Little Kitten

 

My husband. George. We’ve been married thirty-nine years and he still surprises me, astonishes me. We have history, we went to the same high school, started dating right out of high school, went to TCU together, got married right after I graduated in 1978. We know each other.

So last weekend, Labor Day weekend, we are sitting at the kitchen table drinking our morning tea and George says ” I have something to tell you.” “Okay”, says I, not expecting anything earth shattering, but we do have a project pending (the sale of my mother-in-law’s house for her). I was expecting a problem with that.

“Do you remember the story of Ferdinand the Bull?”, he asks. “Yes.”….I said slowly. “Did he have a friend?” “No”, I said, “He was rather solitary, he just like sitting and smelling the flowers.” “Well,  I need you to see something down at K.J.’s pasture.” Now, I’m slightly alarmed. K.J. is our thirty-year-old horse. He had been really ill last year but has recovered and is fat as a pig and doing great. Then it hit me. “You’ve adopted a cow?” I asked, thinking I’m in a scene from City Slickers. Our neighbor’s cows have broken through the fence before. “No.” he said, looking down.

“What?” I looked at him. “K.J. has a friend.” ” WHAT IS IT?”, I ask. “A cat.” he says. ” A black cat.”

I laughed. I laughed until I cried. You see my husband is really allergic to cats. We live in a country house that we bought from my dear Aunt, who had thirty-five cats. She was the cat lady you read about. Thirty-five. Twelve in the house, seventeen in the garage and six in a pen in a corral. She loved them to a fault. Enough said. George took a year off from work when we bought this house, completely gutted, repainted and refurbished it before we could live in it. He’s really allergic to cats. We can’t have a house cat.

We’ve been through this scenario before, by the way. The twenty acres where K.J. is pastured is separated from the acreage our house is on. It’s a short drive down the county road from our home, but isolated enough that people dump things on the road. Like cats. There is a particular brand of cretin that thinks it is ok to dump defenseless kittens or old dogs in the country and that somehow they will survive. Or they just don’t give a damn and they think starving defenseless animals is a thing that people do. There is a hell waiting for folks like that. My husband is not one of those people. The last time it was a box of four kittens that someone left in the drive to K.J.’s corral. They were weaned, but just barely. They stayed in our garage until we could get them built up enough to stay around the yard. We vetted them, neutered and spayed them and kept each one as safe as we could. Our population of coyotes and owls got them one by one. It is heartbreaking, but they had a happy, well-fed cat life while they were here as loved country cats, catching field mice and our pond frogs and the occasional lizard. I started feeding another stray cat that presented us with two kittens and years of love, so I’m guilty too.

But at the moment we were a cat-free family. Until now.

“How long has he been down there?” “Three months.” This what I mean about my husband surprising me. He has been feeding this kitten on the sly for three months because he didn’t want to tell me. After I could catch my breath from laughing again I asked, “What’s his name?” “Little Kitten.” he says.

We’re going to have to work on that. I think Ferdinand. Welcome Ferdinand.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

And the Sunflower is Setting

Lord have mercy, who knew these mammoth sunflowers were so heavy? I am resisting staking these giants and watching the natural maturing process of the seeds. I fully expect the massive stem to break and come crashing down. If not, I will harvest these giants soon and dry the seeds for the birds and squirrels to eat.

Sunflower/Moonflower

Bloom

 

 

I am an accidental gardener. I plant something and it accidentally grows. Or grows accidentally. Whatever. This year I had two plants that went completely nuts in my Texas back yard.

SeymourI grew sunflowers. Mammoth Russian Sunflowers. Now you may be thinking , ” What kind of knucklehead would grow sunflowers in north Texas when they sprout in every pasture by the droves?” Well for the seed for the birds of course. And because I love watching the flowers follow the sun. Hum the Beatle song here. (If you have to ask what Beatle song, you’re too young to read this.)

The sunflowersI planted these from an old package of seeds from at least ten years ago. I had twenty-four seeds. I have two sunflower plants left, but as you can see they make up for their small numbers in size. The deer and rabbits ate the rest. It went like this. I was excited when the seeds  all sprouted and the seedlings seemed to grow two inches a day. Then one morning I went out to look and I had stubs. Somebody likes the taste of sunflower leaves it seems. While I never saw the carnage happen, I did see my rabbit friends avoiding my gaze. DSC01161 Anyway, the two plants I have left are about six foot tall now and one bud looks as if it will open soon. We had to fight the ants for these two. Ants like to burrow into the stalks. They killed my okra plants that way last year. I was ready for them.

The second of my garden champions of a sort is the Moonflower Vine I planted from seed at the same time as the Sunflowers. I planted them on the north side of the cage we have placed on a berm to keep the deer away from our tomatoes. I had about the same amount of seeds and every one of them came up.

The first picture is the Moonflower Vine in early June.

June 6 Moonflowers

The second picture is August.

OMG

 

To say that they are vigorous is an understatement. I’m kind of afraid to get to close for fear they will say “Feed me Seymour, Feed Me! (If you don’t know Little Shop of Horrors you have led too sheltered a life.) We still have no flowers, which I fretted about until my very wise sister told me the plant has one job. Make more Moonflowers. It will bloom when it is darn good and ready. If we get the same amount of blooms as we got vine, it ought to be pretty spectacular. I’ll post.

