Friday, October 5, 2012

My "Other" Art Form: Fermentation!

The past three days have been "kitchen" days.  When the harvest is ripe, the time to put up the produce is "now"!  And, in spite of the drought and the nasty hail storm we had three weeks ago,
we still had a few bruised apples to harvest and process in some fashion.  The photo on the top is a sampling of all I/we got done this past week.  The rest is in the pantry.  When the fermentation is complete, in a few days, all the ferments will be stored in the extra 'frig. They'll look just like they do now:  fresh-picked and colorful and chock-full of enhanced nutrients and pro-biotics. And Delicious!

From left to right in the back row:  Fermented Kim Chi, fermented Fruit Kim Chi, Vegeroncini, fermented apple sauce and fermented pineapple (the rest went into the Fruit Kim Chi).  The next row is Apple Jelly, Apple Butter, and made earlier in the season, Blackberry and Peach Jam.
In front is a loaf of long-rise San Francisco Sour Dough bread made from Einkorn flour.
The bottom picture is a 1/2 liter of beautiful, golden Ghee made from 2 lbs of Kerry Gold Butter!

Why ferment?  It's an ancient way of preserving just about anything and everything.  Our ancestors didn't have our "modern" methods of preserving foods, so they dried, salted and fermented whatever wouldn't keep more than a day or so.  And especially during harvest times, whether it be grains, fruits, vegetables or meat of just about any kind.    Fermentation not only preserves enzymes,  it enhances the nutrient value, too. It's actually even better for you than eating the product fresh.  Not to mention the friendly bacteria that cause the fermentation in the first place enhance and aid digestion, and colonize our guts with ba-zillions of life-giving little critters that virtually effect every  function in our body.  Especially our immune system.  Some docs say, "your immune system begins in your gut".   We try and eat a fermented product with every meal, and sometimes we eat entire meals composed of fermented foods, like a "peasant lunch" of lactic-acid fermented sausage, cheese, a pickle, some sourdough bread and a refreshing glass of kombucha, (which is fermented tea). 

Here's a list of the fermented foods we eat or drink on a daily basis. Most of them we make ourselves.
 I'll bet you're eating some and didn't even know it!
Coffee, dried black  tea, chocolate, wine, kombucha, kefir and water kefir, yogurt, sourdough bread, greek yogurt/sourcream, dill pickles, pickled beets, jalapenos, kim chi, sourkraut, fruit kim chi, fermented peaches, blackberries, pineapple, applesauce, vegeroncini, lactic-acid summer sausage, cheddar cheese.  I'm sure I've left out something, but you get the idea.  The coffee,  dried tea and chocolate no longer contain active bacteria, but they are produced by a fermentation process, nonetheless.  Beer is, too, but now it is pasteurized and no longer as good for you as in times past. Same with wine. 

I'll write another blog about my process for making my Einkorn Sourdough another time, along with the beautiful and delicious butter Ghee.  My mouth is watering for some right now!

Six of one...

I've been wanting to figure out a way to incorporate my vast quantities of hand-dyed fabrics, from my fiber-artist, art-quilt days, into my new work in oils.  First, I tried painting a couple of small pieces on nice, decorative paper, glued to a board and covered in acrylic medium.  That was pretty successful; I've got a picture in the files somewhere of Indigo Pete on an orange printed paper background. Looked pretty neat.  And the technique seemed sound.
Ken shot the photos of Hunter last summer, I think, out in the garden.  The background was all washed out, looked almost white in the photo, but the images of Hunter were good.  I've been hanging on to them, waiting for the right opportunity to figure out what  I wanted to do with them. Thought they'd made a good "pair".  And I had two 10 x 8 gallery wrapped canvases I bought on sale.
So, I rummaged around in my fabric boxes until I found just the right piece of silk to serve as background.  Spent most of a Sunday afternoon "gluing" it down to the canvasses with acrylic medium. Silk stretches when its wet, so had to keep working it over the canvas to keep it tight, and miter the edges around and onto the back of the gallery wrap.  When I was satisfied, I let them dry then coated them with 3-4 more coats of medium.  That gives them sort of a waxy appearance, and a good ground for the oils.  Pretty flat and slick without much texture except the brush strokes from the medium.
I drew the images first, scaling both the photo and my drawing to sight-size, in fourths, with diagonal lines for the eyes and head tilt.  Then I transferred the outlines of the drawing to the silk ground and painted them, using the "posterized" photos as my guide. Each one took a whole day.
I got the image on the left a little bigger than the image on the right, but I think they turned out pretty cool.  What do you think?  Something I should pursue?  I sure have lots of hand-dyed fabric stashed away!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Indian Paintbrush

I've been trying to cultivate some Indian Paintbrush in our front courtyard ever since we moved to this house, about 13 years ago.  They are  hemiparasitic, depending on host plants to supply water and nutrients, and will only grow near native grasses, in this case, near a patch of Buffalo and Blue Gramma planted for this sole purpose. Even fully grown plants lack a well-developed root system and will not grow successfully without a host plant.  The flowers are inconspicuous; it is the bright red bracts beneath each flower that catch your eye.   From the original plant that I was successful in growing, many more have come until the small area just outside my front door is ablaze with their fire most of the summer.
I this painting, I was intrigued by the sharp shadows the Paintbrush cast in the final moments of the setting sun.
9" x 12" oil on canvas board.


Mexican Gray Wolf of the Three Amigos Pack, currently incarcerated  at Wild Life West Nature Park in Edgewood, New Mexico.
12" x 12" oil on canvas on board. 


