The Art of Garlic

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Susanville Garlic

Lately, while others have been inside baking Christmas cookies these chilly Oregon Days, I have been outside planting garlic for the next year.  Some of my friends know me as the “Garlic Queen,” for having developed an obsession for tasty, huge, and beautiful garlic. It’s become an art form for me.  Yes, self-expression in growing garlic!

Being a garlic lover, I became very frustrated with the quality of garlic available in the grocery store.  It turns out IMG-3085that most of the garlic in the USA comes from China! Surprising since garlic is a fairly easy crop to grow that most of it is imported. Thus some years back I began my education in garlic and garlic cultivation.

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Photo by Erin Patterson

Originally from the middle east, 700 species of garlic are now grown around the world.

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Musica garlic

There are two main types, hardneck & softneck . The hardneck garlic has a hard woody stem and puts out a flowering scape (that is used for also used for culinary purposes).  They have fewer cloves than softnecks but are all fairly uniformly large in size. I find they have a longer shelf life than softneck which contradicts other sources. Softneck or “artichoke” style garlic have lots more cloves that get smaller towards the middle.  These are the garlics that can be braided. Each variety of garlic all has their unique flavors and storage life.

I grow Susanville (softneck)  for their “wow” factor. They often can get quite large and have a pretty purple tinge to them.  They make great gifts. For the hardnecks I grow “Musica” for the huge cloves, stronger taste. They also keep a month or so longer.

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The Jacob & Churro sheep of Bide A Wee Farm (photo courtesy Bide A Wee Farm)

I have to give credit to the folks who raise Jacob and Churro sheep up the road at Bide A Wee Farm which I affectionately call “Poo Corner.” The composted manure from these furry darlings makes for great garlic as well as anything I grow in the garden.  I also invested years ago in decent garlic seed from Hood River Garlic. I save the best heads from the img_3077years’ crop for the next. The bigger the clove planted equals the biggest bulb for the next year.  Also worthwhile was purchasing the book Growing Great Garlic:The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers by Ron Engeland which is the bible of garlic growing.

The cloves are all tucked away now in their winter bed with a generous covering of straw mulch They will appear again come summer with the turn of the shovel as delightful bulbs- Christmas in July!

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Have a Green Black Friday!

buy-2025564_1280Here it comes – the biggest shopping day of the year in the USA – Black Friday.  It’s the kick-off to the consumeristic feeding frenzy that Christmas has become, the holiday that fuels our economy.  Humble Thanksgiving seems to have become almost an impediment to the shopping hounds.  Some stores are even open on the day for bargain hunters to get a head start.

Few realize that the holiday shopping season contributes further to environmental black-3763118_1920degradation.  Think about it…every gift and its wrapping is made up of materials extracted from the Earth.  This would include plastic (oil), paper (trees), and metal (minerals).  Then there are all the fossil fuels used to transport the raw materials to the appropriate factories, to their retail outlets, and then to their final destinations.  Air and water quality are also affected by their production.  For a 20 minute educational (& entertaining) video on the topic, watch The Story of Stuff.  I used to show this film to my 6th-grade science students.  It really gave them pause.

I’m not suggesting you trash all the Christmas fun but maybe its time to put a little more climate-change-1908381_1280mindfulness in your holiday giving.  Do people really need or even want all this stuff?  Do we really need to upgrade to the latest device? Are their other ways to give without destroying the planet?  Maybe a family discussion is due on the topic.

Here are a few tips for a more sustainable Christmas…

Challenge your family unit to find at least one awesome gift at a thrift shop (try to look for one that’s charitable) or an antique shop. You would be surprised at what you can find.

Think before you buy.  Does this person really need/ want this?

Give photographs/memories in frames rather than purchasing uneeded stuff.  Have your children write you a fond family memory rather than purchasing you a gift.frame-3019254_1280

Handmake some gifts. My friends & I have a crafting party every holiday season. There are easy DIY gifts on Pinterest. Think you don’t have enough time?  You’re too busy!  Shut off your phone and turn off the TV  and have some real fun.

Give the gift of experiences such as theater tickets.

Have your family unit sponsor a child through such organizations like World Vision or give the gift of livestock to a third world family through such organizations like Heifer Project.

My family has a white elephant gift exchange every year limiting the gifts to re-gifted white-304608_1280items or items purchased new or used for under $20.

