Here in Alaska the leaves are beginning to turn and the air smells of autumn now. I’ve been happily sketching on our deck and in the neighborhood. It feels so good to get out and enjoy the mountain air. I hope you get a chance to do the same. Below are some sketches from my sketchbook and at the bottom are some links to artists’ blogs whose sketches are so inspiring to me. The link at the bottom is full of resources if you catch the sketchbook bug.
Summer has been peculiar in Alaska this year. It feels as if we’ve had three Springs and four Falls in just two months. Fresh snow on the mountains one day causes flooding from the melting snow the next.
Today was rainy so I picked some flowers from my garden and sketched on the deck until rain forced me back in. This is part of the Sketchbook Challenge I started a few weeks ago.
My rhubarb plants are in a class by themselves. If you give them an inch, they will take over the whole yard. The plants are four feet tall and six feet wide with leaves two feet across and stalks are almost five inches around. I’ve divided them several times in the seven years they have lived here. Their diminutive parents live a controlled life in a neighbor’s yard and I have a friend who has managed to grow bonsai rhubarb; the stalks are the size of a pencil with leaves like baby mittens.
I read about rhubarb and discovered “rhubarb is a heavy feeder”. My rhubarb could qualify for “Over-Eaters Anonymous”. You might think that I have heaped fertilizer and water on them, but I haven’t. They just grow…and grow. The lower leaves end up in the compost, but a couple of times a summer I’ll make a rhubarb custard pie. One of my favorite recipes is for Rhubarb Nectar. Let me know if you make it. I’m happy to share if you would like some stalks, or a plant…or two.
Spring is a long way off in Alaska. The days are longer, but it will be several weeks until there is enough heat in the sun rays to melt the mountains of snow outside. My rhubarb plant has about five feet of snow over it. I’m trying so very hard not to whine, but the posts of glorious spring weather I read about on Facebook cause me to sigh. Denial is working pretty well for me. I bought a sprig of fake dogwood and I chose to paint spring. Dogwood trees don’t grow in Alaska, but we have a pretty little dogwood flower that grows about six inches high…also under mountains of snow. I don’t want to think about it. I’m going to plant seeds and paint.
Colorful dyes flow onto the beautiful silk and I set them with an iron as music plays in the background. Then the frustration begins. I carefully sew the hem at the top and bottom of the flag with my sewing machine, then tear it out because thread snarls up underneath and the stitches have jumped randomly about. And yes, I have tried all the tension adjustments (on the machine and in my mind) and I have put a piece of paper under the fabric to give it stability. Since sewing is one of my least favorite things to do, this has brought an end to making these flags and a beginning of a new use for the machine as a boat anchor. If you happen to have a suggestion for a friendly sewing machine, I might reconsider. For now, this is the end and I feel a huge sense of relief. Would you like to see the other three flags?
When I first started gardening I bought plants at a nursery called Dearborn Farm in the Valley. It was a family run business and my friends and I would often go there for sturdy Alaska grown plants. Mrs Dearborn, a little old lady who was always there, told me about the great varieties they sold. As the years went by, she became less active but every time I saw her, she was handling plants. I took her photo years ago, thinking I would paint her someday. Yesterday was the day and this is the result. I just looked up her son’s phone number and will see if they might like to have it. I painted it for fun, but the memory might be very special for them.
Last spring I bought a seed packet for multicolored carrots. I planted them with great anticipation and they grew according to plan until the poor things had their tops eaten off by ravaging moose. Although stunted, they were pretty and I thought such lovely specimens would taste good. I rinsed one with the garden hose and took a bite, and wondered if I had ever eaten a scouring pad before. They were fibrous with a flavor very similar to soap.
Determined to make them edible, I slathered them with olive oil, spices and salt and popped them in the oven. Our son came by and asked my husband for help moving a refrigerator into his nearby house. I decided to go along and leave the carrots to roast. Ninety minutes is too long to roast carrots. During the visit, my husband kindly asked if the carrots were OK, and I confidently reassured him that they take a long time to get soft. A cloud of blue haze greeted us when we opened the door but unbelievably, some of the carrots were excellent. A few unfortunate ones had turned to blackened char, collapsing with a psst when touched.
If you roast carrots, forty-five minutes would most likely be sufficient… unless you prefer blue smoke.