I'm in love with sunshine, bird song, Spring, my husband, my little cabana (Cedar Kottage), paints, shells, sand, soil, plants, flowers, the air, Cedar Key and more ... so much more!
I can't believe it is mid-February already, and remember not so long ago when I felt encapsulated in time in a dark, dusty house (that seems so expansively large to me now), pinging from window to window like some lost particle in space pondering how anything could endure such a dreadful, void season. I never dreamed (or even wanted just a little bit) of a Florida migration. I never dreamed I would love Florida. But who wouldn't love the meaning of the word, "flowery Easter?" Things change.
I am up in the air these days without a compass. My sure footed path of what I want has been overgrown with new ideas and possibilities. I was so sure of my path in life and now, well I'm certain of change. Things change. Sometimes for the better. Usually for the better. Mostly for the better. It will all work/flow out. I sometimes wonder if we don't really have a say in what happens to us as much as we try to plan and set goals. If we do, however, have a say in what doesn't happen to us and that is how we move bumbling forward. We can say no to this, no to that and eventually we reach a resounding yes of this is what I want, that a thousand "nos" eventually puts us on the path we were meant to follow.
Today I mourn the death of the NNY Art Trail. While I believed in this incredible idea that was born and placed before me, this idea of uniting all the artists of North Country on a map and in a shiny, glossy brochure so that the visiting outside world could see a trail of talent splayed across three counties, there comes a time when one's energy is burned more effectively in a different fire or idea. In its first year, my partner tirelessly contacted artists, arts organizations, news organizations and sold to them all the benefits of having such a trail. An enthusiastic 50 artists and an impressive number of sponsors joined the Trail as a result. This year when asked to renew, we received a scant over 20 artists' participation and only a handful of sponsors. Guess that Trail blazed out? Do we really have to spend that kind of initial energy again to keep the fire stoked? Too much. We have collaboratively decided, even without the investment of long term momentum and stick-to-it-ness, to retire the Trail. I am admittedly, relieved in one sense only because pulling together the web site and the graphics for the brochure and map was/is a ton of work! In another sense I would have liked to attempt to morph into something of a different animal that may or may not have worked — perhaps simply an online directory with a minimal membership fee but how does one keep feeding that idea flame, and what about all those computer-avoiding-art patrons out there who wouldn't care or even know how to look it up online and well ... collaboratively deciding are the key words here. The idea was born, it lived but didn't quite thrive in a year's time and now it has burned out because the universe keeps moving forward. It is change, certainly, and is probably good/better in this way. It is now energy I can spend on the Violet Fern Art Studio & Garden for which I can always be grateful to the NNY Art Trail for spurring me into action. The birth of the Trail is what made me step up my game to pursue art full time and create some sort of viewing venue on my property in Clayton however unlucrative that is right now. Funny how all those things, even those that burn bright and expend, lead into something and into now.
In my new state of "airness," I am wondering if, in a strange and unforeseen twist of my life's path, the lake (way up North) will become/is now my time of peace and painting and if the Violet Fern Art Studio & Garden enterprise will be rebuilt — bionic — here in Cedar Key? If the Trail, even in expenditure, has in some way directed me to here? If my venture will gradually, naturally migrate here through a series of "nos" and turns over the next few years?
I love, love, love my garden paradise in Clayton, NY, but can I even begin to convey to you how excited I am to garden in zone 9a??? I mean I just ordered a Brugsmansia to plant in the ground! 'Charles Grimaldi' to be specific. I imagine swinging in my hammock chair (which is the coolest but I've yet to hang), above my coral-painted porch (which I've yet to paint), reading a book (especially about gardening or perhaps even about painting which I find difficult because I just want to stop reading and keep trying), with these amazingly large, drooping, trumpet blooms (mind you, I have yet to even plant Charles), dripping down around me intoxicating me with their fragrance — in spite of all those "yets," I can almost taste it!
Brugmansia 'Charles Grimaldi' Photo credit: Annie's Annuals
Yes, you could grow this beautiful Brugmansia in a large pot in the North and then cut it back (gasp) to cool over the winter in a sheltered area but to me, there is just something magical about growing a plant like this from the ground up!
The porch in its current state: saw station. But I imagine that Brugmansia in that little patch of filtered sun there with big floppy blooms and the hammock chair where the saw table is now and the cement painted coral.
I also have my own little grove of fruit trees! Mucho more love. There are peaches blooming right now! I am on a bit of a learning curve here and just ordered some organic fertilizer for the trees but ideally I should have fertilized before flower and fruit production. From what I've read February is a good time to prune. From what I've discussed with local folk, pruning after fruit harvesting is a good time, too. Fertilizing is a must here due to well, sand. A compost pile, or impending drumlin in my case, is not a good thing here as the entire jungle of plants in the nearby vicinity will root their way over to it. A better way is for me to dig a trench near my peach tree, empty my compost bucket into it, and cover it up/bury it. I worry about digging into roots but well trench composting it is because I have an active imagination of drooling, toothed, carnivorous roots finding their way to my compost pile.