Use recycled gift wrap and reusable gift bags.

Yes, giving and receiving gifts is fun but most of all remember that Christmas is about relationships.  How about this year start considering your relationship with the Earth as a top priority?

Wishing you a green holiday season!

Alanna

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Reasonable facsimile of myself courtesy Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

Of Tide Pools, Art, & Math Scores

IMG_0602I am captivated by tide pools.  They are little worlds unto themselves full of creatures and plants of all sorts that seem to thrive at the restless edge of the ocean. Some organisms are attached like anemones, barnacles, rock fucus and, mussels. Some move slowly like starfish, urchins, and chitons, Then there are the quick and nimble tiny crabs and fish.  Always there is a palette of color full of glowing greens, oranges, and reds.

Recently I gave myself the challenge to capture the wonder of tide pools in my art process.

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Unfortunately, all my prints like the one pictured on the right either wound up in the recycling or in my collage box to be cut up for later use.  Rather than doing more of the same, I knew I had to come up with a different creative solution.  Instead of interpreting a tide pool in a literal sense I decided to capture the essence of one as I felt viscerally- that is in terms of color shape, texture, and feeling.

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final piece

 

This piece on the left as pictured is what I came up with using that other creative solution.  I collaged bits of my failed prints into this finished piece giving them a bit of reverence.  Without those “mistakes” I would not have been ultimately successful.  Overall I am very pleased with this print- it conveys what I feel.

So what does all of this have to do with math scores?  After I finished this piece was finished a blurb came up on the radio about Oregon’s math scores being among the lowest in the nation.  I stopped what I was doing, listened and pondered that information. Memories of teaching 6th-grade math for 2 years came flooding back and all its frustrations.  A majority of my students entered my classroom without a clear grasp of basic math facts yet they were pushed onto higher-level math prematurely.  Because of that many struggled, especially with fractions and division with the designer, scientifically based curriculum we were given to teach. (Not one of my 6th-grade students knew how to measure correctly with a ruler at first yet most could operate a smartphone).  Yet the powers above pushed harder with more rigor and more color-4503279_1920testing.

So back to art.  There is an amazing amount of problem-solving and creative thinking that occurs in the artistic process.  In my baby boomer education, I started using a ruler in first grade for art projects (think required margins) on up through the higher grades We played the recorder and learned music.  In secondary school, there was required cooking, sewing and shop classes.  All of these required applied math in terms of measurement and understanding of rhythm in music. We understood fractions.  In today’s educational environment the arts have been cut in favor of the core subjects, especially math.

My “out of the tide pool” solution to low math scores? Look for a less literal solution. Put the arts back in education on a daily basis and give students something to apply their math too. Oh…and let them have a little fun.  Children need creative outlets!  And to that old adage I heard so many times, “You can’t make a living as an artist” I say right back, “Most can’t make a living as a mathematician either!”  Maybe have students visit tide pools too.  Who knows what that kind of experience might inspire?

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courtesy Pixabay

In the Company of Another Old Dog

img_2131(The other old dog was Dougan, who passed away at age 14 earlier this year)

Bandit was found abandoned in a horse ring in Texas tied to a wood rail.  Witnesses said he was badly abused.  A menacing four-inch scar on the base of his spine was evidence enough. A dear friend’s daughter was at an event at that very horse ring, took him into her care and drove him back to Oregon.  She named him Bandit because of the mask covering the top part of his face.

Bandit is a cattle dog – a breed also known as an Australian Red Heeler (there are also Blue Heelers).  They are a plucky breed, stout medium size dogs with a mixture of dingo, kelpie, highland collie, and Dalmatian, bred to withstand the rigors of herding cattle across grazing lands in Australia.  They are also extremely intelligent, active, loyal, and protective of their owners and property.

Bandit was maybe a 1 ½ years old when we were introduced.  He was about 40 pounds with a gorgeous rust-colored coat tipped with white fur.  With his pointy ears and mask, he was as cute as a red panda.  Beyond the cute factor, we had some kind of connection.  It was like his little spirit said: “pick me!” If there is some kind of commandment that said, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s dog,” I had definitely broken it.  Regardless, I had to have that dog.

