Friday, May 18, 2012


This is my most waited for event in Spring- Lilac blooming time (followed closely by Peony blooming time). Anyhow, we have a couple of Lilac Hedges at our place, and they produce a lot of blooms, for only a couple of weeks a year, and I love that about these hedges, they seem so luxurious, and special, and yet they are present on even the most practical of Manitoba farms. They make great windbreaks you know, and lovely hedges, and they really do provide ample amounts of privacy once they get growing. But I can just see the first farm wives coming here to this tree-less, utterly practical and remote place, and craving something just like this- some sort of pretty balm for their poor winter weary souls.

I am always somewhat surprised to realize just how harsh our climate is, even though I know it- even though I know all through winter that for most people -20 is not only moderately cold. Even though I sit at my computer and read blogs of people who are eating produce from their garden right now- in May, I still sort of harbour the fantasy that our climate is kind of lovingly hard to survive in. But that's truly understatement- and one that is only fostered by the existence of Insulation, Manitoba Hydro and Sorel Boots.

It is a harsh climate most of the year, and it must have seemed like a miracle to those first Pioneers that something like a Lilac hedge or a Peony could survive and thrive here. The colour and scent must have been so needed, after a winter of woodsmoke and darkness, smelly bodies, and freezing winter air, the Lilac must have just hinted at the wealth of abundance that was coming.

Anyhow- today N and I picked some Lilacs to try out a recipe for Lilac Sorbet I've been saving since April, I didn't know you could eat Lilac- and am determined to try it- the base is getting cold now- and I'll let you know how it all turns out.  It's a bit hard to tell with my summer cold if it's tasting like anything at all really. I also tried to make some Lilac water- but so far the water just smells to me like boiled herbaceous matter- maybe it's my cold- or maybe it's the method, I don't know, at any rate it afforded me a chance to take some lovely photos of the flowers in the bottom of my canner sprinkled with water drops.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The giant Hostas Mum sent me in the mail from B.C-
they're doing pretty well, they probably don't realize they're in zone 3 yet.

This giant smile is because she just clung to my leg and licked it- this is how it is around here-
like a mama sandwich- one babe on the inside and one on the outside. The other day N was leaning on my stomach and the baby kicked her in the head- pretty hilarious.

On Monday N and I braved the wind and got our pansies planted, All of my window boxes and planters and flower beds around the house are done, and I'm so happy for that. It's still very early really, and we;re sort of taking a chance on it- but Pansies and violets are pretty tough, and really may long weekend is sort of the 'planting time' around here so a week earlier shouldn't be too risky with the weather we've been having.  Anyways, I have mostly have perennials around the house, and have been sort of shuffling them, and dividing them, and re arranging them to suit my liking, I think I've just about got them where I want them- we'll see how they do this year- and if they need to move I'll do it next spring. 

It was supposed to be the week we put seeds in the big garden too- but N is sick and K is sick, and I'm just fighting it off with the Neti pot and vitamin C, so that's pretty time consuming. Despite the plague and the really strong wind that's been hammering our area, I've managed to get most of the seeds in the ground. We did onions and potatoes and corn last week, but today I went out while the sickies rested and got in all the root vegetables (how did I end up with four varieties of Carrots? and only one variety of beet?), and Greens, the only things left are peas and lettuce. Oh and the milk jug flowers.

I've transplanted all the bachelor's buttons, which took to the winter sowing method the best- but then were quickly outgrowing their confines. and the sweet peas have been transplanted too- destined for containers by my front doors, I'm hoping the early start will translate into earlier blooms. All in all the winter sowing was pretty effective, and because I have limited growing space for seedlings indoors, I felt like it was more reasonable to winter sow the flowers for the garden. Hopefully I'll have a lot of flowers for cutting, and lots to attract pollinators, and deter pests. I think I'll do some the same way next year- but maybe less cosmos- they get really huge out in the full sun, and tend to shade out the veggies- so I try to use them pretty sparingly- though they are very pretty.

