. The garden is beginning to grow – especially the potato plants and various greens. I’ve been making more salads like the above potato salad made with fresh eggs, baby spinach leaves and green onions from Nicole and Stewart’s farm. I’m looking forward to the day – coming soon – when the garden here at the house can provide most of what is needed for every meal.
One last photo. As most of you know, I love to garden and have a growing collection of perennials, rose and rhododendron bushes. A couple of weeks ago, it was the Champlain Garden Club’s annual plant sale in Annapolis Royal. Many of my favourite plants were purchased at past sales. More plants were added this spring. As always, the prices were so low and the size of the plants so generous. Larry noticed a huge chunk of hosta – the kind with immense, blue-green leaves – in a large plastic sack with a price of ten dollars. How could we resist such a bargain! We brought it home and Larry divided it up into several good pieces to populate the shady sections of the garden under the lilacs and locust trees.
Okay, enough for now. I’ll try to get another post together soon — about the painted floor project going on here at the house.