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Archive for April, 2012

Sorrel thief

Last year I put in a few clumps of sorrel. All three are the standard, big-leafed variety  and we got them from one of the local Mennonite groups. (I like picking up plants from other local farmers and gardeners, since we can be sure they are well suited to the soil and weather around here) they popped up strongly, when we had the run of hot weather in March, and only took a little bit of a hit in the following frosts. I was pretty happy about how well they came through, but within a couple of days, they were sheared down to the ground. They keep trying to come back up, but are being consistently mowed back down. We had our suspicions about the culprit, but weren’t positive until it was spotted, on it’s way to a morning snack, this week. We’re not sure if it’s the same bunny we saw around last year, but it’s possible little Hasenpfeffer made it through the winter. At any rate, now that I know that sorrel rates above even dandelions on the bunny menu, I’ll have to seriously re-think the planned additions to the sorrel bed. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to put them in if the only one who gets to have any is the local rabbit.

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Framing isn’t all that important, in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes, I get to feel like it can make peoples lives just a little bit better. While I was in Vegas, for the framing conference, I also had a chance to meet up with another artist involved with Regretsy. Cybele was one of the people featured in the book and she does a broad range of multimedia works. I had a great time hanging out with her and her partner Botielus (the Squeezebox Hero). Part of our time was spent just hanging out in her house and, as is typical when visiting artists, we started with a bit of an art tour. While discussing her work, (and the framing, since I can’t ignore that issue) we got to a small pastel work that was very striking, but in a totally inappropriate frame. It turned out to be a memorial portrait of her brother  and had been put into that frame as a temporary thing, just to make sure it was protected since pastels are so very fragile. We talked a bit about some possible treatments and then moved on to other things. Near the end of our wander, she showed me an older work that her brother had had framed, before his death. It was an interesting study-level work, but the framing, while very lush, (including museum glass!!) didn’t really suit it. As we talked some more, she admitted how much she disliked the whole thing. While she appreciated that her brother had cared enough to frame the art she had given him, it bothered her at how much he had spent on what she felt was a lesser work and the mismatch between it and the framing just aggravated the wound. Looking at it, as we talked, I slowly realized that the colours of the framing, while off for the art it contained, were perfectly suited to the pastel portrait. It even looked like the size was pretty close. The idea that it might be possible to switch the pictures was something that worked for her, so we went and pulled the portrait off the wall to check the sizing. It turned out to be only be slightly smaller than the picture that was in the frame. While I have the full set of framing tools at home,  I’ve also learned ways of making do with more basic equipment but there were still a few things that would be needed to safely open and re-close a frame. Being in the home of an artist, I figured the odds were good that she’d have things on hand but it turned out that her brother had purchased a group of small scale framing tools so I was fully equipped to get to work. The other big area of concern was going to be both removing the existing piece and attaching the new one, since it was floated, above the mat, on a piece of foam-core. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the original framer had used archival ATG to hold it place, so it not only came up cleanly but was able to be reused for the portrait. The fit was just perfect as well and the placement of the foamcore was slightly off-centre, for it being on the horizontal, but once we swapped it to the vertical for the portrait, it was ever-so-slightly up-centred, which perfectly compensated for the small size difference. The colour match of the portrait to the new frame was so much better than the art that it was made for that it was a bit of a shock. She loved how it turned out and that was the most important thing. It might not be all that vital, but being able to make a change, in something that she will look at every day, from a negative to a positive experience is very satisfying for me as an artisan. Overall, I found it a bit eerie how well it went together as well as her brother having had the needed tools on hand. Some things are just meant to be.

