Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Figure Drawing

When I graduated from Elkhorn high school (EHS class of 1969) and headed off to the state university twenty mile from the farm where I was raised, I had two ideas in mind. I would either major in English and teach high school students how to love literature and write decent research papers, or I would major in art and teach high school students how to - what? Love art as I did.

I ended up with the English option by default. My freshman intro to art class was held in the basement of a science building on campus, a cement bunker where I was urged to draw with a black marker and not lift it from the page. We also were required to carve blocks of wood into interesting shapes with a set of Exacto blades. After I accidentally drove the blade into the middle joint of my left pointer finger and fainted dead away onto the cement floor, followed by several stitches in said finger, I decided that writing term papers about Shakespearean heroines was easier and safer. I became an English major.

So - I never got to take a figure drawing class. I like drawing people, but my "models" are usually sleeping people at airports or the library, or the beach. I have drawn the back of many heads. I try to draw people quickly in theaters, coffee shops, whatever I can. But once spotted, people either become nervous or self-conscious and it's over.

I thought I had the answer this summer when I read about a summer figure drawing class in Madison. I had looked at these classes before, but the driving and the timing concerned me. I live 40 miles from the UW Madison campus, and most classes ran until 10:00 PM, which meant I would get home really late (for me). I hate to admit it, but my eyes aren't as good as they once were, especially at night. This class runs until 9:14 p.m., which means that if the weather is good, and road construction isn't too awful, I get home by 10:30 p.m. I keep the cell phone charged,
Anyway, I have enjoyed the evenings once a week devoted just to drawing. On my own at home I tend to work a lot from photos, and this class forces me to use my eyes, to work from a live model.

Ah, a live model. Herein lies the rub. Of the five classes I have attended, only three have had models. Twice no model showed up at all, so we were reduced to drawing each other. I was disappointed. I ran this little pep talk in my head:

You paid your fees. You want to learn to draw from life. You want to learn new techniques. Quit your bellyaching and draw!

Yes, but there is the two hours of driving, the rushing around, the parking fees...

Sherry, quit your bellyaching and draw!

Monday, June 29, 2009

More of Grandma Tess's Tape

Grandma as a young woman

Grandma's friend Agnes, in a stylish bathing suit, about 1915

At this point in the tape Grandma talks about her family coming to Milwaukee while her stepfather is doing medical training in Boston. My mother, Carol, asks a few questions about cooking and the Depression.

