Sandhill Crane Sunset

New painting to share.

I just can’t get enough of these amazing birds. They will be taking off by their hundreds and thousands, heading south soon in their raucous yearly migration. It’s quite a sight, but I hate to see it happen, not only because I love seeing them around, but because it means summer is at its end, and fall is here, with winter close on its heels.

The colts are just taking their first tentative flights, so I figure we have a few more weeks with these beauties yet, so I’m greedily drinking up all of the sightings I can. And then it’s only memories until next spring when they arrive en masse again.

The painting, Sandhill Crane Sunset, is 12×24 acrylic on canvas and is available for purchase. I haven’t decided yet if I will be making prints available for this title. If so I will post that info along with the picture info in the gallery.

Egg Overload

In the quest for greater self sufficiency sometimes we come upon some interesting challenges. For instance, what do you do when these:

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of our “First Ladies.” (The first three chickens we raised.)
Pipi and Charlotte

Produce way too many of these?

So many eggs!

My daughter has been selling some of our excess eggs to earn money for buying a computer, but so far supply is far outpacing demand. And our family can only eat so many eggs fried, poached, boiled, deviled and scrambled. We’ve had our share of omelettes and quiche as well and are growing tired of these tried and true egg basics. So I’ve been giving my recipe books a workout to find more ways to use up eggs, including baked egg custards, home made mayonnaise, lots of quick breads (zucchini, banana, cranberry) bread pudding…and still we have eggs.

And then I thought of this:

Pasta!

Yeah, baby, six eggs per batch! This is going to put a serious dent in the egg population around here! I’ve been making batches of pasta by hand, but that is exhausting, so I just got pasta roller and pasta cutter attachments for my kitchen aide stand mixer so I can really crank out the noodles. I will never have to hit up the pasta aisle again!

So glad to be able to find a way to adequately use up the bounty our girls produce. I needed to get that sorted this year because next year we are getting a cow and I’m going to have gallons and gallons of milk and cream to find ways of using. The abundant blessings of farm life. Gotta love it.

Raven Sings the Salmon Home

Thought I’d share my latest work. This one is titled Raven Sings the Salmon Home.

Ravens are such fascinating birds. They are highly intelligent, with complex behaviors and social structures and I love watching them go about their busy lives. But when I was painting this picture I had in my mind not these real-life stories of ravens, but all of the various myths and legends surrounding ravens. There are so many from varied cultures worldwide, but I was mostly thinking of the Native American and Alaska Native versions–Raven as trickster, as creator, as bringer of fire among other things. And I thought, if I were to give Raven credit for something, my own little myth, I’d give him credit for starting the annual salmon migration by calling the fish from the sea back home to their natal streams to mate, die, and begin their life cycle anew. Such a vital task for this iconic bird. So I set about painting a picture to illustrate this “myth”. This painting is the result.

Raven Sings the Salmon Home is available for sale in the gallery. Prints will be available as soon as I can get it properly photographed.

Worse ways to spend an hour

Chamomile flowers drying

I was in the greenhouse picking chamomile flowers for tea a few days ago, and silly me was being a little grumpy about how long it as taking to fill my basket with the tiny flowers. Each flower must be carefully, individually plucked by hand and it took me about an hour of constant plucking to get enough to feel like it was worth doing. Not nearly as instantly gratifying as scooping up an armful of kale, or lopping off heads of broccoli. Tedious, even.

But then I thought –“Who complains about having to spend an hour picking sweet-smelling flowers, of all things? And in my very own greenhouse, on my very own beautiful farm in Alaska?” Wow. How selfish of me.

I need to remember how lucky I am to be able to have the luxury of spending an our in this way, when people all over the world are spending their hours in much, much worse ways.

Consider my attitude adjusted. I’ll think about this lesson every time I drink a cup of chamomile tea this winter, and remember just how blessed I am.

Fishing Village Morning

I just added a new painting to the gallery!

