Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Memory

It is with regret and great sadness that I share with you that my mother has passed away.   As many of you know, she was 83 and battling cancer for almost 3 years. 
My dad and I (as well as other members of her family) were with her in those final moments. She went peacefully and without pain.  I express gratitude more than words can say for the Hospice and nursing home caregivers -
she died with those 'angels' surrounding her. 

We are very sad and trying to ease our pain by leaning on one another right now. 
Much healing will hopefully happen in the days ahead. 
My mom was a classy gal, full of life and love.  All the many things she did in her life we are reminiscing about...but one thing most importantly was that she was always thinking of others - much of the time more than herself.  She supported and encouraged us in whatever we wanted in life. 

She was such a casual bird watcher and lover.  As we arrived at the nursing home yesterday, where she was being cared for in her final days ~ I found solace in the gentle lilting song of a male cardinal from a nearby tree as we entered the doors. She would have heard it, too. She was always stopping us to listen and look.  I learned so much about being a strong woman from her and am amazed at her strength as she faced her cancer with determination
and her commitment to acceptance of her 'plight'.   Many times it seems life isn't fair but we are given the tools to deal with whatever comes our way - if we just accept it for what it is.  Another source of my admiration of strength has been from my dad.  He has been caregiving for my mom in such a devoted, loving, selfless and understanding way.  Without his care and love, mom wouldn't have had that extra time with us all. 

Those of you who have expressed your concern and sent well wishes my way, I hold them close to my heart.

MOM I love you - you were the best!  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Oil Painting of Tulips

"Afternoon Solace"
oil on wrapped canvas
10" x 20"
I noticed that there is a shine on this photo.  Will take another when it is drier. 
I was inspired by visiting photos of my own work.  If you remember, some time ago I did a pastel of tulips (click on that phrase to see it).  I love this format, longer than taller. 
The previous one was small,
but I liked the colors of blue and pink and wanted to go larger.
I love also that it doesn't need a frame.
Here are the sides ~ the subject continues around the edges.

I waited to sign the work until it laid flat.
I have trouble signing my name when it is upright.
Look for this one for sale on Etsy, soon.
With all the heat, I have been spending lots more time in the studio, therefore, this title has a double meaning!
I see a big dark sky off to the south, I hope it is some RAIN!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Pastel Painting of a Heifer

"Hereford Crossing on Cumbres Pass/Colorado"
6" x 8"
pastel on Art Spectrum ground matboard

I have an abundance of personal photos that I use to paint from. This one has been in my que for a long's one of those, "Well here's a challenge! Let's see how this one goes?"  Cumbres Pass is so much closer to the sun...over 10K feet.  I was following and photographing the narrow gauge railroad train as it went up the pass..came around the corner in my car to a screeching halt and came upon this cattle crossing.

And this one worked. 
I love the yellow sunlight on the edge of this heifer's back. 

Watching and photographing animals is one of my favorite I move through life, I always stop to watch animals, wild or domestic, two-legged or four-legged.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where I Stand Sunday

Living on 8 acres - has it's benefits - and it's drawbacks.  In summertime the grass area we mow, which is most of it, seems to be a never ending task.  As soon as you are through with the last are ready to start the first one you did.  This mower was 'descompuesto' last week so the dog yard, which it is used for, became a little unkempt.  Now it's fixed, thanks to DH - always a small engine mechanic/troubleshooter.  Time to tackle it again and it is so hot that you cannot escape getting fried when you go outside. I had some trees to trim around as well, by the time I was done, the heat had once again gotten to me.  As I sat in the shade of the porch with a wet cloth and ice pack over my head guzzling a bottle of cold water, the little thermometer we have read 104 degrees in the sun with 119 heat index.  This was at 10:15 in the morning. I think I am inside for the rest of the day.
Our one big concern, although they seem to be handling it pretty well - are the chickens.
They have lots of shade, but that doesn't waylay the hot breezes that blow through the run and of course the chicken coop heats up so they can't go inside there for relief.  We set little fans around the bottom of the house, where they are seeking shelter from the sun, it seems to help some, at least they can get a breeze under their feathers.  They have begun their dust holes, where they scratch and hunker down in the coolness of the earth in the shade.  It has been amazing to watch them grow and grow.
This is Harlough, the little chick who is all of 6-7 weeks old now.  The biggest of the three - and NOT a Bantam, like I thought.  Check here to see how small she was when we got her when she was hatched.
This is Queenie the Bantam rooster.  He practices his crowing is the cutest thing to hear, it isn't quite there, but darling all the same.  I experienced wishful thinking when I bought the other two chickens that they would all (3) be hens and the name 'Queenie' stuck for such a pretty bird. 
And lastly ~ Chickenator ~ named so because she escaped the box one night in the studio and had quite an adventure in and around my books and supplies leaving evidence of where she had been.  She is a small Banty and has a lovely color to her feathers.  They have such interesting coloration.  Her girth is nothing like a chicken I have ever seen...sort of petite and thin and wirey.   She and Queenie SPAR a lot.  It is comical to see little chickens act like big chickens.  Almost certain I have two hens and one rooster..and yes, Queenie will get to stay here with us.  In these parts some people get rid of their roosters or put them outside the run to live, I am going to resist that.  This is our flock - they provide us hours of entertainment in the late afternoon and hopefully someday some eggs for meals (they are also our pets, so we won't be eating them)! 
Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing.
Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on.
There are several others who also write this on Sunday, see sidebar.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Barn Painted in Pastel