Milwaukee was another disappointment to me. We couldn’t find a place to stay, and we went to a cheap hotel and lived there for a little while, and read want ads. Finally decided that I would have to go and board and room to start high school. I went into high school at twelve years old. In order to do this I had to work for my board and room., and be away from my father and mother, and the baby, which was the big hurt. But we got together occasionally.
But life as a student, trying to go to school and still work, do the work at home, and being as lonely as I was and having only two dresses to my name. Nobody wore slacks in those days. That was entirely out of the question. You wore skirts and a blouse or a dress. And Mother gave me one of her old dark blue dresses, and I cut it off at the waist and made a skirt for myself, and wore it out to the prom with a pink blouse. It was very very sad. When I got to the prom I found out I was the only one that couldn’t have an evening dress on. I didn’t know they wore evening dresses to proms. I didn’t even know what proms were. Twelve years old and from the Hicksville, I think they thought I was. But my date was wonderful, and didn’t – never reproached me or anything. In fact he took me over and introduced me to his folks. He was a complete gentleman. So, that was my first humiliating experience at school. But I was to have a lot of them. Except of course when I was (unintelligible), when it was one big humiliation. Life was rough. And it was rough for many long years after that, but I won’t go into all those details. 
We’ll let the girls ask me some questions now, about the Depression, probably, and my marriage.
Carol: Well, Mother, ah, I don’t remember Grandma Smith as being that great of a cook, but you were always a very good cook. So, how young did you start your cooking?
I was eleven when I started cooking on the ranch. Um, I helped, oh earlier than that I started helping and learning. And I liked it, so I sort of took over, making the cakes and pastries and things while we were still on the farm. And I baked cakes then. We had thrashers - great crews of men, they came to thrash the wheat, sometimes as many as twenty men, and that was a lot of cooking. So I had plenty of experience. But I always liked to cook and I liked to experiment and do things . When I worked for my board and room I did a lot of cooking. And I always liked to try new recipes, and I did them.
Carol: What about during the Depression?
During the Depression it was very hard to cook because we didn’t have any money, and the foods that were had to be had, even though they were cheap, they were expensive to us.
But we skipped a lot of time here. I had to get married in the meantime. We got married during the Depression,. while we were still out on DeWitt’s cherry ranch Mother and I and DuRell, waiting for my stepfather to graduate. And he was going to school back East then at Boston. And he went to Brigham Young and he went to Massachusetts General, and all the big hospitals back there where he interned. And he had started out in Marquette in Milwaukee. So, while all this was going on we were hanging on, trying to get by ‘til he got though. In the meantime I had grown up. I was eighteen, and then I was into my twenties. By this time we were out at Troy, and Mother was still doing her practical nursing, and there were babies born here and there. I was taking care of DuRell, and doing babysitting for the neighbors.
Carol: Was that the first paying job you had? Baby sitting?
Yes, it was, if you don’t count working for my board and room, which was much harder than baby sitting. The first I got money for was babysitting, and I got only about fifty cents a night. That was top wages then. And the night meant sometimes you had to stay all night. If they didn’t have transportation home or whoever you were staying for didn’t want you to leave. So, you never knew of you were going to stay all night or not, when you left, which wasn’t very happy for Mother. We didn’t have a phone at first at the farm, but after the boys started calling, the neighbors got really tired of having me go back and forth to answer the phone, so eventually, even though we didn’t have very much money, we did put a phone in.
But we were expected to live on a very very small amount of money. And we had to stretch it. I remember one time I put my family on a very strict diet, because I was supposed to mange the finances, so I could buy a new bathing suit, and the bathing suit was five dollars. So for a week we lived on cabbages and boiled potatoes, and we used to go out and pick dandelions and wild asparagus, and all that stuff.
Carol: Is this when you were in Troy?
Yes, when we were in Troy. We boiled it up. But it tasted pretty good. We were always hungry then, and everything we had, whether it was expensive or not, tasted good. And I finally got my bathing suit, but they wouldn’t let me get any more clothes that way. They said I was taking it out on them, and it wasn’t fair.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sounds From the Past, part 2

Anna Bernice Adams, later Bernice Ann Smith

I've been continuing the slow process of transcribing the tape my mother helped my 92-year-old grandmother make back in December 1994. My husband says it's strange hearing their voices coming from the studio where I work; I guess it is. Like ghosts, almost. At the beginning she is still talking about living on the "Big B" ranch, which was in the southeastern part of Washington, not far from the Columbia River, and the Tri-Cities area today.