Fishing Village Morning

This painting was inspired by all of the tiny fishing villages in coastal Alaska, with their homes all crowded along the narrow shoreline, tucked in between the mountains and the sea, sometimes spilling over into the bays, perched up on stilts. They are lovely to see as you pass them by when sailing along the inside passage or other narrow byways on the Alaska Marine Highway system. For some of these remote villages, the ferry is their main connection to the rest of the state, otherwise isolated except by float plane. I always wonder as I pass them by, who lives here? What are their lives like? What are their stories? And though I have visited some of them, there are so many I know I will never get the chance to experience. It is amazing to me that in a country so crowded, so connected, so busy, that there are still places like these. It certainly is a very different life than that of most Americans, or even most Alaskans. And yet here they sit. Mile after hundreds of miles of them, dotted along the edges of Alaska.

Painting is available for purchase. See details in the Gallery.

Seal or Sea Lion?

One common question visitors or newcomers to Alaska often ask, when spotting marine mammals in coastal waters, is “Is that a seal or a sea lion?”

To answer that, I will describe them both for you and then give you some tips to tell the difference.

First, Seals:

Hello Harbor Seals 11×14 acrylic on cradled wood panel.

These are harbor seals, which are the seals you will most commonly see in the parts of Alaska most folks visit. They are grey-brown and speckled, with large eyes, and tend to hang out alone. You will most likely spot them just sort of hanging out in the water, peeking above the waterline, or moving quietly around, disappearing and re-appearing here and there. They are distinct from Sea Lions in that they have no ear flaps. If you see one out of the water (rare-they spend the majority of their time afloat) they move awkwardly, scooting and flopping along on their bellies because of their short front flippers and their hind flippers that point straight behind. For this reason they avoid going ashore and prefer to stay in the water where they can swim quite gracefully. Harbor seals average around 300 lbs at adulthood, with males slightly larger than females.

Next, Sea Lions:

Sea Lioness 11×14 acrylic on canvas

This is a female Steller Sea Lion (or lioness). Steller sea lions are golden brown in color, with darker brown points (extremities), and can often be seen actively swimming in the large, mixed age and sex social groups in which they live. They have long front flippers they use to propel themselves through the water and small ear flaps. Unlike seals, sea lions can often be spotted hauled out on rocky shorelines, docks, or navigational buoys. They move on land by rotating their hind flippers forward so that they scoot on all fours and can move fairly quickly on land. They can also be quite loud and rowdy, with males reaching up to 1200 pounds and growling or roaring their opinions to the much smaller (around 500 lbs) but equally vocal females.

In my paintings, I have tried to convey the very different impressions one gets of these two often confused marine mammals. I’ve painted calm, soothing icy water gently surrounding the floating seals, and a sea lioness actively hunting as she dives in pursuit of her prey, while turbulent water swirls around her.

I hope this helps you to spot the differences and be able to identify two of Alaska’s beautiful and charismatic marine mammals.

Both paintings are available for purchase. Details in the Gallery.

Summer in the Alaska Garden

Things are really growing around here! Just look at those brussels sprouts and potatoes!

It’s hot. I mean, not South Florida hot, but still…

We’ve had record breaking heat here in Alaska this year and have been struggling without the relief of our usual cool coastal rains here on the Kenai Penninsula. Wildfires are raging all around the state and everyone is being so very careful not to burn anything or do anything that would cause a spark. Keeping fingers crossed.

Here at the Twin Spruce homestead we are doing our part by keeping our garden well-watered, and the veggies are responding by growing like crazy. So I thought I’d share a peek into our summer garden.

The Asian greens, arugula, lettuce and spinach have all bolted from the heat, but the potatoes are loving it. I am having to mulch the broccoli beds to keep the soil cool–a first around here, where I’m usually concerned more about growth being retarded by too cool soil!

Keeping the greenhouse from overheating has been a challenge, but with the addition of some well-placed fans, we are managing. And we have some pretty green tomatoes just starting to fill out as our reward. We’ve also been harvesting and drying herbs for the winter. I just put up a pint of dried oregano today and tomorrow I will start in on the sage. And just look at that chamomile! I can already imagine chilly winter evenings with a warm cup of chamomile tea by my side. Yum!

How’s your garden growing?