Monday, April 25, 2011

Dazzling Dahlias!

We all get to see a lot of GREAT art on blogs. We're treated to spectacular illustrations of horses, hummingbirds, hares and hostas--unfortunately, THIS is not one of those blogs. So, please bear with me as I showcase some of my watercolor experiments from my online class.

Today's subject--Dahlias! (I'll get to horses--give me time....lots of time.)

We planted 28 Dahlias this weekend. There were so many varieties and colors, I had to make a schematic to keep up with them all. Part way into the process I realized I could do it with watercolors, and so I transferred the image to watercolor paper and had a try at it. (This is just the front yard! Woohoo--Dazzling Dahlias everywhere--eventually!)

So far, I'm really enjoying my watercolor class. We're still getting used to our brushes and learning how to mix colors. It's a lot of fun and very relaxing.

Believe it or not, our town sold out of Dahlia bulbs last year. What the hay? How does that happen? Not to have a repeat of that 2010 Dahlia fiasco, I bought EVERY bulb Walmart sold--pink, peach, red, yellow, lilac, orange and variations of all those colors. Here is a picture of my Dahlias from 2009.

I have high hopes for my 2011 Dahlias. Let it rain!

More summertime's a picture of....WATERMELON! (Bet you haven't thought much about watermelon this year with all the snow, sleet, hail, and wind.)

I call this piece, Watermelon Pancake.

The thing I love about my online watercolor class is we're encouraged to experiment, make mistakes and have fun. There's a real emphasis on those very things, even before the painting itself, which, for me, is freeing. So far I've found this to be an extremely relaxing and rewarding endeavor. I can't wait to have a try at my horses....soon.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter, Everyone!

Well, we finally got our sunshine, and just in time for our daughter's Senior Prom. This will be the last time I get to help her prepare for a formal dance...until her wedding. So, it was a big day for me. I got lots of pictures! My little horse buddy daughter is ALL grown up. And I do think horses have helped shape her into a lovely, strong woman.

Shiloh drove her group in our 4x4 Limo. And, at the end of the night, she was voted Prom Queen. I don't know where she gets THOSE genes. Well, actually I do. Her grandma and aunt were like that.

She's all grown up, but what a treasure she's been to me all her life. She and I were always very, very close. I homeschooled her up to the 7th grade and she'd go on all my horseback rides and out to all the lunches with my horse buddies. She was one of us when she was only ten years old.

Today is sunshine again and warm temperatures! There really will be a spring! We're going for an Easter ride with our horses and then back home to plant Dahlias.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter day, too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


This is too much! More snow? Really? I am supposed to be loading my barrels and meeting my friends for a playday this morning NOT sitting through a mini-blizzard.

Oh well, more coffee. Though today calls for a little something in that coffee. Wake me up when spring comes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Beautiful Escape Artist

Well, artist might not be the word for it. There's no mystery how she got out of her 24' run. I guess that's why they tell you to get the extra tall panels for Mustangs.

The miracle is there are no apparent injuries, but I'll be watching her closely today.

I don't like to see my Beautiful Girl be this herd bound. The herd wasn't even out to pasture--they were in the turnout that surrounds her stall. I have some thinking to do.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. I had a wonderful 44th. My husband cooked up some filets and we had homemade Tennessee Muscat wine. It was very nice.

My husband purchased two gifts for me. One was a Royal Star Magnolia to replace the other he'd bought for me on Mother's Day three years ago. We had an early freeze one fall, that came before the leaves had turned color, and it killed my sweet Magnolia. My new one is inside until it's safe to plant. I'm enjoying its blossoms right now.

Here's me with my little nephew at the party. I think my husband took the photo in black in white to make me feel older.

And here's the other gift he bought for me--a jewelry cabinet. It has the tooling and turquoise conchos. I kind of love it.

It's a mirror....

and voila! It's a jewelry cabinet!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's A Wonderful Life

Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunshiney day here in the Northwest. After spending a little morning time with my animals, I woke up my daughter, who is on spring break, and took her to coffee and Krispy Kreme Donuts. We also went shopping for art supplies so I can get started on my watercoloring before the class actually begins.

