Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sunflower Harvest

Finally I'm getting to do this post.  I have been planning this one for months... literally! 
It started this summer when my dad planted an entire section of his field in sunflowers.  There were hundreds of them, and they were thick and tall and gorgeous to see.  I decided early on that I would learn how to harvest them so that we'd have sunflower seeds for our cardinals all winter.
There were big ones and small ones.  Some had yellow centers; others had brown centers.  Some of the centers bulged out; some centers were flat.  I loved them.

Every few days I'd check on my "crop." 

There were sunflowers to share with my friends when they came to make salsa.  

We had a sunflower bouquet in our kitchen all summer.

Then it began... The harvest... Who knew what a big job it would be!  Who knew how much I'd do wrong first, learn a lesson, and try again.
I learned the signs to watch for.  First the yellow petals would sort of wither.  Then the head would just sort of droop or look down.  

At this point I'd take my handy wire cutters (I think) and cut their heads off right behind the flower.  

The centers are covered with tiny little flowers.  Every seed has a little flower.    

I learned that it's a whole lot less messy to rake those flowers off right there in the field.  Cut off the head, wipe off the center flowers (all of them) with gloved hand, rip off what green parts will come off, then toss the head into the bucket.   I put one to three 5-gallon buckets of sunflower seed heads into my little VW bug trunk about twice or three times a week for most of July and August.

I learned to go early in the mornings while it wasn't so hot and I could see them.  They were 7-10 feet tall, so looking up into the sun was miserable.  I also learned to make peace with the bees.  Every sunflower had a bee or two or three working on it.

Another lesson I learned was to be patient and wait until the head had kind of folded itself in half.  That was a sign that it was even more ready.  (They just aren't as pretty as the nice flat ones.)    

There's kind of a nice rhythm to the job.
Grab the stalk -
Pull it down - 
Cut off the head -
Wipe off the flowers - 
Peel off the green - 
Pat pat to knock off the extra - 
Toss it in the bucket - 
Repeat - 
Repeat - 
Repeat -

I'd have to say that we discovered something very therapeutic and satisfying about raking the seeds off the heads.  It was a little addictive too.   
Anyone who came over would have to give it a try, then do another, and another... We had a lot of good conversation around the sunflower tubs.  

Yes, tubs.  
It started out as pans, but I had cut and harvested a lot of sunflowers... 
A lot...

A lot... 
Ron would come home from work and just shake his head.
But, my, they were beautiful.
Black ones, white ones, purple ones, flat ones, rounded ones...

The next lesson I learned had to do with figuring how to dry them.  I laid them all over our deck and porch rail... all... over... it...

But, the seeds seemed to need to dry. Easy, I put them out in the sun on the deck.  
Yeah... that worked... and the ants found them!
Ugh... So... nothing a little pop in the oven won't fix. 
Hey... they're for feeding the birds anyway.  What bird would mind a little baked ant in their birdseed, right!
Eventually, the pans became tubs.
Tubs of sunflower seeds all... over... my... kitchen...

It was FABULOUS!!!  I had a big spoon that I'd stir them with every time I'd walk by.

Then we went out of town for a few days.
No worries, right... The would just dry more... right?

Hmph!  I went outside after we returned, and heard a thump.
I promise this is the truth. A squirrel was sitting on a branch of our dogwood tree holding a sunflower head and dropped it when I came outside!
Little thief had been crawling right up on the porch and helping himself!  And making a mess while he feasted on my harvest!

Evidence under the dogwood tree showed that the squirrels chose not to wait until winter to enjoy their part of the treats.

Sigh... squirrels... they just won't listen to reason!

Original Oil Painting - 12"x 12"
To purchase the painting, click "Sunflower Harvest."

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Steer's Lookin' at You, Kid

I know! Another longhorn painting! But, I had to! They just posed so well for me the day I was taking pictures!

These guys along with their siblings and cousins live in the field beside Welcome Home Retreat in Weatherford, Texas.

There's something very comforting about a cow... and painting a cow.  
After I've painted something stressful (like a person) or something not of my choosing (like a commission), I find that my next painting is a cow.  
If I'm stuck and don't know what else to paint, my go-to subject is a cow. I think I like the flow of their structure - although that sounds ridiculous now that I read it.  
Maybe I like how they stare out of the canvas at me and say, "What!?"
Maybe it's my upbringing.  We always had cows on our farm... Hmmm... but I didn't like them then.  They were super annoying to me as a kid and teenager.  The pooped in the field where we liked to have cookouts. They got out of the fence and had to be rounded up and put back at the most inopportune times, like Sunday morning or Christmas Day or the afternoon of Homecoming or Prom. 
I remember how my dad would "talk" to them with a soothing kind of monotone voice "Sooo.... Suk... Suk... Suk... Sooo... Suk... Suk... and they would be interested, come closer.  They weren't particularly friendly like pets. But... they were always there... a part of my life.

I'm pretty sure that these guys came to me because they were used to their farmer who I'm guessing stops by each afternoon to count them, talk in a soothing voice to them, and probably (most importantly to their demeanor) toss out some grain or hay.
Cows know their farmers; farmers know their cows. I hope he gets to see his longhorns on the canvas one day.  I wonder if he'd recognize them! :)

The best way for you to meet these cows is to book a weekend with their neighbors.  Welcome Home Retreat is an amazing haven for relaxation, comfort, and creativity.   

I wonder if these little longhorns will get to be on a canvas one of these days... We'll see... But, I'm committed to do a sunflower next. :)
In case you aren't a bovine fan... there's also a pool... and there are crafting rooms... and really great food... 
And there's Sheila, who might want to scrapbook or quilt right along side you. :)

Original Oil Painting - 24" x 36"
Contact me if you'd like to purchase this painting.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Red Cottage in Fall II

Every year our PTA asks each class to decorate a pumpkin for our Fall Festival.  They're raffled off for a fund raiser.  

This year we got a choice between a pumpkin or a canvas to decorate. 


I picked... a canvas! Yeah, I suppose the idea was that each kid might put a thumbprint and make it into a little pumpkin face, but I decided I'd go a different direction on the idea of canvases and pumpkins.

I hung the painting in the front of the classroom and asked my students to think about who might live there and what the pumpkins were for.  I told them we'd make a book to go with the painting for the auction. 

First they thought, imagined, and talked; then they wrote...  
Oh, I do have a wonderful job!  

Such creative hardworking little people I spend my days with!   

I hope our little project makes a few dollars for our school. 

I bet it will.

Original Oil Painting - 8"x 10"