Bernice Tess interview pt 2
We had more horses than cows, because cows were purely for our own use. The horses were for sale and for breeding purposes. We had a lot of horses, and a lot of hired men and a great big lot of land. Four square quarters of wheat. I used to ride on my special mare all around the acres. It seemed like we’d go forever and still be on “our land” I called it, because to me it was our land. It eventually did become our land because my mother ended up marrying the manager of some of the land, the son of the man who owned it, and that was a turning point in my life.
It was my eleventh year. Everything seems to have happened in my eleventh year. My real father was shot and murdered when I was eleven years old, and six months after that my mother told me she was marrying again. The only son that was managing the ranch. Which was not particularly good news to my ears because I didn’t think he liked me, and I knew I was very much afraid of him, because I had been taught to be afraid of him. Because he didn’t like children. Well of course I would grow up. 
So, then I was sent away to school. To a Catholic school, and I was the only Protestant in the whole school. In the questions that my granddaughter Sherry asked, she wanted to know some of the people who had had a big influence on my life, and that I admired. And even though the girls were so hostile to me, there was one of the sisters. Because it was a Catholic school with sisters and priests, they went out of their way to be very very nice to me, and they really made up for it. – the coolness of the Catholic children. And this one sister, I think her name was sister Teresa, she encouraged me very much in my English and my composition. And I remember her telling me one time that she hoped some day to read an article or a novel or a piece of fiction, that I had written with my name on it because she was sure I would become a great author. Of course I would have disappointed her, because I never went on to college, and I never wrote anything that outstanding. I loved to read, but it was other people’s writings I enjoyed, not my own. That lasted, I was in the academy one full year, practically.
At the end of it they came and took me to Hillyard, no I think we went to Spokane first. I know that we lived very near the Jesu Church, and they told me there that next to that church was were there was a little house , not very big, and they said that was where - what was that singer? Bing Crosby was born, just a block from where we lived. And I always thought that was very exciting. Our house there was very small, not pretentious at all. But it was wonderful to me because I’d never had an inside toilet before, electric lights before. It was the first time in my life I’d ever had electricity or any of the nice things about living.
Carol: How old were you then, Mother?
Oh, I was eleven years old yet; that was my eleventh year. That’s my daughter, I’m glad they’re asking me questions, because that’s what I want .
My best friend died while I was still eleven. She was – I considered her my best friend. She lived next door, and she as a lovely sweet Catholic girl. But she didn’t hold my being a Protestant against me. She was, we were, very very close friends. And she played tennis with her brothers one morning and fell against the wire that was put up between the two poles. And I never understood how, but somehow she hit her head on the wire and died instantly. And that was a terrible shock to me. So I had lost two dear people that year, that I loved. 
Then I had the news given to me that I was to have a new baby brother or sister. Well, I was pleased about that, I guess. In the beginning it was such a shock to me I couldn’t hardly comprehend what was happening. But I was, later, it made me very happy, and I always enjoyed having a brother. It was wonderful, because I’d never had a sister or a brother. And I, I thought as much of him as I possibly could, of a real, full brother. And he never wanted me to call him a half brother. He was really angry with me if I said that he was my half brother. He always said, “There are no halves in our family, just wholes.” And that’s the way it was, all through our lives. 
I’m sorry for the interruption, one of my daughters just told me that I hadn’t told my brother’s name. His name was DuRell. And that was a family name from Dr. Smith’s side. His mother was a Durrell. She was French, French Dutch, or Dutch French; I don’t know which it would be. I always considered her more Dutch than French.
Carol: Is that the diamond that Sherry has?
Pardon me, Carol’s asking something.
Ellen: Is that her diamond that Sherry has?
Yes, Sherry has her diamond. And it was mine for a while, and before it was mine, I guess it was Dr. Smith’s mother’s. Yes. 
Carol: You never said who your stepfather was either.
Carol said I never said who my stepfather was. 
Carol: He wasn’t a doctor then.
He was not a doctor at that time. But that’s when we came back to Milwaukee he decided to become a doctor. And we had eleven long years ahead of us. And they were not easy years. We had DuRell to raise, and we had ourselves to take care of. Because his folks did not approve of him coming out there.
I wasn’t happy about leaving Hillyard, It seemed as though my life was just a series stops and starts m strange people, and losing friends, making friends and losing them. So I was very unhappy about the trip way “back East”, as we called it, although really it was only half way. But, we boarded the train. I couldn’t take any of my toys.
Speaking of favorite toys, Sherry once asked me which one was my favorite. And I did have a favorite doll? I had very few toys as a small child, because we moved so much and I never had a place to keep them. So, this doll was very special. The last time I ever saw my father, he brought the doll to me. Mother and I went to Seattle, no, we went to San Francisco, right after the fire, and the earthquake. And we went to a big hotel, ‘course most of the hotels were burned out then, and we could still see the black skeletons of them, and the ruins of bricks that were left, and the burned out houses. I can remember asking my mother what happened, and she said that they’d had a terrible fire after an earthquake. Anyways, afterwards we met my father at this hotel, and he had a big present for me. And it was a doll, a walking doll, and big, came up to my knees you know. And I treasured that doll more than anything I ever had, but I had to leave it behind with all the rest of my things when we started out for our new life in Milwaukee. 
Being on the train was an experience. We had a baby, of course, DuRell was very small, ten months old when we left. And we had to get our own meals. We had just what we could buy at stops. The train would stop and we could get off and buy things to cook on the stove, which was an old coal stove. The conductor put coal in, and some people heated up soup. And we heated up DuRell’s milk on it. And, the smell, of the coal smoke was not nice. We could, everything in the car smelled of oranges and coal smoke. Because so many of the people ate oranges to get the taste of coal out of their throats. And I always well remember that smell - coal smoke and oranges, mixed. To me, that’s train smell. And the conductors were very friendly, They’d come around very often, and set and talk, and play with the baby. But it was a very hard trip with a small child. And we had lost so much that we left behind that I was very sad.