When my daughter was young, we kept an art room stocked for her at all times; it was our tiled sunroom that looked out onto our landscape and gardening. It was a magical little room where she and her cat would spend hours at art play. She had her easel and canvases, brushes and acrylic paints in one area, and her sculpting table, with a continuing work of clay, at another.

I homeschooled back then, and felt that accessible art and lots and lots of animals were the key to raising observant and happy children. Part of their Science was to keep a Nature Journal where they sketched and painted things they saw in the natural world. They also had portable flower presses we'd made from scratch. We hiked a lot and, of course, my daughter became my number one riding buddy.

Those were some of the most wonderful times, and being with her at the art supply store yesterday brought much of that back. However, this time the art supplies were for me. (I have a feeling someone else is going to be tapping into them, though.)

After we got home, she had to go to work. My sweet husband was also at work. And my darling son was gone on a snowboarding trip to Whitefish, Montana. So, I was alone.

I spent the afternoon working with my horses in the sunshine and playing with the barn kitty. I also got to play piano for an uninterrupted two wonderful hours and, afterward, experiment with my new paints and waterbrushes.

I can't sing the praises of the waterbrush enough. You fill up the tube with water, replace the cap, and you can take it on the road. I watched the videos (below) about etching squares of color onto a sheet with watercolor pencils, then dabbing into those colors with the waterbrush, for a wholly portable and cheap system. Fabulous idea! It worked perfect. In fact, I created the picture of the Widow Grass with that method. So, you can go anywhere and sketch out, then fill in, a painting in your journal.

Today looks like another pretty one, and I'll spend it with my husband who wants to go out and get the food for the barbecue he's putting together for my 44th birthday party tomorrow. I'm really excited about it because my family is all coming up. Woohoo! That is the greatest gift--having family together. Unfortunately, I will be missing one of my sons, but hopefully we can catch up on the phone some time during the day.

We do have our stresses around here (Tax Day, for one), but I sure feel blessed. I feel loved and surrounded with people, animals, flora and fauna--all that exude sweet spirits. My husband and I have a plaque we put up that says, "It's a Wonderful Life." How true that is.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Something New and Exciting

I'm taking on a fun new adventure--watercolor!

I was over at Joanne's blog, Whole Latte Life, this morning and read her interview with Laure Ferlita--watercolor artist--and found out she teaches online classes. I followed the link to her website, Imaginary Trips, and thought--now that would be a blast--a watercolor class! I hadn't really thought about it before, but the idea struck me like a wild herd of runaway horses! (I know that image will resound with those of you with herds of wild horses.)

Imagine this: a watercolor journal of my garden--crocus, lilies, daffodils, daisies, snowdrops, lilacs, dahlias....ahhhhh. And imagine this: a watercolor journal of my horses--Beautiful Girl now, Beautiful Girl as a baby, Old Red, Sweet Cowboy, fearful Jasmine....ahhhh.

I reserved my spot. I purchased my supplies. I'm chomping at the bit.

Blog Issues

Any suggestions?

It seems that anyone using "Cutest Blog On the Block" will not open up with my computer. It makes it impossible for me to visit some of my normal blogs.

Is it just me?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stages of the Crocus

I've been photographing flowers more than my horses--I think, because each unfolding of a new bloom means I'm that much closer to true Spring--sunshine, dry trails, happy horses.

Last year I planted Crocus, even though I'd blogged about them for two years on my other blog--Emily Dickinson's Garden. What a joy to watch them come up. It's love. Here's today's post from that blog for those of you who also garden.:

This diagram is from A Handbook of Crocus and Colchicum for Gardeners by E. A. Bowles Ma.A., F.L.S., F.r.E.S., V.M.H. published by The Garden Book Club, 121 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. in 1955. I found this on a wonderful British site: Ivy Dene Gardens.

"She opens the paper wrappings,
hands delicate as a crocus unfolding
in the morning light. Little hands working
to part the frail chapter of circumstance
where histories float like clouds on an untouchable scrim."

From, The Vistor, by Anya Russian

Here are the stages of the Crocus, in pictures, taken from my own garden Spring 2011.

1. Leaves push up from the ground.

2. Spathe emerges. You can see the purple of the flower cocooned within. This is like the birthing phase and the spathe is like the womb. It almost looks alien.