"Still Standing"
6" x 10"
pastel on matboard
(not a very good photo...)
IN Kansas, just like in many states, there are lots of these type of set-ups that are either still used, abandoned or falling down.  This one is still standing and was beside a field that was mowed and probably had farm implements or equipment inside. 
I take lots of photos of old barns. 
I love the different styles and architecture, materials and uses.
On my way home, I noticed a cool one that was a modern residence and took it's photo.
I always want to get closer to yards that are nicely landscaped, and this one was, but I was in a hurry.  I like that the old silo was still standing nearby - or maybe it was a new one. 

Here is a photo of the skies over our barn/garage/studio/shop last evening...I felt like I was looking at the skies from the movie "War of the Worlds".  Those clouds brought lots of straight-line winds, scary lightning and just a little rain.  It cooled things down.  Today the garage is 105 inside DH is using his welding machine in there...95 on our porch in the shade...the AC isn't really keeping up with the heat.  UGH!!
Doesn't it look like there is a hole that will open up and swallow us?

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Pastel Painting for Today

"Gull Dreams"
10" x 12" approx.
pastel on treated matboard
matted in a 15" x 9" frame
This painting for sale at my Etsy shop!

Loooong time since I have completed something serious in the studio.  Today I did this piece as a study for a larger one, which I think will be painted in oil instead of pastel...although that really nice blue on the foreground bird is not as doable in oil paint...may have to do a larger pastel, then an oil.
I pieced together several photos from Morguefile ~ I have birds on my mind alot lately.
Here, also, is a photo of a cool place I stopped to eat on my way back from KC yesterday.  It's in Wamego, Kansas right next to the OZ Museum
called "Toto's Tacoz!".
Really tasty tacos, as well as other dishes there
and a cute little eating area filled with OZ memorabilia!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Where I Stand Sunday

I was on my way to Kansas City today.  That's a half day's trip.  The day started out hot already.  Some photos you can see the thickness of the humidity - the kind you can "cut with a knife". 
Each time I go from home ~ to KC, I try a different way.  Sometimes I go the quickest way I know...but always see the same kind of sights. 
First, I saw these white birds sitting in the naked trees along Lake Waconda in North Central Kansas. I think they are some breed of egret.
Highway 24 is a nice stretch of sections upon sections of green crops, old farmsteads and a whole field of wind power generators.

and Kansas has a lot of wind to supply at times!!

I watched a farmer drive his flatbed truck out ahead of these cattle who eventually were at a dead run to catch up with him...must be feeding time.
And if you don't believe these signs, just try it sometime.  I have learned that even though you don't see anyone around, somehow people in the country seem to know who and what is going on down the road or around the corner.
Sometimes, only your imagination can supply the history behind some of these long ago forgotten places.  Who were the people who settled here, what were they like...?  How different life must have been for them.
Silos like these are hardly used anymore.  You usually see the metal ones.  Some have trees growing up through them they were used so long ago.  On my way back home, I intend to finally stop in this town to check out a few of the attractions there, like....
certainly there is something there that would interest me!
This spot had such beautiful tulips this spring..and now summer flowers abound.
There you have it, more proof, there are some cool sights in Kansas.  You just have to drive off the beaten path to see them!
Where I Stand Sunday is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing.
Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on.
There are several others who also write this on Sunday, see sidebar.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Chicken Coop - DONE!!