I wasn’t happy about going to this new city. When we finally got there it was a long trip,, we slept in relays. We had just the chairs that we made into a bed at night, with a curtain that came round them. And we’d sleep for a little while, and then somebody else would get up and they would sleep, because we only had the two seats. Double seats. For the three of us. No, four of us, with the baby. So it was very cramped, very uncomfortable, And we were glad when we crossed the big muddy river, and finally landed in Milwaukee. The muddy river was the Mississippi. And I remember they got me up out of sleeping to go and look at it, and I was so anxious to see the Mississippi, all the things I heard about the mighty mighty Mississippi, and how beautiful it was. And I looked at it and was so disappointed. All it was, it looked like mud, like a river of mud. A big wide river of mud. And of course further on it looked much better, but that was near the big cities and it was very polluted. So I was disappointed in that.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sounds From the Past

modified contour drawing of my great grandparents when first married

In 1994 when my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I asked for a taped interview with my grandmother. I got the tape that year, listened to most of it, and put it in my tape caddy. Last week I got it out and listened for nearly an hour. There behind the hissing of the old cassette tape, were the voices of my mother, aunt, and grandmother. Grandma and Mom are gone now, and it makes me a little crazy that I cannot ask for more details on some of the stories. Now, after having put together memories with old photos, and having visited the places she lived as a young girl, I know what I would ask Grandma. In 1994 I didn't know, and was probably too busy with teaching to probe for more.

So, little by little I'm transcribing her taped answers to my questions, and when I finish I hope to have it transferred to a CD, and share it with my family. This is the first installment.