Peach and peach blossom in the "grove"
I hope to make a nice crushed shell path down the center of the grove by lining up bricks and filling in between, ending in a circle punctuated by a large sculptural bird bath. It is just what I "see." I have started the path with some bricks I found buried on the property, the learned cardboard trick to kill the grass, and some rock pebbles I purchased in bags at the little hardware store here (an expensive way to go vs a truckload of crushed shell!).
The start of a path through the "grove." Eventually I hope to mulch beneath all the fruit trees on either side. You know how I feel about lawn. There are peach, plum, apple and even avocado!
But my husband and I are focusing our energies on making Cedar Kottage home (and a suitable rental) for now...
Our cozy, modest Kottage coming together LOVE! We have painted the walls sand with the exception of the wall leading
to the back deck (painted bright sea foam). A glass door to the deck is on order so we can see outside. New bamboo floors.
... can I resist planting a thing or two? No way! I brought with me an ornamental ginger that sunned on my back porch steps in Clayton all summer but never flowered. I just had to plant it because it is hardy in zone 9 and can reach an impressive 8' tall! Her name is 'Elizabeth' and she is a ginger lily, Hedychium coronarium. I pruned her short to bring down in the car with us, a mistake I fear as the stalks I pruned are no longer growing but she has sprouted two new ones. She is now planted in the corner of our back deck steps here at Cedar Kottage and carefully outlined with an old favorite of mine, wine bottles. She reportedly smells like honeysuckle and is very attractive to hummingbirds, oh goody.
'Elizabeth' tucked in next to her is a coleus I rescued from the Park (where I worked) that broke off.
Under the deck a stash of cardboard from moving — cardboard is a gardener's friend here in FL!
On my schedule today is to plant a key lime tree — I just LOVE that I can say that! We were in the tiki bar one evening and got to talking to a man named Wiki who just happened to have a few key lime trees for sale down at Annie's Café where we like to go for breakfast every now and then. He must have enjoyed talking with us because he told us to pick out any tree we wanted as a housewarming gift — what a great guy!
Key Lime Tree most likely Mexican or West Indie Lime. It has thorns and will grow up to 13' tall and wide.
So you can bet I will be taking care of that little tree with all I can muster. It's not much of a garden now but he will go where the cinder block is marking the spot. I am collecting palm tree stumps to line a large future planting bed out back. They are pretty easy to come by if one keeps her eyes open for sidewalk lawn debris pick ups. One is a makeshift bird bath on the fly. To the left, surrounded by rocks, is a little Loquat Tree I grew from seed — though they do not grow true from seed — over the summer in my greenhouse up North. Loquats, or Chinese Plum, are a good ornamental tree, though not native (neither is the key lime). They have large glossy leaves and sweet fruits (hopefully mine will). I see them growing around the neighborhood and their panicles of flowers always seem to be loaded with bees and overwintering Monarchs.
The very crude beginnings of a garden
I have learned from my mistakes in making the Violet Fern Garden up North. We will have a fence lining the back of our property similar to the one of our neighbor's pictured, straight away. I will be leaving a wide path along the sides of the house open for painting, maintenance, and access, and it is already lined with clam shells. Something I truly wish I would have done up North only with pea gravel or pebbles.
By the way, I absolutely don't miss Facebook — certainly a change for the better — and no longer view a world divided. I am so much more happy, obviously, and am now going to go love me some sunshine. I hope there is love surrounding all of you this February of 2017. — LOVE
I feel like I've been absent. I suppose I have been distracted by all the happenings and buildings of things I hope to accomplish in the New Year ... but here I am now.
Something I have been contemplating for awhile, I finally ended so I can make more room for things that matter to me. I have deactivated my Facebook account! I am tired of living through social media, stating my whereabouts, and what I'm cooking or eating for dinner and who with, and regurgitating quotes about how to live a meaningful life, or heaven forbid, ascertaining political views.
"I want to live through my art and garden in the here and now, in real life and time. I want to be a participant in my own life not a narrator. I no longer view my life through a screened device."
So, there's that going on. At first I didn't "deactivate" because I worried I would lose touch with friends and family that are far away but I FaceTime my family pretty regularly and I can always text/email/call my friends with sincerity and purpose. I also worried that the absence of the five pages I "authored" for things I'm involved in including my own business would affect my "ratings," but honestly, I doubt that Facebook page ever resulted in a single sale of my art. In all honesty, social media, for me, has become a big "time suck" much like television is/used to be. I end up watching videos that honestly, I don't have any interest in watching. I love living without the cable umbilical cord and now I'm cutting another. Social media has literally altered how I view life — through a screened device. I find myself thinking, "I should post that on Facebook!," instead of enjoying the moment. My thinking tends to be limited to that little screen, bounded in a box and the tired saying "think outside of the box" seems very appropriate.
Is this social?
Social media is harmful so I've read time and time again nodding my head in agreement. I want to move, get, run full speed away from it. This is my year!
And to confirm this resolution of sorts was a good, no more like fantastic decision, I read about the three hour live rape coverage on Facebook by immigrants just one day after I cut the cord. I don't even have to tell you how that disgusts me, do I?
