Friday, June 28, 2013

Drawing class

Today was day five of my week-long life drawing class.  It was a stretch for me to go for six hours of drawing each day but I found it helpful in pushing my drawing to a new level.  The teacher, Bill Porteous, is the same guy that I'm doing the abstract painting with and he is a very talented guy.  Plus it was a lot of fun.

Here are a couple of the students drawing from a live model this afternoon.

And here are a couple of my more successful attempts.

One of the methods Bill used was to place semi-transparent paper over our drawing and with a dark pencil do some corrections.  It was fascinating to see how he changed our drawings.  (I probably don't need to tell you that his amendments are on the right!)  He was showing the proportions of the head and the face and some ways of creating more realism.

But Bill isn't one to dictate that we all approach things the same way.  His big thing is to give us the tools to mine our own personal vision.

I'm thinking I'll do some more drawing in the fall as it's a nice counterpoint to the abstract painting.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Another renovation!

We thought we were finished with renovations, but it wasn't to be.  The upstairs of our house on Yukon is a funky one-bedroom apartment that we've rented to students and young people for the past 30 years.

Here's what the kitchen looked like.  Kind of cute but definitely funky.

Now we're embarking on a major upgrade, with the help of our friend Sue. She has done lots of renos over the years and is going to help us with the final one, to get the space ready for her to live in.

The main change will be the removal of the wall between the kitchen and the living room to create one large living space.  This will allow light from all directions and enable a creative floor plan for kitchen and living.

This is the wall looking from the living room . . . . .  and the kitchen.

The renovation started yesterday when Harry pulled out the arborite counter to find this ancient wallpaper.

The renovation will also require new drywall, new flooring, cupboards and maybe an island, plus updated plumbing and electrical. We're going to spend the rest of the summer working on it.  I'll keep you posted.

PS:  Are we crazy?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Haliburton garden update

We're truly turning into farmers up here at the Haliburton garden.  Each day starts with Harry and Sue and I checking out the progress of the zucchini and the beans. Both are flowering now, yay!

Yesterday we harvested the last of the first crop of lettuce, and the next crop is ready to be transplanted.

Here's our flourishing rhubarb and the grapes going crazy atop their arbour. They're now trimmed back to allow the fruit to get more sun.  I also trimmed the purple flowering sage because it had flopped over. This resulted in a stunning bouquet.

The leader of all this industrious farming work is Sue, who lives in our downstairs apartment. She is an astute gardener, having been doing so for over 30 years. Here she is working in the garden. And just below that is our farm equipment.

We call it the chuckwagon.

Sue came up with a plan to help the languishing peppers and eggplant.  Yesterday she mulched them with black plastic to keep the soil warmer.  It's not all that pretty but it will help with our cooler coastal weather.

These last two photos were taken this morning in a slight drizzle.  The bees are still at work pollenating and the first zucchini will be ready soon.

Here's the first eggplant blossom. Isn't it a pretty colour?

And just in case you think it's all work around here, I turned the camera on the chairs in another corner of the garden. After the work is done we can rest here with a refreshing juice or glass of wine. 
Hey, this farm work isn't all that bad!

Friday, June 21, 2013

June or January?

We thought we had escaped it this year when the first part of June was sunny and warm.  But it was not to be. The dreaded June-uary weather slammed us yesterday. We awoke to wild wind, cold rain showers and temperatures in the 50s.

Today is the Summer Solstice and outside it's grey and cool.

The basil and the peppers and the beans are languishing in the garden. My garden tools lie abandoned in the front yard and the leaves of the Arbutus tree are falling. 

Actually, this is typical weather for Vancouver Island in June. We don't get our summer high pressure until maybe the second week in July. As for the falling leaves, this is normal for the Arbutus tree, which sheds its leaves all summer long. The weather forecast is for more rain next week but, fingers crossed, we'll find some summer weather in July.  

Plus the cool weather is good for the rhubarb and the chives. Sue harvested some rhubarb stocks from this giant plant a couple of days ago.  A nice warm Rhubarb crisp will get us through this June-uary weather.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

An old dog

Just found this photo of Maggie taken about 15 months ago when we took our last trip in Mohita. She looks to me like Whistler's Mother, an old woman wrapped up in a shawl. She's sitting in the front seat and looking out the window.

Sad to say but our dear Maggie at age 14 going on 15 is really showing her age now. She has lost muscle and staggers around and sometimes even falls over. She finds it hard going upstairs and I've taken to lifting her in and out of the car. It's hard to see this because she used to be such a fast, athletic dog.

But just today I took her to the vet and got some exercises to help develop her core muscles.  It's kind of like Pilates for dogs.  We're hoping that by doing this with her we can prolong the inevitable decline and have her happy and comfortable for some time to come. She still enjoys her food and playing with Geordie but she's really slowing down.