Transcript of Interview With Bernice Tess
December, 1994
This is Bernice Tess. We are gathered here with Ellen and Carol, my daughters, to celebrate Carol’s birthday, and while we are all here together we thought it would be a good time to answer some of my granddaughter Sherry’s questions. She has written down quite a few questions on paper that she would like to know about my past. And I think we should start more or less at the beginning, which is a long time ago, because I am ninety-two years old.
And I was born in the Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington, the very very deepest part of the mountains in Leavenworth, Washington, where they cut the big pass for the railroad over the mountain. They had to put two engines on there because it was too steep for one engine. And my father, being an engineer, wanted to live there. So my first memories were of a little cottage, up on a hill, very high up, And all I could see when I was a toddler around the house was snow because the windows were all covered with snow, and we had to have lamps, oil lamps, to see by, even in the daytime. And gradually in the spring, we would see the snow go down, and we would watch it on the windows, because every day it’d be an inch or so when the sun melted, and it was very thrilling to watch the snow go down, inch by inch, until we finally could look out our windows. They were pretty dirty by then, but that didn’t bother me any at the time.
We lived there until I was about three years old and then there was trouble in the household. And my mother and father disagreed, or, agreed to disagree, I guess. Anyways, Mother got me up in the middle of the night one night and said we were going on a train journey. Which was very surprising to me because my father was still sleeping in bed. But we went to the neighbors and the neighbors took us down to a train, and we went to Hillyard, which was quite a few miles and on flatter land. It was a suburb of Spokane. And we went to a friend of Mother’s and stayed with her for a while. Eventually we bought a house there, or my father did; he came back to live with us for a while. But that didn’t last too long either. And this time when we left, we left for good. 
I wasn’t ready for school yet, so I must have been around four when we left the final time. And all I remember from those days were different people’s homes and faces where I stayed while Mother worked. She was a midwife, and she went to various homes and helped with babies being born, she told me. So I, being a very shy little girl, I wasn’t used to staying with all those people; I was very uncomfortable. Especially when I could hear them talking, whispering about my mother behind my back. I didn’t like it very well. So we were not too happy. Mother read ads in the paper, and finally decided the best place for us would be out on a ranch. There would be no people around to be talking about us, and we could live our own lives. So she answered an ad, for a man that wanted a housekeeper, out on a big ranch, in the east, northeastern part of Washington, right near the Columbia River. So she answered the ad, and he was not too happy. He didn’t know that she had a little girl, but he finally accepted me because there were very few people that wanted to go work on a ranch that was fifteen miles from the nearest town. Well, fifteen miles on land. If you crossed the Columbia River you could go to Hanford, and that was only six miles away, but it was hard to get across the big wide Columbia River. 
Eventually I had to cross the river to go to first grade, And then I was boarded out again. But, that year passed, and I was back to the ranch. Then we looked for a school teacher. We had a hard time getting one because nobody wanted to teach out there. It was very wild and woolly.
We had four big sections of land, and it was sand dunes and sage brush, and they grew dry wheat. It was an experimental thing with growing wheat, because it was bare, almost desert like country. Hardly ever rained. If it did rain we all ran out and tipped our heads and opened our mouths and let the rain run in. It was fun. We loved getting wet. We loved the rain.
But, school was not much of a success. We started out in a little one-room shack that had belonged to a homesteader that went broke, as they all did, most of them at least. And they had a woman teacher, but she didn’t stay with us long. When the left they got a man teacher and eventually built a one room school house, that was really a school house. We had an outdoor toilet, that had to do for both boys and girls, and we had a lean-to that did for the horses, because a lot of us rode horses to school. There were no cars of course, and no roads, really, just sand,. We went where there was room to go, there wasn’t a real road. And we thought we were very well off with the new school, though the teacher was rather - different. He taught us all that we didn’t really need to study, because the world was coming to an end, in just probably six months. So, we needn’t worry too much about our grades. He just taught religion to us. He said that was much more important than lessons. And of course we didn’t sleep very well at night, I had nightmares, Finally Mother asked me what was troubling me, and I told her. I said, “We are all going to die,”
“Oh no, “she said, “we’re not going to die.”
I said, “Yes we are, and it’s going to be real quick.”
And so, that was the end of the teacher. He left and we didn’t have any school that year at all, we just sort of took it easy and went without school. It pleased most people, but I was very hungry for companionship and the only companionship I had was at school. So I was pretty lonely. 
Then we got a hired man that was very very nice to me, so that helped a lot. He taught me how to dance, out in one of the hay lofts. It had a hard floor. It was over our jackass. And when we danced too hard he would bray, and make a terrible noise. You could hear him for miles away. But we laughed. That was just part of the fun. But I was never allowed to go near him. He was very vicious, wild. The farmers brought their mares there, but that was all. He had a very special yard of his own that was fenced in with high fences. That was just part of farm life. 
And we also had the only windmill in the country, and the only place that had a well big enough that they could dig down deep enough in the sand to get water. So all the farmers and the homesteaders would come to us for water. And they had water wagons in those days, made out of wood, and the slats twisted and turned like a barrel. Some of them leaked. Most of them leaked, and you could tell their trail, coming and going, by the water leaking out of the slats. But that’s all they had, apparently there was no way to seal the seams because they all leaked. But we never charged them for water. They got it for free. They just had to carry it. 
And we also had a huge big water tank, and that’s where I learned to swim, in the water tank. And then I also learned to swim in the Columbia River. But the current was so swift there that I had to have a big rope tied on me. Because the current would have carried me downstream, and that really wasn’t a very good place to learn to swim. So I really relied more on the water tank for the cattle and the horses.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Playing With Yupo and a Poem

Watercolor iris on yupo paper - cropped, Photoshopped, and otherwise adjusted

I haven't touched my paints in ages, all summer so far. I've drawn some in my figure drawing class, sketched some little pen and ink things, but my watercolors dried solid in the palette. So, I went up to join the weekly painters here in town, and they were doing irises on yupo. I like yupo, a sheet of plastic that results in juicy, puddley, bright images that wash right off. It's like Etch-a-Sketch for painters. So I just dove in, and I rather liked the bright result, though the proportions are off and there's too much white in the lower petal. Oh well. I'll wash it off, and have another go at creating something I like better.