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There is apparently an unprecedented influx of butterflies  coming in to Southern Ontario right now. It’s supposed to be an effect of the mild weather and they are all migrating much earlier and farther than normal. The most common ones are the Red Admirals. I started noticing a few around by the middle of the week, and when it was so warm on Friday, we had several around the fruit trees. This was my favourite photo (the Admirals were very flighty and wouldn’t let me close enough for a good shot, but this one was happy to pose) and it is apparently a Polygonia gracilis, commonly called a Hoary Anglewing. I do find it interesting that while all the butterflies seemed to like the plums and cherry equally, the honeybees had a clear preference for the cherry and neither were that interested in Saskatoon bushes. (their flowers are barely open, so that may be part of it)

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It continues to be a weird spring. Most things are far ahead of last year.  The plum blossoms opened over the weekend and have been drawing everything from honeybees to butterflies. They are almost three weeks earlier than 2011 and both have much larger numbers of flowers on them. I’m hoping it’s a sign of them settling in well. The cherry has also started to open some of it’s flowers, but isn’t yet in full bloom. On the negative side, we had a fairly hard frost last night, and while the trees all seem to be fine, our brand new asparagus patch is looking hard hit. We dug it in last year and put in quite a few crowns. Growth was fairly good last year but the stems were still very spindly. This year, we were pleased to see so many coming back and with nice sized stalks. Nothing was going to be cut this year, but it’s clear that many of the tallest shoots got frozen last night. I’m not sure if we’re better off to leave them, to die back naturally, or to trim off all the parts we know didn’t make it. I guess I’m going to have to go do some research and see what I can find out…

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lucky fall

Some people are just lucky. Our neighbour across the street has had a large tree,  near the front of his property, dying off for a few years now. We all had our doubts that it would make it through the winter but it was still standing. Until yesterday that is. There were wind warnings in effect for the whole region and it was blowing hard enough that both of the parents commented on how much it felt like being back in Newfoundland again. At some point in the mid-morning it also took down that old maple. Where our neighbours incredible luck came in is how it came down. The tree managed to break apart and fall precisely onto his driveway. It missed the house, the road,and his fence. There was even a branch that hung over his hydro line and it, somehow, twisted as it fell and didn’t take it down! All that’s left is a manageable 20′ ish trunk in the ground (he’s thinking about turning it into a carved decoration) and lots of easily disposed of bits, conveniently located right next to his truck. He’s actually coming out of it ahead of the game, since he was going to have to have someone come in and remove it this summer. I told him that with luck like that, he needed to go out and buy himself some lottery tickets!

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The weather has been staying pretty steadily in the not-all-that-warm range  but things haven’t been moving much in the garden. I think part of that is the total lack of rain. We’re supposed to have some falling over the weekend, so I’m hoping that we’ll see some more changes after then. In the meantime, we do have quite a bit of bird action going on. We’re getting yelled at by assorted nesters any-time we try to do anything around the bigger trees. A couple of empty egg-shells have turned up on the lawn and I also found this nest. It looks like it was from last year but I guess it was in a prime location and it got tossed out so the real estate could be taken over.  It’s a little under 4″ long, so must have been made by one of the smaller birds, maybe a sparrow or songbird. I considered picking it up but I’m a little too well aware of just how many types of bugs can be present in them, (and didn’t really want to go the fumigation route, even if we had any appropriate chemicals on hand, which we don’t) so it got left where it was, after I admired it’s cozy construction.

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Pretty much, with the masks, I just make what I want to and then list them as finished pieces.  However, I do get the occasional call for custom work. A little while ago I had a request for a pair of masks in the very traditional Venetian pairing of gold and off-white. I also don’t typically do pairs since the way I hand- make my masks means they won’t be exactly identical, but the client said she was fine with a bit of variation. They were a fun to do, and I love the look of the gold gilding against the the antiqued white. (and I’ve got to remember to make a few more of this style for the shop) Once they were done, they got wrapped up and went off to California. I don’t often get see what my clients end up doing with their masks, but Margaret, a photographer, was kind enough to send me some of the pictures from her first shoot using them! (and it looks like she’ll be using them again for even more!) I love the soft dreamy feel in the pictures and am impressed with how well her models beautiful eyes show through the mask. (especially since we didn’t have a chance to custom fit them in advance) You can check out more of the shots on her facebook page and also her blog.

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