It took about 4 years.  His owner, in college and then off to the world, was in a nomadic phase as most young adults are.  I was always there, raising my hand volunteering to take him in when she couldn’t accommodate him well.  After being put in less than optimal situations, she conceded.  Bandit was dropped off at my home, a fenced acre in the country nine years ago. My gregarious golden retriever, Dougie, had been aching for a canine companion and was thrilled.

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Bandit seemed to sense that he was in his forever home.  He slipped into our family life seamlessly, enjoying all the attention along the way (I’m a dog spoiler). The two dogs took to each other like long lost friends. By far Bandit has enjoyed trips to the beach the most, long walks with me and Dougie, and patrolling the fence line protecting us from loud trucks and farm equipment that drove past the property. Bandit’s sparky personality gave us many a laugh especially when he was excited and acted like a wind-up toy.

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Unfortunately, dogs don’t live long enough.  Our walks grew shorter and shorter as the dogs aged. Sweet Dougie passed away at 14 last spring. Bandit, now also 14 could only manage maybe 15 minutes of sustained walking.  We bought a ramp so he could make it up the two stairs to the porch. Then finally late this summer, his old injuries caught up to him.  He went through several bouts of crippling back pain and could barely walk.  We thought for sure we were going to lose him.  With the aid of a img_3051dog sling with handles (that he wears around his midriff all the time now) we had help him do his business and walk around. Sometimes he messed in the house. Luckily with several trips to the vet, figuring out the appropriate medications, and a little acupuncture, Bandit is now ambulatory and can take care of his personal needs on his own again.  Although he has physical limitations and is in the house the majority of the time, he is back to being his happy self.

During his convalescence, I was so mournful of not having a dog to walk with that I purchased a jogging stroller off Craig’s list for $50 that I converted to be dog-friendly.  We were a team again!  The stroller was so successful that we found a bike trailer for $40 that I also converted so he could join us on bike rides.  Bandit loves his wheels and sets up a barking fit when he sees his rides come out of the shop.

Some might think we have gone to ridiculous lengths and should have just put Bandit down sooner.  The deal is- this dog was given up on once and I was not going to give up on him again, especially knowing he was not ready to leave our company.  Yes, it’s been expensive, a big commitment and at times upsetting, but he’s back with a smile on his face. I know he’s grateful.  This us what you do for the ones you love

Four legs, fur, friend and family- Bandit is all that.

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Cheering on RBG

 

330px-ruth_bader_ginsburg_2016_portraitThere is nothing like hearing about an honest hero these days. It seems like we are in a short supply of role models from the top down. If you want one, take a look at the picture of the Supreme Court Justices. On the bottom second from the right sits a diminutive, soft-spoken older lady.  That’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg age 86. Don’t be fooled by her looks. She’s a powerhouse
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Last week I watched RBG, the documentary (available on Netflix disk).  I knew she was a liberal vote on the court but had absolutely no idea that she legally orchestrated women’s’ rights and equal rights in this country after overcoming tremendous discrimination in her own career.  This movie tells the story of her life from childhood up through her roll on the Supreme Court being after being nominated as a justice by President Bill Clinton.

Ginsburg was one of the first women to enter Harvard Law School. She was one of the rbgeight women among 500 students and was told by the dean they were taking the place of qualified males. Even after graduating from the top of her class, she could not find a job because of her gender. With the help of her supportive husband, she persisted, raised two children and ultimately rose to the Supreme Court. She continues her hard work to this day sleeping only a few hours a night. Ginsburg has also survived cancer twice and follows a rigorous workout twice a week with her personal trainer. RBG has also become sort of a pop icon for her famous dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court becoming known as “The Notorious RBG.”

RBG the documentary is truly inspirational.  I highly suggest you watch it if you haven’t already.  Learning about her life gives hope and offers a welcome reprieve from the current events.

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The Day Before Halloween

 I was out in the garden today “putting it to bed “ for the winter.  It’s good work on a chilly autumn day.  I looked up at the sky and the colorful leaves and said to myself “this day deserves a poem- just do it” so I dashed off to the house in search of a notebook and pen.  Sometimes you just have to pause, be amazed, and write about it!

