Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Art is on my Mind

Hiking With my Trusty Companion
It’s April and art is on my mind. The days are becoming longer and sunshine has sharpened the colours. The daffodils are waving their yellow heads, and one by one the shrubs in my garden are bursting into flower. As colour returns to the coast, I feel the urge to paint.

A Fallen Leaf
The natural landscapes around me have always inspired my creativity. I walk the trails observing all the signs of Spring, and it feeds my soul. The other day, I made a point of counting how many types of wild flowers I saw along the trails. There were 13. Yes, I counted the dandelions and skunk cabbages too!

Unidentified Spring Flower
Last week, I went to the excellent artist's supply store that serves the mid-Island area. I spent a happy hour choosing some tubes of paint, a couple of new brushes, and some other products like varnish and primer (ground). I am not much of a shopper except in art stores, bookstores, and stationery stores. Once I enter one of those three types of stores, my self-control deserts me. I might as well open my wallet and dump all the money out.

I came home feeling inspired and varnished ten of my paintings. Varnishing the surface of the painting helps to protect the painting and restores the colours to the brightness they had when the work was first painted. You can’t put permanent varnish on an oil painting until the paint has time to cure (fully dry), which takes about a year. I have not been conscientious about remembering to go back and varnish finished works. It is not a necessary step, but I do like the way it enhances the brightness of the colours.

View of Nanoose Estuary
On a recent walk, I took the photo above of Nanoose Estuary with the tide out. I started a painting last Fall of this scene, working from a photo taken near this spot. The painting is still sitting on my easel, unfinished. Somehow -- I don't know how this happened -- I have signed myself for so many things that I hardly seem to have any time to paint.

Here's a list: Weekly yoga classes at two different studios, book group, writer's group, service group, weekly volunteer activity for service group, volunteer at grandson's preschool, art group, planning committee for upcoming art show, organizer for activity to combat invasive plants, academic committee, Elder College course, participant in Drawdown Ecochallenge 2019, and, um, lots of other stuff.

I just want to put in a plug for Drawdown Ecochallenge. This is a three-week challenge in April, in which people from all over the world commit to do one or two or more things to contribute to efforts to combat (and eventually reverse) global warming.

There is still time to join! I would be happy to have you join my team, Vancouver Island Sustainable Future (you don't have to be from Vancouver Island). This is my way of taking action, rather than just sitting around worrying about it. If you join, you can read my feed on the Ecochallenge and find out all about my eco efforts this month. You can join up here.

It's only ten days until our big Spring Showcase art show! I have updated my art website, and added more paintings to it. You can read about the upcoming show here.

Monday, April 1, 2019

It's Gardening Season!

It is almost two years ago since we travelled to Vancouver Island to look at real estate and ended up making an offer on this house that is now our home. One of the striking features of this place is that it has a large property and a beautiful garden. When we viewed it in April two years ago, the garden was in bloom and it looked glorious.

The Garden Last August

The previous owners were avid gardeners with a great sense of aesthetics. The entire backyard is a decorative garden with flowering trees and shrubs, rockeries, and a pond feature. It also has deer-proof fencing, which is an important consideration on Vancouver Island. There are lots of deer here, and they eat almost everything.

Having now spent nearly two years here, we have discovered that the garden looks beautiful in every season.

I have always enjoyed gardening, but my expertise is more in the area of organic fruit and vegetable gardens. I have also grown small flower gardens, with both perennials and annuals. But I am not very knowledgeable about caring for our current type of garden. As well, I wondered where I might be able to grow some vegetables and herbs.

The first year, we decided to to not touch anything in the garden. We waited and watched to see how it changed with the seasons. We weeded, watered, and did a little pruning.

Last summer, we took out a few shrubs that had died in the previous summer's drought conditions. We moved some shrubs that were too crowded to different locations. We added drip irrigation hoses, and sea soil, especially to the rhododendrons. We pruned more confidently. We weeded and cultivated, and did a little mulching.

I planted pots of herbs and tomatoes on the deck. I tucked some strawberry plants, kale, carrots, and beans in among the shrubs. They all thrived -- except for the beans, which the bunnies ate. Vancouver Island is overrun with rabbits as well as deer.

This year, I decided that one way or another, I was going to build a vegetable bed. I really like to grow at least a little of my own food. It is very pleasing to walk out the door and pick something for supper. Home grown food is the freshest possible food. Also, because I use organic growing methods, I know that there will be no noxious chemicals in the food or soil.

The problem is, there really is no sensible place to put a garden. In the front, there is a long sloping lawn shaded by huge evergreen trees. There is a small side yard that is flat enough, but it is shaded on every side and never sees the sun. And in the mostly flat, sunny backyard, every square inch is planted already.

I did not want to detract from the aesthetics of the beautiful garden.

I finally decided to build a small vegetable bed in the corner of the fence by the gate. It is not the sunniest location, but I think it will be okay. It is away from the the long roots of the evergreen trees, and it was not a very pretty part of the original garden design.

So, this week, Rob removed a small decorative pine tree from that location. Behind it, he took out some kind of prickly shrub with bright yellow sap. I cleaned up the area and turned over the soil and added 75 liters of black garden soil. Today I planted it.

So now I have a small vegetable plot, about five feet by seven feet.  It looks fine to my eyes.

Watering the New Veggie Garden (Left of the Daffodils)

The strawberry patch that I planted last year looks like it will thrive. The kale plants made it through the winter and have put out new leaves. They now look like small bushes, but the leaves are quite edible, so I'll leave them in place for now.

Today, I also planted a magnolia tree. I love the beautiful tulip shaped blossoms of magnolia trees. But much of my life I have lived in climates that are too cold for magnolias. In our garden, there was a perfect space for the tree near a bench in the corner of the yard. A shrub, a kind of decorative pine that previously had been in that space, had not survived the hot dry summer. So now we have a magnolia tree!

I dug a Big Hole
Planting the Magnolia Tree

The next challenge is to create a compost pile or bin. There's more to come on that topic another day.