Monday, August 10, 2020

Humid home stretch

I'm not sure why I bother to take these photos because there's no way to convey how beautiful the sky is here. Only six sleeps left.
Once we emerged from our two-week isolation, we were able to share a gorgeous dinner with the head of the residency program, the head of the whole foundation, and his wife. Everything is local (meat) or grown on the farm here (shishito pepper, chimichurri I think from carrot tops, and papalo, my new favorite herb. Elizabeth explained to me that the word comes from the papalotl, from Nahuatl (an indigenous language) and it means butterfly. Its flavor is strong and distinctive.
Saskia cooked the entire gorgeous meal for us! I am sad we weren't able to experience her talent and skills on the regular since the distanced residency means the residency chef can't make our dinners, but we've had little pops here and there and it has been a real treat. I can feel the difference, being here and eating from this parcel of land.
I asked about these steps, and they are to mount horses! Of course.
This path is being laid and it's amazing to see the progress of the stone mason who has worked here forever.
This wall I saw yesterday at the state arboretum in Blandy, a bit west. So lovely, especially sharing with friends.
Back here, but on the other side, is their persimmon tree! I wish I could grab some green fruit to take home and ferment.
Caitlin showed me the plum tree in the formal garden and found me one ripe one, which was delightful.
She pointed out some herbs and explained the one climbing the triangular stakes at far left. It's not spinach but it's called Malabar Spinach (or Basella alba) and like okra and hollyhock, it has that distinctive mucilage. That was delicious as well, a chewy bite.
The other day I went up to peek near the greenhouses near the production fields and there's always something growing.
Surprise! I learned yesterday from Frank that these are called surprise lilies (Lycoris squamigera) and they DID surprise me when I was cycling down the road, as they were not there before. I noticed a few near my house as well after he told me about how they just show up suddenly. Gorgeous, and when I took a sniff today as the flowers were all open, they reminded me of Korea.
In the studio I have been busy making paper and books and other things in small batches. Here is some marigold dye in action, though it has dried to a very different color than the first batch a couple weeks ago.
I had brought onion skins from Bill to use if I needed a boost and what I quickly learned is that he uses true yellow onions while I use sweet onions, which have a much lighter colored skin. This is why I should never do commissions, because I can't promise colors (well, I could, but I don't want to) to be like whatever you saw in this or that picture from other dye batches.
You can see the mullein dye I made last week was underwhelming, so I didn't bother using it for much beyond one half of a test sheet of paper and these small shifu samples that I had already dunked in caustic dogbane cooking liqueur (those are the stains on the left, but much of the color leaching out was from the markers used on the paper when it was still a sketchbook).
Marigold dyed covers and I think I tried four or five versions of this book. I have been practicing this structure over and over and can finally almost do it by heart instead of peeking (the upper left book is NOT the same structure. I like it but it requires four straps, rather than two, as well as different cutting patterns based on the page. Too much extra work for me!).
I've also gotten better at this structure, which I love love love and today did this slippery elm/Florida kozo version as well as a bigger milkweed version where I have the laces come out twice instead of once since the page/strap is taller and could use a little more stabilizing.
Initially I used these gorgeous shiny wood folding tables as my drying boards, but they were too slick so I'd come back to check on paper and everything was falling off or curling up.
The old fashioned formica desk surface worked much, much better. The milkweed batches have been lovely, though they have faded very quickly in the studio sun.
Emma presented her studio the night after I did last week, and I was so glad to see her work in person and up close, and also realize she was the one in the studio on the airstrip that I had seen one evening when cycling. I had no idea! Funny, as we were the only two artists here. I was sad I didn't get to know her better because once we did start to talk, I deeply appreciated her personality, perspective, experiences, and shared concerns about going back to teach in higher ed. We went looking for ripe plums on her final night and hung out in the formal gardens nibbling on herbs (well, at least I was nibbling a lot on the fennel flowers). She left yesterday and though we didn't spend much time together, I did feel a bit bereft today.
Yesterday was my final friend treat, meeting Frank and José at the arboretum. Our plan to use the picnic area was foiled (hard to see in this pic, but all the tables were turned upside down!) so we found a shady spot hidden in the trees near a bench and laid a blanket. Again, like our adventure last week, after hours eating and hanging out, we packed up only to find out that steps away was a giant gorgeous vista! All along we had no idea what we were missing.
But we did get a sunset/dusky stroll on the trails and were so glad to see more of this big wonderful place with so many things to look at. The best part of an arboretum is that they label all the trees and plants so you can check! This is a Chinese quince and you can see some unripe fruit above.
Back 'home' is an old circular building used to exercises horses indoors. The horses are all gone but this may be converted into a dance/performance space. So many possibilities all over the place. Today for my evening exercise in the very difficult humidity, I took the bike and cycled the roads and walked the trail with the bike to the airstrip. When I got back on, I took it slowly and always look at the weeds right along the border. I slowed and saw a red velvet ant! Again, not a real ant, but not something you want to get stung by. I was delighted because now I had seen most of the three "dangerous" wildlife listed in our welcome packet: poison ivy, red velvet ants, and ticks. I still have a very hard time recognizing poison ivy so I may have just breezed by. I've survived all of it thus far!

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