3. Bloom pushes out of the spathe.

4. Bloom begins to unfold.

And unfold...

And unfold.

More crocus in The Garden:

Karin Gottshall from her book: Crocus

To read entire book, click on link above.

I was in bed all day with the sun

and a heavy dictionary.
I watched the cat fall asleep
on the wove rug. Outside

a bird unspooled its song in wide,
round loops: drifting off,
coming back. Memory is like that—

words loosed like dust motes,
a dream I slip into: this cat’s
green-eyed mother, her grave

under licorice root and money trees.
Then come the angels of the afternoon
with their wings of flame.

one day language will unbind itself
from me—even to the barest
particulars: the first time

I heard the word crocus, the new
spring sun on my shoulder, smell
of mud—quick freshet
working itself free. At last
to release this word I
into the long blue currents of the sea.

"A Mind Like Still Water": Information

I loved this chapter, Information, in Whole Heart, Whole Horse, by Mark Rashid. I've been reflecting on it the last couple of weeks as I work with my horses, and I've decided, in my mind, this is THE most important part of being a good horsewoman.

I remember back, when I was taking lessons with a wonderful trainer, and she'd taught me a number of what I thought were hard and fast rules about working with horses. In fact, I followed them to the tee or, at least, thought I was following them to the tee. Then, slowly, as we rode together day in and day out, I saw that she was often breaking her own rules. I'd ask her why she'd done this or that thing and she'd point out something the horse did to make her think she needed to do something different.

It hit me: there are no hard and fast rules.

This Chapter is all about letting go of our expectations and prejudices, becoming like still water, and allowing the situation to be just what it is, no more, no less--like a perfect reflection off that still water.

After ruminating on this, I've come to think our advice is often wasted. Someone presents us with a problem they have with a horse, and we want to give them answers, but we're not there. We're not the ones taking in the thousands of pieces of information the horse is giving out which, when put together, may require us to do something absolutely different and even contradictory.

[***addendum later in the afternoon same day as original post. I'm thinking good advice is never wasted--it does sometimes give people a different way to look at the issue. Also, video can be very helpful--as can direct instruction. That second pair of eyes can really open up your own.]

His example is the horse who goes nuts to get to other horses. The solution: take the horse over to the other horses. Goes against everything we're told to do, doesn't it? And sometimes, truth be told, that would not be the right answer. However, it was for this horse.

This is what I love about working with horses--the challenge to develop Misu no kokoro--a mind like still water. (Not a bad frame of mind to exist in, huh?) No one knows more about your horse than you (if you're willing to look with new eyes). It's a completely dynamic and ever-changing relationship. The horse you have today is not the horse you had yesterday. Likewise, the person you were yesterday is not the person you are today. All the good you did. Gone. (Sorry) All the bad you did? Gone. (Congratulations.) The horse will take you where you are now.

Kind of exciting, isn't it?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Wild Iris In Our Pasture

This beautiful gift of grace was growing in our pasture as I walked with the dogs and horses today. One of the first signs of spring here in the Pacific Northwest; the Grass Widow (Olsynium douglasii) is a member of the Iris family and the sole representative of its genus in the United States.

Every year we find it blooming in late March and early April. Hopefully, it's not toxic to horses.

Here's a poem in its honor from one of my favorite poets:

The Wild Iris

by Louise Gluck

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Trip To the Big City

On this blog, you usually only see pictures of our barn and pastures, horses, and trail rides, and if you're like most horse people, that's all you probably want to see. Unfortunately, though, we do have to leave Eden every once in a while and head out into the big, dark metropolis that is Spokane.

Actually, we love Spokane, and I enjoyed photographing it today on our way to and from Big R--the local ranch store. Here we are heading home on the freeway. Notice the gloomy weather? We were supposed to get sunshine.

Here is the old Presbyterian church.

I love this next shot--McDonalds. All those beautiful, old buildings and Micky D's. We like our fast food in the Pacific Northwest!

But what we like even more is the BUFFET! Whoa Nelly, pull the car over at the nearest exit.

Here's the main artery to the downtown, Lincoln St.

It was long journey to the big city today, but it was all worth it for this:



And a little of this....