The Farm

by Joyce Sutphen

My father’s farm is an apple blossomer.
He keeps his hills in dandelion carpet
and weaves a lane of lilacs between the rose
and the jack-in-the-pulpits.
His sleek cows ripple in the pastures.
The dog and purple iris
keep watch at the garden’s end.

His farm is rolling thunder,
a lightning bolt on the horizon.
His crops suck rain from the sky
and swallow the smoldering sun.
His fields are oceans of heat,
where waves of gold
beat the burning shore.

A red fox
pauses under the birch trees,
a shadow is in the river’s bend.
When the hawk circles the land,
my father’s grainfields whirl beneath it.
Owls gather together to sing in his woods,
and the deer run his golden meadow.

My father’s farm is an icicle,
a hillside of white powder.
He parts the snowy sea,
and smooths away the valleys.
He cultivates his rows of starlight
and drags the crescent moon
through dark unfurrowed fields.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two Cats and a Poem

My cat, Bucky, has fallen in love with the open window on our enclosed porch. She considers the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and Gabby next door.

The cat next door, Gabby, keeps vigil as well. Nothing escapes his notice.

I chose a poem that features a window, but also is about contemplation and observation.

by James Laughlin

Often now as an old man
Who sleeps only four hours a night,
I wake before dawn, dress and go down
To my study to start typing:
Poems, letters, more pages
In the book of recollections.
Anything to get words flowing,
To get them out of my head
Where they're pressing so hard
For release it's like a kind
Of pain. My study window
Faces east, out over the meadow,
And I see this morning
That the sheep have scattered
On the hillside, their white shapes
Making the pattern of the stars
In Canis Major, the constellation
Around Sirius, the Dog Star,
Whom my father used to point
Out to us, calling it
For some reason I forget
Little Dog Peppermint.

What is this line I'm writing?
I never could scan in school.
It's certainly not an Alcaic.
Nor a Sapphic. Perhaps it's
The short line Rexroth used
In The Dragon & The Unicorn,
Tossed to me from wherever
He is by the Cranky Old Bear
(but I loved him). It's really
Just a prose cadence, broken
As I breathe while putting
My thoughts into words;
Mostly they are stored-up
Memories—dove sta memoria.
Which one of the Italians
Wrote that? Dante or Cavalcanti?
Five years ago I'd have had
The name on the tip of my tongue
But no longer. In India
They call a storeroom a godown,
But there's inventory
For my godown. I can't keep
Track of what's m there.
All those people in books
From Krishna & the characters
In the Greek Anthology
Up to the latest nonsense
Of the Deconstructionists,
Floating around in my brain,
A sort of "continuous present"
As Gertrude Stein called it;
The world in my head
Confusing me about the messy
World I have to live in.
Better the drunken gods of Greece
Than a life ordained by computers.

My worktable faces east;
I watch for the coming
Of the dawn light, raising
My eyes occasionally from
The typing to rest them,
There is always a little ritual,
A moment's supplication
To Apollo, god of the lyre;
Asking he keep an eye on me
That I commit no great stupidity.
Phoebus Apollo, called also
Smintheus the mouse killer
For the protection he gives
The grain of the farmers. My
Dawns don't come up like thunder
Though I have been to Mandalay
That year when I worked in Burma.
Those gentle, tender people
Puzzled by modern life;
The men, the warriors, were lazy,
It was the women who hustled,
Matriarchs running the businesses.
And the girls bound their chests
So their breasts wouldn't grow;
Who started that, and why?
My dawns come up circumspectly,
Quietly with no great fuss.
Night was and in ten minutes
Day is, unless of course
It's raining hard. Then comes
My first breakfast. I can't cook
So it's only tea, puffed wheat and
Pepperidge Farm biscuits.
Then a cigar. Dr Luchs
Warned me the cigars
Would kill me years ago
But I'm still here today.