I'm hoping to get it all in the ground before Friday, but we'll see about that- it's tough enough planting with a well toddler- I forget how a sick toddler assumes barnacle status, and the roomy space you usually operate with (an inch) becomes no space at all- with a runny nose pressed up against your thigh.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Filling the Well

I did the Artists Way last year- and I thought for the most part it was a good thing to do- after school and all the pressure associated with producing work- art making was starting to seem like something that wasn't fun or good or natural. It felt forced to me, and as though I would let people down if I didn't apply for that grant,and get this show, or make some SERIOUS work, god forbid I 'take time off' to have a child or try to sell some work to make some cash.

The Artists Way helped me to rethink art making, and why I do it, and what I love about it. Though I didn't agree with everything she wrote I do think it is extremely helpful to think about your creative well, and to acknowledge that it takes a different sort of person to make art, that creative people really are different, and they have some specific needs. I think that filling your creative well is actually really important, and it makes the difference in your work, how productive you are and how happy you are.

The idea that Creating takes something out of you, saps some energy form your core, or however you want to look at it, doesn't just apply to artists, I think it actually applies to mothering as well. It's one of those things that we don't quantify, maybe we can't quantify about motherhood. I think the emotional work involved is very much the same as that involved in making art (for great writing about the emotional work of motherhood go here- it's brilliant). It takes a special sort of concentration, and devotion to raise kids, or to make a body of work, or to follow through on a concept. And that concentration comes from within you- it has to be motivated by you, by something other than outside recognition and reward.

Anyhow- there is truth to the idea that you can burn out from creating, you can use up your creative well, and just not have the energy left to go in there and pull something new out. That's why it's so important to fill that well, which is easier than it sounds. It's different for everyone of course, but it involves looking after yourself a bit, being nice to yourself, and doing something that maybe is silly, but you love it anyhow, something that makes you feel fresh again.  It's little things all put together that fill the well- and yes making work will fill a little of that void too, the more you make work, the better you feel about making work, even if at first you feel just a little forced into it.

I've been focusing on filling my well this week making uninvolved slab plates and bowls, just to keep doing something in the studio, keep my hands busy in clay really. We've been planting stuff outside, and eating dessert based on the children's story "The Poky little Puppy"( strawberry shortcake, chocolate custard, and rice pudding), reading stories, looking at other people who inspire me, listening to the vinyl cafe podcast, and finding new songs to love. I plan to go thrift store shopping, and buy some myself flowers to plant. I'm going to paint my toenails, and give myself a manicure, really just a hand scrub and emery board trim- not much point in nice nails at this time of year, but the act of sitting down and doing something just for you, that fills the well.

Because all this stuff takes energy- making work, dealing with a toddler, growing a baby, caring for a household. And that energy needs to come from somewhere, it does get depleted, you can just run out of the energy to do it with the same determination and attention as before, you'll still do it- of course- when it comes to raising a family, you've got no choice, someone has to wipe the bums, and clean up the pee, and explain to the toddler that those are 'rude eyes', and 'nice' eyes are so much more conducive to getting what you want- but it's not the same, and when you feel like you're at that point where the enthusiasm is flagging, it's time to fill the well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In the Studio

Hi Folks, I made a bunch of stuff this week- but I neglected to photograph it before I put it in the kiln today- it'll look the same when it comes out- no worries. I also meant to post yesterday- but got sidetracked with picking up some plants, and some more clay supplies. So fresh Clay this week- plus a whole lot of new stains, and some new glaze recipes to try- I'm excited by it- honestly- though the excitement is flagging with the coming of planting time.

There is something sort of special about this time of year I think- some primal draw to the outside world- to digging, and splitting, and propagating and planting, to searching for asparagus shoots (then watching in dismay as your two year old picks the one inch shoot and shoves it in her mouth, I guess I'll have to start eating my asparagus that way too, if I'm going to get any at all, it's the strawberries all over again- incidentally I bought 60 roots this year so hopefully that will be enough to ensure the adults get to eat some). So I'm sort of starting to wind down on studio time I think, I'll be spending more days outside- more days cooking, and more time with my hands in the dirt.

Summer is the season of food around here, and Spring is the season of anticipation. We wait for the Lilacs to bloom, and the seeds to sprout, and it all seems to be going to so slowly, and then suddenly there's this mad rush in June and everything is surprisingly too big, and you're picking ten zucchini a day and forgetting to eat the beans fresh. I want to enjoy the waiting, but patience is something I've taught myself- not something that comes naturally, though it is helpful to read quotes like this one:


"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. "

- Mary Sarton