Lucky was adopted from a rescue group outside of Columbus as a companion to the owner's white cat. Sort of the yin/yang effect. He was as large as he was sweet. Long and lanky, but a smaller head for his size. (Personally, I think this occurs in male cats who have been neutered at a young age--no hormones to grow that "big" head!)  Might have been part Burmese or Siamese, as he was quite vocal.  He loved everyone, and acted more like a dog in a cat's body, greeting everyone who came to the door.  He loved to lay in his momma's lap and lick her face.  What a sweet heart!  His one flaw, if he had one, was that he loved to be outdoors, especially since his owner moved to  rural
New Mexico. Dangers lurk there, and apparently his luck ran out.  In his portrait, I tried to capture his soft eyes and gentle nature in a powerful body. Doesn't he look dapper in his red bandana!  Lucky, you sweet soul, if was a pleasure to meet you on canvas!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Once again, this is Zeke the Apso, Muse of my heart.  I don't think that he necessarily poses for photographs, but he doesn't object when we ask to take his picture.  I've had this photo in my collection for quite some time and only recently printed it out.  He was laying on the bed, with the light streaming in from the window.  I took quite a bit of license with some aspects of the painting, but his gaze and countenance are true.  He melts my heart, this sweet dog, who can communicate his every intent with a look and an expression.  His eyes say it all. 
Oil on board. 9 x12


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Spot Riley

Spot Riley  11 x 14 oil on linen covered board

He was named "Spot" right off the bat, as soon as he was born.  Not hard to see why, considering that "spot" right in the middle of his head.  When his new people came to take him home, they wanted to name him "Riley".  Somehow, having met him, Spot Riley seems to fit.  He's a Brittany Spaniel, full of life and congeniality and tons of excess energy, being that he's only about two years old.

And, no, he didn't pose for this painting.  We took about a hundred photos of him cavorting in the green grass of a local park, and I composed the drawing and subsequent painting out of about four of those pictures.  But he could have; he's a pointer!  And someday, Spot Riley will be hunting with his human out near the bosque, and this will be his natural pose when his magnificent nose detects those game birds!  He'll be Spot On, Spot Riley!

11 x 14 oil on canvas or linen board
by commission:  $385.00

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alpha Male of the Three Amigos Pack

Mexican Wolf #2, 16" x 16", Oil on canvas board

Mexican Grey Wolves, also known as Lobos, are among the most endangered of all the wolves in the world. They were  completely wiped out of their natural environment by the US Government and ranchers by the 1970's.  They are small wolves, around 65-90 pounds, about the size of a German Shepherd Dog.  Smaller, rounder ears, shorter nose than their northern cousins, and very striking and beautiful markings. 

The re-introduction program in New Mexico and Arizona had hoped to have well over 100 wolves  in numerous packs established by now.  But, sadly, because of continued illegal killings and removal of wolves that have killed livestock in their limited allowed range, that number is around 50 wolves. That is all that exist in the wilderness right now. They have to co-exist in this limited  wilderness area with free-ranging cattle, angry ranchers, an adversarial USDA, and state governments that are anything but supportive of the re-introduction program. 

These two paintings were done from photos we took of captive wolves who were born and raised on the Armendaris Ranch ( one of Ted Turner's holdings) in S. New Mexico.  There are three brothers, known fondly as The Three Amigos, who are residing at Wild Life West Naure Park in Edgewood, NM,  near my home.  They have been recently joined by their two sisters.  Wild Life West will probably be their home for life.  They will never be released, mainly because their genes are too common among the "wild" wolves and they cannot offer genetic diversity to the wild gene pool.  And, now, they have become too habituated to humans.

It has been a great privilege to observe and photograph these wolves from within their enclosure.
I have mixed feelings about it.  I'm happy for them, as individuals, that their lives will be safe from bullets and leg-hold traps.  But at the same time, they are captive.  They are fed by humans. They are not living out their "natural" lives.  Since they were born in captivity, perhaps they don't understand what they are missing. But something tells me, as I watch them in their enclosure, that, indeed, they do know full well.  I wonder what they would choose if they could:  a life lived free with all the inherent dangers, or the one they now have, one of safety, but limited to the relatively small enclosure they have access to?  We need wolves in the wild. They are a vital part of a healthy eco system.  The re-inroduction of wolves to Yellowstone has been the key to its salvation. So much threatens the success of their survival here in NM and Arizona.  I pray they make it, and prove their worth to generations to come.

Mexican Gray Wolf #1

I've been wanting to paint wolves for a while now, at least a year or two. I've been waiting for the time, and some good reference photos. And opportunities to actually see wolves, up close and in person. Wild Life West, a rescue park for native animals that can no longer be released, had several Gray Wolves for a while, but not Mexican Gray Wolves, until a pack of three brothers came to live out their lives there. They were born on the Armendaris Ranch in SW New Mexico. One of Ted Turner's vast holdings in New Mexico. They were to be released in the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, but one of the wolves, in spite of best attempts by the keepers, just became too friendly with humans. In fact, I'm sure it was the same wolf who gave me several magnificent "play bows" (or perhaps they were challenges!)  on the day we went to photograph them. We were allowed to go inside their enclosure, and once settled in, the three brothers ventured closer and closer, circling us back and forth. My husband got some great photos and I just absorbed their beauty and wildness, still very much apparent, even though they are captive born and will be captive all their lives. There are only 50 Mexican Gray Wolves, also known as Lobos, left in the wild. They are on the very edge of extinction. I am hoping that the paintings I plan to do in the coming year(s) will assist with fund raising to help insure their recovery. I'll have prints and greeting cards available soon, if you're interested. This painting is 9" x 12", oil on board, and will be available for sale soon for $365.00 If you're interested, please contact me.