By now dozens of seed packets have arrived in our mailbox padded in manila envelopes. Patrick squirrels them away into the coolness of our refrigerator's veggie drawer until they are ready to be planted. About a week ago he started the onions and was able to flip on the grow lights today as they have sprouted! Hello babies! Will we have so many onions that we can plait them into lovely braids? A girl can dream. . .
I have a bad habit of painting on walls. That combined with my fear of empty spaces makes for some impulsive mural making. Last Thursday, I took to adding some folk flowers to the cottage walls. I borrowed motifs from a vintage folk music book that was left in the cottage and a Rifle Paper Co. Folk Calendar. To further satiate my fix, the kids and I participated in an event at friend and artist, Sarah Johnson's house in Elmhurst, IL. Sarah and her family are moving soon to a new home, and the city is demolishing their current house. She invited friends, family, and artists to participate in making art on the walls, ceilings, and floors as a means to ultimately celebrate their home along with a couple of birthdays. A nautical theme was promptly adhered to as a nod to the pisces birthday girls. Abe, Penelope, and I filled in the space below the front windows. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we discussed plans for more collaborative murals. Beware blank spaces! I fear for you voids! Our brushes and paint are coming for you!
In the fall of 2013, I began this quilt by block printing fabric with linoleum blocks, carved in plant and vegetable motifs. I dyed some of the fabric, bought a little bit more, but mostly I used scraps that I already had. It's the first time I designed a quilt completely in triangles and really enjoyed their playful design potential. The quilt is for my mother and father-in-law, and since I only hand quilt for those I love, the quilting portion took a very long time. I'm grateful for two recent incidences, a bad head cold and slipping on the ice, that allowed me some dedicated couch potato time--seeing me through the binding. I love this quilt more than anything I've ever made, am very proud of it, and like really good novels, I hated to get to the last stitch. I hope you will enjoy it Pete and Mary!
I think I've reached that point of mid-February in which winter becomes intolerable and a severe case of cabin fever seizes us all. Add a cold snap and throw in nursing two restless kittens recovering from their spay surgeries, and I'm prepared to either run south without looking back or hide under a rock until the snow drops emerge. If it weren't for our forest companions, I'm sure that would be my fate. The top picture is of a peeping Thomasina who ate her lunch while staring into the studio/office. The bottom picture is of two deer. The one on the right, standing near the gourd birdhouse, is our dear three-legged deer mentioned in the Another Beginning blog post. She is still alive! We've seen her several times near the front of our house. This picture captures the only time that she was with a herd. Judging from her hobbling walk, I imagine that she can't keep up with them--especially on the icy terrain. She is the embodiment of hope and survival over deficit.
This past November, I turned 35 and decided to celebrate that milestone by making cheese. I'd never made cheese before and was inspired by novelist Barbara Kingsolver's account of her weekly cheese production in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Her publication recounts the year that she and her family decided to consume locally grown food---the majority of which they produced themselves. Both Pat and I read the book and were inspired to challenge ourselves to not only produce as much food as we can at Spring Bird, but also, support local farmers and gardeners. Somehow sorting some curds from whey seemed like a good way to take the plunge. We followed directions and ordered supplies from New England Cheese Making Supply Co. which Kingsolver details in her book. In order for cheese production to be successful, you can't use overly pasteurized milk. So, we bought non-organic milk from our grocery store that is sourced from relatively near farms and used their recipe for mozzarella. However, if we were to continue a practice of weekly cheese making, we are considering Barrington Natural Farms for raw milk. They have a herd sharing program that allows for weekly milk supplies, and since we can wave "hello" to the cows from the edge of our subdivision, we could only achieve a more locally derived milk if we had a cow of our own. In the end, we've made mozzarella two times and ricotta and cream cheese once each. I think we need a few more go's to get the hang of it and to not have to be so dependent on the directions. The cheese does taste better and fresher, but perhaps this has to do more with the love and effort we put into it rather than the actual product. One part that I do like about this process is that we used the whey for making soups and in baking bread. So, nothing is wasted which is always a wonderful thing in cooking and food production.
I spent much of 2015 working on a mural with my collaborator Sarah Johnson, an artist and instructor. This mural which was commissioned by Elmhurst's Lincoln Elementary School was organized through the Elmhurst Art Museum where Sarah and I were teaching art classes. We were tasked with designing a mural that involved all 600 students of the school, would commemorate the school's 100 year anniversary and be movable--anticipating future expansion of the school. We looked to artist Jacob Hashimoto for inspiration as to a structure that would go beyond hand prints allowing for individual expression of each student but still illustrate the concepts of community and connectivity. It was a delight working with the school, the students, the PTA who commissioned it, and Sarah, of course. I think the piece was successful although it is tricky to photograph--considering its size and that it is installed in a shallow hallway. The slideshow gives you some idea. Sarah and I were posing for a story that the Lincoln PR representative is putting together for local papers.
Well Licoln's PR representative, Jennifer Frahm was able to get the story published in the "Surburban Life" Paper. Below are images of it in print. Here is the link to the story.
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.