 

Putting the Garden to Bed

Under an intense blue sky

My garden disappearsimg_3033

with each whack of the machete

As I work I discover monstrous cucumbers

Submerged in dying vines like green submarines

And overlooked onions hiding below the straw

The parsnips pull out of the ground reluctantly as always

Sadly too mature to be good eating

As my armloads of spent foliage build up the compost pile

I sigh with memories of sweet tomatoes

And savory salads

I leave the dried heads of the sunflowers standing

For the chickadees’ delight

The Anatomy of an Open Studio Tour

img_3017Every October the Art Harvest Studio Tour provides an opportunity for local artists to open up their studios for the public to get an intimate look at their work and process. Thirty or so juried artists about Yamhill County, Oregon participate. Studios are open for the first two three day weekends in October. Some artists are clustered in the local towns and others, like me, are peppered about the wine country in quaint settings. Art Harvest is in its 27th year.  To visit studios there is an $8.00 fee for a button which acts as a wearable ticket to gain entry to the studios

For some Art Harvest is a purely recreational experience, making a fun day with friends, buying a few small items and going out for a nice lunch in between.  Others are serious art buyers looking for unique pieces to purchase directly from the artist. Some drive as far as 200 miles away to make a weekend of it or fly from across the country to visit relatives during tour time.

For artists, it’s a chance to have a more interactive experience with people while avoiding the commissions and control that galleries levy.  Often being on the studio tour can lead to other sales and contacts.  I made sure I had items such as magnets and notecards of my prints that were only $5.00 for “takeaways” and for gifts.  Most of my things were in the $20 to $50 range on up to a sculpture for $380.

Spring Migration

I was on the tour 20 years ago and then had a hiatus for a teaching career and raising my son.  Now in retirement, I thought I would give it one more shot. It’s a huge undertaking and expensive for the artist.  The entry fee is $300 which pays for the glossy catalogs, advertising, buttons and a part-time coordinator. Artists must also volunteer on one of the many committees to make the tour function.  On top of that, I had expenses of at least $200 for art supplies and display materials.  That means I had to earn $500 before I would start to make any type of profit (For anyone wondering why art can be expensive, this is why!) Here is a timeline of the tour experience for the artist…

March– Submit application, images, and fees

April– juried in. Continue to amass a volume of work in ceramics and mixed media monoprints.

Summer– attend committee meetings.  I served on the education committee to facilitate school children visiting participating studios.  Make more art!

StandingMaskAugust– drop off two pieces of work to be in the Chehalem Cultural Center show running for the months of September and October.  (Many stop by this exhibit first to decide which studios to visit). Be filmed by a local cable access show Wild Geese mary oliver tributecalled Arts Alive.  (See video here.  My spot starts about 15 minutes in)

September– distribute signs and programs to local businesses and organizations.  Get work framed.  Clean out the studio with a dear friend who offered to help me.  Drape tables, add lighting, hang wall pieces and arrange ceramics on the tables. It’s a huge undertaking to get a studio from a workspace to a display area!

October– Price all work. Place bright yellow At Harvest signs along the routes leading to my studio. Oct. 4-6 AM and Oct 11-13 open my studio from 10 am to 5 PM.

Black Sheep 3Fridays were very slow so I had time to finish up items not yet completed. Saturday & Sunday could get quite busy.  I tried to spend as much time with people as I could to visit and answer questions.  In between weekends I made a new herd of ceramic sheep as the first one was almost sold out. The following week was spent in recovery mode.  I’m not used to that much talking and being “on” since I taught middle school!

Overall, the studio tour was a great success.  Beyond making a respectable profit, it was so sweet to get such validation of my work.  I had numerous visitors make a beeline for my studio after seeing my pieces at the Cultural Center show or seeing my page in the program.  My new work is quite eclectic and unusual.  Working alone as most artists do, I

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Tea Time 2

have to work hard at times to keep my insecurities at bay so having such positive feedback was food for my soul.  Thematically I range from whimsical to spiritual depending on what needs to manifest.  It’s not for all but there were a fair number of people that resonated with it and gave me positive feedback.   It was a great time to  make new friends and connect with old ones

I let a few favorite pieces go during the sale.  Thes beautiful pieces were kept in storage as I had no place to put them in my house.  I was surprised at the twinges I felt as some of these were purchased and left the studio with happy customers.  But art should be seen and enjoyed, not hidden away so they needed a new home.  I was especially pleased when they were adopted by friends.

If you have not participated in a local open studio tour, try it!  Lookup for them online in your area or afar.  It will take you on a mind-opening adventure with not much expense.

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