Cock-a-doodle-do!

Cock-a-doodle

Rooster

 

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The old red barn on the farm where I grew up

The old red barn on the farm where I grew up

As long as it stands, the old red barn will be the anchor on our Minnesota family farm.  My recent visit was the first time I had returned since my father died more than two years ago.  Now the land has been split into two parts, owned by my youngest and oldest brothers.  The old square farmhouse with peeling white paint has been torn down and in its place is a beautiful new home with lots of windows looking out on the land, spiffy modern appliances, and even air conditioning.

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I am not a sentimental person, so I had no qualms about seeing the new house, and I looked forward with eager anticipation to the changes and improvements that my brother and his wife made to my old childhood stomping grounds. I was not disappointed.  At first I was just a tiny bit disoriented because the new house — while sited in the same spot as our old one — has a larger footprint and extends farther to the west.  It took me a minute to figure out where the old smokehouse had stood, to identify the stump of what had been the tree with the tire swing,  and to recognize the trees still standing next to the garage.  (The old garage has also been replaced by a new, larger one.)  Other trees have grown even taller than my memory of them.  But once I was reoriented, everything felt familiar and comfortable and welcoming.  I realized that, for me, the farm was not the physical buildings, but rather the land, the landscape and its seasonal changes, family ties and memories, and the rhythm of daily farm life.  Those things endure and I love them just as much now.  My visit was a homecoming.

Old barn and new garage

Old barn and new garage

“The eye for beauty is the eye for love.”
— Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year

Once again I was struck by the beauty of my childhood home ground.

Fields and woods

Fields and woods

“The landscape seemed increasingly to be a succession of lines — the line of hills, the line of trees, the line of reeds, the line of cattails, the line of water  . . .”
— Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year

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One view to the east

 

One view to the south, with woods and wildflower patch

One view to the south, with woods and wildflower patch

“Our language does not distinguish green from green.  It is one of the ways in which we have declared ourselves to be apart from nature.  In nature, there is nothing so impoverished of distinction as simply the color green.  There are greens as there are grains of sand, an infinitude of shades and gradations of shades, of intensities and brilliancies.  Even one green is not the same green.  There is the green of dawn, of high noon, of dusk.  There is the green of young life, of maturity, of old age.  There is the green of new rain and of long drought.  There is the green of vigor, the green of sickness, the green of death.  One could devote one’s life to a study of the distinctions in the color green and not yet have learned all there is to know.  There is a language in it, a poetry, a music.  We have not stopped long enough to hear it.”
— Paul Gruchow, Journal of a Prairie Year

Farm fresh eggs

Farm fresh eggs

My brother and his wife are bringing new life to the farm with animals — chickens, dogs, barn cats, pigs, and they rent the pasture to another farmer for grazing cows.  While the scale is more of a hobby farm, the animal husbandry and stewardship of the land is as hands on as the farming of years past.  Butchering six chickens brought back old memories.  I learned that a farm skill like butchering chickens is like riding a bike — you never forget how to do it!  Farm-to-table meals are not the rare thing they are in the city!

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My brother raises buff orpington chickens for meat, and the few hens lay eggs

My brother raises Buff Orpington chickens for meat, and the few hens lay eggs

 

Watercolor sketch of chickens

Watercolor sketch of chickens

 

Butchering chickens using a chicken plusher to remove the larger feathers.

Butchering chickens using a chicken plucker to remove the larger feathers.

 

Chicken on the spit

Chicken on the spit

 

Cow in the rented pasture. The red ear tags help to repel flies.

Cow in the rented pasture. The red ear tags help to repel flies.

 

Pigs raised for pork

Pigs raised for pork

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My sister-in-law titled this watercolor sketch "Bacon 2017"

My sister-in-law titled this watercolor sketch “Bacon 2017”

In my Dad’s final years, as he grew frailer, he resisted change.  Many things were falling into decrepitude, but changes were deferred for as long as possible so that my father could be in familiar surroundings.  Now that he is gone, it is rejuvenating to see my brother’s and his wife’s efforts to remake the farm into a dream home for their own lives.  It seems only right to me that they move the farm into modern times.  Time to create new memories in this deeply rooted place!