I also learned today about doing some simple massage of the muscles in her shoulders and quads and we've scheduled some laser treatments to loosen up the fascia.  Who knew there was sports therapy for dogs!  It's not that costly; it just takes some time in the evening and a bit of different exercise and play. If it helps her it's totally worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More on flowers

I'm continuing to learn about plants and flowers through the "How to Grow a Planet" series. Last night we discovered how the development   of flowering plants drove the evolution of insects and birds, and mammals, including ourselves.

Because plants needed something besides wind and water to help distribute their seeds, they developed flowers to attract birds and bees. 

This is a bee's eye view of a chive flower. I didn't even realize that bees were drawn to these rather plain looking flowers. 

But this particular type of bee seems to find the flower irresistible.  

Later on in the evolutionary process, plants developed edible fruit to attract mammals. And then they  signalled the ripeness of the fruit by changing colour.  Did you know that most mammals can't even see red? They don't have the rods in their eyes to absorb that colour.  Primates evolved this in response to the colour changes of ripe fruit. It benefits the plant for the primates to wait until the seeds have developed and the fruit is right. So plants that had a colour indicator were more successful. Isn't it all so amazing?

The second in the series is called "The Power of Flowers" and I highly recommend it.

I will never look at plants or flowers the same way.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Plants -- we owe everything to them

I just watched a video that totally changed the way I view plants and their place in the world.  Called "How to Grow a Planet" this is a series by a Scottish scientist who has utmost respect for plants and explains in a fascinating way how we all owe our lives on earth to plants.

Plants are so amazing; they are powered from light that comes from beyond our planet.  And they are responsible for creating the oxygen we breathe. Not only that, using CO2 and water and light from the sun they create the sugars that nourish all animal life.

Pretty pivotal eh?

I knew there was a reason I love plants.  The first program in the series is called "Life from Light" and it's fascinating.  You can watch it here on British Columbia's Knowledge Network for free.  

Take an hour to revolutionize your awareness of plants and relationship with them.  You'll never look at a plant the same way again.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sailing off

Ben, my stepson, has just sailed off on a sketching and painting trip up the coast of British Columbia.  He is a visual artist and for the past year has been creating large landscape paintings.  Last year he went with a group of artists up the coast and came back with many sketches.  This year he is heading north again, this time with a friend who has a sailboat.

They left the other day for a six-week trip up the Inside Passage.  We went down to see them off on their adventure.

True to sailing form there were a few technical difficulties that kept them from departing when they first planned. But now they're well on their way.  Here's Ilya and Ben ready to go. Ilya's holding bottle of sailors' rum that we gave them for the trip.

I can't wait to see what new material Ben will come back with.  You can see some his earlier paintings here and at his website

This Canada goose was also there to see them off. He's very tame as he gets fed by some of the people who live on boats there at the dock.

Bon Voyage Ben and Ilya and Foxy, the boat!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Matching Singer Featherweight sewing machines

When Jamie was home the other day for my birthday, he mentioned to my sister that he was interested in learning to sew. Turns out she has an extra sewing machine in her attic from her partner's mother that she was able to give him.  It's essentially the same sewing machine that I inherited from my mother, the Singer Featherweight. This was probably the first portable sewing machine and I think that  millions of them were sold in the 1950s. Most of my friends also inherited one of these iconic machines; some of them are still in use. I've been using mine on and off since the 1970s.

Jamies sewing machine and mine look similar and both come with the basic black carrying case.
Here they are together on the table.  But looking more closely you can see some design differences.  We were able to determine the dates they were made from the serial numbers.

Here's mine with the ornate design from 1949.

Here's Jamie's new machine from 1957.  He took it back to Vancouver with him the other day and my friend Kath (who also owns one) will be giving him sewing lessons.  Isn't that cool?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Evening in the garden

We've finally got some sunny weather and the garden is perhaps at its best.  Here's what the back yard looked like last night as the sun set.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The yogurt-container method of gardening

A long time ago, before we even moved to Haliburton Hill, I was faced with the job of painting the entire back side of a shingled house.  It was kind of overwhelming because I didn't want to rent a sprayer so the job required intensive scrubbing with a brush in between the shingles.  

I approached the job by filling a yogurt container with paint every morning and painting until the container was empty. It took the whole summer but I got the job done. I called it the yogurt-contained method of painting a house.

Now we're up here on the hill with this huge, overwhelming garden and I've decided to approach it the same way. Instead of a yogurt container I'm using one of those plastic gardening buckets.

I take it out with my gardening tools every day (when it's not raining) and fill the container with the weeds, twigs, clippings and other gardening debris.  When the container's filled, I'm done for the day.  

Depending on the area I'm working in it takes between half an hour and an hour to fill the container.  Occasionally I'll keep going and fill two or three more, but this is often counter-productive because I end up stiff and sore and unwilling to go into the garden the next day.

We didn't have any idea how much work the garden would take but the yogurt-container method is helping me to cope.  

You can see today's container full above, and on the left is the area I managed to tidy up. It took
about an hour.

And here's what's waiting for me tomorrow, along with my tools and my little stool.  

With the yogurt-container method I know I can get another section  done without too much resistance -- just as long as it doesn't rain.