I thought perhaps the title of this post should have been ~
"When Animals Live in Better Places Than Humans"
We have worked day and weeks and hours, in drastic a stuffy garage, in the the midst of both of us working in some phase of 'wheat harvest'..
in the meantime my chicks have literally grown before our eyes...stuffed in the biggest dog crate we have, in the cool temps of the studio (and let me tell you I will be burning candles and incense for awhile to dechickenize the air in there.)
Each day was more critical than the next...get them into their new run and house..little did we know what a huge transition this would be for them.
We finally finished it - for the most part - still some minor fine tuning to do.
We started with a photo of another person's chicken house and run and made it our own from there.  As explained before, it's mostly made from recycled wood from an old garage we tore down.  Hubster is a primo engineer/designer when it comes to building things - what a creative thinker he is.  We see 'eye to eye' on these types of projects and I have always said we should build our own house...we could make a cool one..but there are so many other things to do in life - and sticking around to build a house and giving up all the other things we like to do is just not gonna happen ~
at least at this writing. presenting - THE NEW CHICKEN COOP!!
(Drum roll please..)
Inside of the house minus the pine shavings on the floor - and the laying boxes - we haven't built those yet, but will in the next few days - they need a place to practice being 'layers' - at least two of them do, I think. You can't see them, but there are 2 x 4 roosts higher off the floor.

The side of the house, with vents for fresh airing, and a door on each side for humans to clean house and gather eggs and tend to chickens if need be.

There is heavy-gauge galvanized screen/wire stapled and nailed all around the run sides and top and around the back and sides of the chicken they can have some shade, which no doubt they will.  There is electricity for a cold weather light bulb...chickens need 12 hours of light per day to lay eggs...
so the light will help with that need, as well.
The house door slides up and down...held with a hasp and a chain hooked on a screw.  A window with more embedded wire and a plexiglass slider is at the top for more air and ventilation, but also for keeping out rain and cold..the entire house is insulated walls, floor and ceiling and is so tight - no night-time marauders can invade - they may dig under the run,  but our 3 chickens will be safeguarded in the secure house if that happens.
And yes, this artist has had a paintbrush in her hand and loved every minute of it!  Every surface you see, has a coat of primer and the house an additional 'color' coat.

 This is a 'chicken eye' view of the RUN.
Which brings me to the last part of my story...hubster and I grabbed some cold ones, pulled up a few chairs and sat and watched our chickens for a couple of hours, as they transitioned from the dog crate to the yard.  Mind you, these chickens ONLY saw the outdoors - at least Harlough did - when hatched.  They have never been outside, never  heard other birds or seen them flying overhead.

We made our wager that Harlough would be the first out...for the most part, she was the bravest and we were right.  We allowed them to take their time...finally when they all seemed at comfort to venture to the middle of the yard...we had to actually extricate them from crate to they would dash back into their 'safe spot'.  It was late afternoon, wish we could have started this earlier in the day.  Eventually we had to crawl into the yard and physically put each chicken into the house and close the door for bedtime.  All went well from there though...they had their waterer and food well as their familiar little 'roost' that was in their dog crate.

Life is good for our chickens.  They will get used to their new 'safe spot' in the next few days.  They thoroughly enjoy eating grass and bugs.  They duck and run when other birds fly must be sensory overload.  They will eventually be allowed 'free range' once we are sure they know where their safe spot is. 

This house is moveable.  It is extremely heavy, but we work smart and use other items to help get the job done.  I think hubster has figured out how to hook it onto the tractor bucket to move it the next time.  The run is detachable. 
We paid dearly in man hours, brainstorming, and sweat - but this project outcome - PRICELESS!! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day - 2011!!

photo from
Missing being with my family on their annual 4th of July - Gray Family Reunion.   
I think this was the 37th one?

Where I Stood Sunday

On one hand, these flowers and plants are sitting beneath and under the cover of my large cedar tree due to the constant everyday heat...a couple of them have dried and wilted, even after being drenched in water early in the day.  On the other hand, they are here for protection from hail and straightline winds in the middle of the night.  I decided to keep them here for a few more days.  The heat has been near or over 100 degrees day after day.  It's wheat harvest.  We have both been working our seasonal jobs, he in the fields, me in the grain elevator office. 
Then it all slowed due to the rain yesterday. 
We both may be done now. He ~ because the person he was working for is done clearing his fields, me ~ the current frequency of trucks arriving at the elevator does not warrant extra help.  The planting and growing season varied between the south and the north of this county in Kansas, therefore the time of the harvest is sporadic.
Most of our time is being spent finishing up the chicken coop.  Had these photos ready yesterday but once I got into the house last night...I didn't get them on the computer.