Watercolor sketch of one of the old oak trees on the farm

Watercolor sketch of one of the old oak trees on the farm

 

Watercolor sketch of zinnias in the from garden bed

Watercolor sketch of zinnias in the front garden bed

 

 

 

Gordon Skagit Farms -- a bountiful harvest

Gordon Skagit Farms — a bountiful harvest

“As Gill says, “every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist.” The small family farm is one of the last places – they are getting rarer every day – where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker – and some farmers still do talk about “making the crops” – is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”
― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

Gordon Skagit Farms does a great job marrying farming and art.  A visit there is a visual feast.

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Pen and ink sketches of squashes and pumpkins

Pen and ink sketches of squashes and pumpkins

Something to Crow About

August 27, 2015

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“He liked the hens.  He liked their bobbing, pecking scurry and the old lady sort of attitude they took about their roosts.  He liked eggs too . . .”
— Richard Wagamese, Medicine Walk

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Kathryn, age 6, with home-raised eggs

Kathryn, age 6, with home-raised eggs

In k and colored pencil sketch of rooster

In k and colored pencil sketch of rooster

Watercolor sketch "Something to Crow About"

Watercolor sketch “Something to Crow About”

 

Delft plate with windmills

Delft plate with windmills

"In the Month of July" showing a windmill on a polder waterway by Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel, Rijksmuseum collection

“In the Month of July” showing a windmill on a polder waterway by Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel, Rijksmuseum collection

Think of Holland and you think of windmills and the distinctive blue and white of Delft pottery.  We saw both by using Amsterdam as a base for daytrips to the town of Delft and to Zaanse Schans.

There are over 1150 working windmills in the Netherlands.  Zaanse Schans, a short bus ride (bus 391) from Amsterdam, is a “living history” destination with the opportunity for a close-up look at several old windmills.

The windmills of Zaanse Schans

The windmills of Zaanse Schans

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By covering the blades with canvas, the windmill catches more wind.

By covering the blades with canvas, the windmill catches more wind.

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We took the train from Amsterdam Centraal to Delft.  The train, filled with commuters going to the Hague, was a smooth, quiet ride.  We saw a few fields of yellow daffodils from the train windows.

The central train station in Amsterdam

The central train station in Amsterdam

Commuters reading the newspaper on the train

Commuters reading the newspaper on the train

Fields of yellow daffodils

Fields of yellow daffodils

Audrey and I both loved Delft.  On the day we visited, there was a general market in the main square, an outdoor flower market, and a flea market.  Our main activities there were strolling, looking, and nibbling.

"The Little Street" by Johannes Vermeer showing a street in Delft, from the Rijksmuseum collection

“The Little Street” by Johannes Vermeer showing a street in Delft, from the Rijksmuseum collection

 

Shop selling Delftware

Shop selling Delftware

Painter at one shop demonstrating the art of Delft painting

Craftsman at one shop demonstrating the art of Delft painting

Detailed painting

Detailed painting

Delftware with tulips

Delftware with tulips

At the Delft flower market

At the Delft flower market

Delft flower market

Delft flower market

So many cheese shops, Delft and everywhere in Holland

So many cheese shops, Delft and everywhere in Holland

Rhubarb for sale at a green grocer in Delft

Rhubarb for sale at a green grocer in Delft

Old windows, Delft

Old windows, Delft

Stone surface in the market square, Delft

Stone surface in the market square, Delft

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer with kaleidoscope effect.  Vermeer was born in Delft.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer with kaleidoscope effect. Vermeer was born in Delft.

Another view from the train window on the ride back to Amsterdam

Another view from the train window on the ride back to Amsterdam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the Seattle Art Museum a few minutes before opening

We are very fortunate to have a rare opportunity to see over 100 of Picasso’s works of art without the cost of an expensive airplane ticket.  The Seattle Art Museum is currently exhibiting Picasso’s art from the collection of the Musee National Picasso in Paris, which is undergoing renovation right now.  I went to see it this week.  The ticket price includes an audio tour, which I found helpful in learning about Picasso’s career.

One of my favorite pieces was a painting called The Farm Woman, 1938.  I loved the simple, yet evocative, sketches of a rooster, hen, and chicks on the edges of the painting.  Picasso is a genius at making a few lines so very expressive.

Here is a reproduction of The Farm Woman in the exhibit catalog.

Detail of the rooster from The Farm Woman

Seattle street scene: Picasso mural near Pioneer Square