Friday, June 5, 2009

June is Dairy Month

Adapted from a monotype I did a couple years ago of two Holstein cows.  I might like this version better than the original!

In Wisconsin June is always Dairy month.  It's a promotional tool for dairy farmers, but they don't call us cheeseheads for nothing.  Tomorrow Dick and I plan to attend the Rock County Dairy Breakfast (very local eating), and there are lots of other events going on in the area including Cows on the Concourse in Madison.  

Here are some favorites from 4-H days.

Don't Be Blue Cheese Ball

2 packages cream cheese
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Put the cheese in a mixing bowl and allow to come to room temperature.  Mix in the chopped onion and Worcestershire sauce at low speed, processing until smooth.  Cover and chill several hours, then shape into a ball and roll in chopped pecans.

Dreamy Milk Punch

1/2 gallon milk
1 quart Squirt or 50-50
1 1/2 quarts orange sherbet (or your favorite flavor)
1 small can frozen orange juice

Mix the sherbet into the milk, reserving some for putting on top.  Add the soda and orange juice about ten minutes before serving.  Makes about 32 cups.

Lots of Bran Muffins

1 15 oz. box bran cereal with raisins
3 cups sugar
5 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup cooking oil

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and oil.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture.  Stir until combined; do not over mix.  Spoon into prepared muffin tins.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  This makes about six dozen, but don't panic - they freeze well.  Or just keep the batter in the refrigerator and bake the muffins fresh as you need them.  The batter keeps several weeks.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Scenes from the Olympic Peninsula

I thought I'd just post a few more pictures from the recent trip to Washington state.  I  have not managed to draw or paint anything from the experience yet, though I haven't given up hope that I will.

We spent several days driving the Olympic Peninsula, a real contrast to the dry windy part of the state we saw east of the Cascades.  This area receives over 100 inches of rain a year, and it has enough greenery, rushing water and giant trees and ferns to prove it.  This photo was taken at Lake Quinault.  There is a lovely old lodge there, a lake, and fine hiking trails.  It was near here we saw a herd of elk in a meadow across from a golf course.

It seemed like there was fast running water everywhere.  In fact there was an article in the newspaper warning people not to go into the water yet, as it was fast, dangerously cold, and sometimes carried dangerous debris.  It certainly was beautiful.

Further north along the peninsula, at Kalaloch we found another lodge and cabins by the ocean.  We spent most of a day walking beaches and poking into tide pools.

This is me, standing under the roots of a giant tipped over tree.  The tremendous rainfall in Olympic National Park creates trees so huge I felt like a child, or maybe a hobbit.

Further north we headed up into the Olympic range, back into snow.  This is Hurricane Ridge, named for the ferocious winds that buffet the place.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Farmers Market Fare: Baked Asparagus

Happy first day of June!

We finally made it to Janesville Farmers Market on Saturday. 
 http://janesvillefarmersmarket.com/index.html The market began its fifth year two weeks ago, and is gradually becoming more and more popular, a place to shop and to meet people.  It isn't as large or elaborate as the Madison market, but it is within walking distance for us, and isn't mobbed. The market features a combination of fresh produce like asparagus, rhubarb, greens, radishes and green onions, and items like honey, cheese, and organic beef.  You can also find bedding plants and a few craft items or hand made soap.  Skelleys stand didn't have fresh strawberries yet (maybe in two weeks when days warm up), but they did have their homemade doughnuts, just the thing to go with a hot cup of java from the Farmers Market coffee cart.  

Dick's Roasted Asparagus

one fresh bunch asparagus
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the asparagus, then put into a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Season with a little salt.  Bake ten minutes.  The asparagus should be bright green, and tender crisp.

Thinking about asparagus got me remembering about ours on the farm.  It grew wild along the fence line next to our quarter mile long gravel driveway, and it was always a race between us and my Grandpa Pierce, who lived in a new ranch house up near the road, to see who'd get out first to cut it.  Spoils to the winner.