The gate
The Moonflower Vine is eating the gate.

Note to self: Don’t plant Moonflowers next to the gate next time unless you like uncurling ten thousand little Moonflower tendrils every day.

 

Notch

I have a thing about this rabbit that keeps coming to our front porch. I call him Notch because obviously he has a notch in one ear. Every evening around 8:30 I step out onto our front porch to take in the sunset and see what’s going on with the weather. There he is, in the exact same spot by our patio steps. There must be something really good growing there, or he just likes that spot. He’s gotten so used to me now, he’ll let me sit in my patio chair and take pictures of him. My husband is behind me now saying “You can NOT buy feed for that rabbit.” Who asked?

Bun resting
Notch

 

DSC01341
Notch’s buds in our driveway.

 

Lots of rabbits in the yard this year. I spook them as I begin my morning walk.

But Notch is may favorite. Not that I’m getting attached. No not me.

The Kimbell Stretch

 

I spent four days in late June at a workshop for teachers hosted by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. If you are an art teacher reading this, you probably are already mentally recoiling from the mention of in-service workshops. But in my summer The Kimbell Summer Teacher’s Institute is an oasis of art-focused learning and fun. Open to educators of all subjects, it is held in the beautiful Renzo Piano Pavilion museum studio.

Piano Pavilion
Renzo Piano Pavilion , Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

See these folks? They are happy public school teachers and just people who like art in this beautiful studio space.

Happy Art Teachers

Idea Exchange

I believe this is my fifth time to attend a summer workshop at the Kimbell, which says a lot. You don’t repeat a bad experience. Each year the activities are based on the special exhibition at the museum. This summer it was the Phillips Collection, a rich and varied group of paintings and sculptures from artists like Bonnard, Van Gogh, Degas, Marc, Klee and Picasso. The well-defined structure of the days, access to the special exhibition and incredible museum educators are what makes this workshop so valuable. Each artist and style is first outlined in a lecture by Connie Hatchette Barganier, Education Manager for the Kimbell. Somehow Connie managed to evade my camera this year. While these lectures are necessarily compact, they enrich and inform each gallery experience. Great docents led our little herd of teachers through the galleries. Did you ever try to get teachers to be quiet and focused? Hats off to the Kimbell docents for being friendly and professional while herding twenty teachers (like herding cats) through the exhibitions. Unfortunately photography in the special exhibitions is not allowed, but if you follow this link http://phillips.kimbellart.org/ you can get a glimpse of some of the pieces in the exhibit.

Back in the studio the talented Studio and Family programs Coordinator Marilyn Ivy leads us through exhibit-based art projects. My photos show Marilyn demonstrating a lino plate printmaking project; one of my favorite lessons this year.

Marilyn
Marilyn Ivy

 

Printmaking is not my strong suit, so it was nice to have Marilyn demonstrate. I think I may finally have enough of a handle on the process that I can use it with my students this school year.

The Kimbell provides top notch art materials and we get to try our hand at the painting, sculpture and printmaking activities. Again, happy teachers shown with time to  create.

Beautiful Work

As an added benefit this year the museum had Carol Ivey, a Fort Worth based artist, present a still life from observation clinic and offer a critique of our finished acrylic paintings. She arranged a still life in the studio and we got a canvas and acrylics and got to work. No pressure there, right?  Here’s a link to information on Carol.  My painting is still a work in progress, but in three hours at the workshop and a few more at home, I’m feeling good about it.

work in progress

We also did a mixed media interior drawing with a wonderful black multi-media board I had not used before. Here is a beautiful example by Carolyn. Jessica Montes this Great Dane made me think of your sweet dog. Carolyn, thank you for offering to give this drawing. I hope your family loves it as much as I do.

beautiful multimedia work

The last day of the clinic is invaluable as each teacher presents a lesson plan to the group inspired by the exhibit. I chose to relate to the Degas painting Dancers at the Barre.

Edgar_Degas_-_Dancers_at_the_Barre_-_Google_Art_Project
Dancers at the Barre, Edgar Degas

 

Image courtesy of Google Art project. Public domain.

I chose to break my lesson down into three steps. First, draw the painting upside down to so that my students focus on the shapes only rather than what it is they are drawing. The human figure is very daunting for elementary students. Second, concentrate on the arrangement of positive and negative shapes in the composition. I was really fascinated by the way this Degas painting is composed, the legs of the two dancers are almost at unbelievable angles, but it works. Using tracing paper on my contour line drawing  I concentrated simply on isolating the positive and negative shapes of the composition and how they fit into the format. Finally, the third step is using another tracing of my contour line drawing  to make a paper collage of the piece, using basic tones of paper and adding chalk to simulate the textures of the painting. So you explore three of the basic elements of art in this lesson, line, shape and color.

I’ve included some shots of the other teachers presenting their ideas. That is one of the best things about these days, hearing ideas from other teachers about how they would present a concept. It is always eye-opening and fun to see what everyone comes up with.

You walk away with a catalogue for the special exhibition A Modern Vision: European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection, a copy of all those lesson plans (40 pages in all this year), a flash drive with all the lecture notes and images plus a binder with the written version of all of the resource materials.

DSC01343

What a treat and a stretch for the right side of the brain at the same time. Next year is Asian art. I can’t wait.