Of course, I didn't cut off ALL social media avenues because I am keeping my instagram account for now. (And I am writing this blog.) Instagram hasn't creeped into every nook and cranny of my life like some peeping-Tom-google-tracker. I tend to view it as more of an art form — a frame of mind vs. four confining walls. I hope to become better at it as an art form, too. I like how it makes me see things I wouldn't have noticed before. It makes me see things as I imagine a photographer would see. It makes me see paintings where I haven't before. It makes me hungry, too, because I won't lie, I love pictures of food!
I don't follow twitter at all so I'm not concerned about that account. Although lately, I will admit I am curious as to what our President tweets. (Please refrain from politics in your comments, please, please, please.)
In my new found positive outlook and freedom, I am also reeling from fortunate circumstance! I have been spending winters here in Cedar Key for five years now as I've mentioned before. This year, events lined up so that my husband and I were able to purchase our own real estate here and so we acted upon it. Putting a few roots down here has changed my view of the future and my focus.
I had a long list of paintings I wanted to accomplish down here this winter, but that has all gone out the window with painting walls and installing new floors, and you know what? I'm okay with that! I'm okay not being productive! I am going to take a little respite and reframe my visions as I flow on downriver in this life. I want to paint what inspires me and so far that has been Pablo the Pelican and a start on this Tropical Fruit Series: Pineapple.
It's like a switch has been thrown and I am now in "explorer mode." I no longer am tethered to one small plot on this earth. I can put down roots and expend energy anywhere. I can live anywhere, not just in my home town or a little box. So often my thinking has been, just wait. Wait until you are settled. Wait until you move here or there. Wait until ... no longer!
So, I joined the art center here and tried my hand at the pottery wheel. It was fun without expectations. In February, I have signed up for a watercolor workshop I'm very excited about. This is what I need(ed). This infusion of new perspectives. I tend to sit down at my painting table and say okay, let's not waste time, let's produce, produce, produce! Let's produce something with (a narrow) focus. That is no good for my artwork. Artwork has to be exploratory, expansive, experimental in order to grow. So, I am making room to grow. I am growing! This is the way of the new year.
This is all exciting, nearly overwhelming stuff but I am still connected to my garden at home in Clayton. I look so forward to this Spring to be in the Violet Fern garden without distraction. At the same time I will also be planning a new garden here that I won't make much progress on this year, but next. Perhaps there will be a Violet Fern Garden North and a Violet Fern Garden South. I already have begun sketching out some plans and have contacted the extension here in Levy county to consult with a Floridian master gardener. Being part of the master gardener program in Jefferson County NY myself, I know how valuable a resource this can be.
Please join me in my excitement of new ideas and places. I hope to be back at (directly connected to) the painting table soon. In the meantime, this is my life.
Because of recent hurricane Hermoine, there are plenty of tools to go around. The owners of the Low Key Hideaway were gracious enough to loan us some tools so we can install new, bamboo floors. Thanks a bunch Maureen and Frank!
This is my new workout routine — an obstacle course through the rooms in the middle of floor installation. I need it because our new main dish is takeout pizza and wine and beer enjoyed on these temporary tv tray tables.
I admit my new laundry room is pretty cool — I don't think I have to remodel anything here! Except maybe find something more rodent proof to store the bird seed in!
Just yesterday we were able to set up a bed to sleep on! By the way we will be renting our paradise home in the months when we are not here. Perhaps this is your chance to see Cedar Key for yourself? We're calling it Cedar Kottage (CK2 like Cedar Key squared!) and believe me, it will be outfitted well. The gardens will take a few years, though. I'll post details of where and how to rent soon.
This is our 5th year visiting Cedar Key and although it feels like home to me, that's five years I haven't spent Christmas with my immediate family. This year it caught up to me — I have nostalgia and I want "Christmas." This may be unknown to you, but it certainly isn't a secret, my husband — whom I love dearly — is a scrooge. I don't mean just a "bah humbug" kind of scrooge, but a if-I-could-I-would-CANCEL-Christmas scrooge!
No matter I am taking Christmas by the antlers! I have a full blown Christmas tree this year. The grand Subaru sleigh transported a third of my Christmas decor here, too, in spite of the professional packer's distaste. The tree was flown in special from Amazon — quite a deal I must say only because the cost of said tree had to run quickly by scrooge with its nose sooted over. That being out of the bag, I must say I was quite shocked that some trees have a price tag of nearly $300.00! (I spent a 6th of that.)
Remembering my awful allergy breakout the last time I decorated a Christmas tree, I went artificial. Being a Northern gal, green seems out of place next to Palm Trees and Cabbage Palms, not snow, so I chose an artificial white tree. That says "Florida" to me for some inexplicable reason, meaning feeling. A slight oversight, all my Christmas lights are green (to go on a green Northern tree). Next year I will perhaps invest in some lights with white cords.
It's not the same, sitting by the lit up Christmas tree in a rental with your door open because the temperatures are mild, but there is still that magic in gazing upon the tree. There's still that magic in decorating the tree of which I did alone because as aforementioned my husband is afflicted with scrooge syndrome. I did subject him to hours and hours of Christmas carol therapy and I think it might have helped just a little. As is my tradition, and I believe my grandmother the one and only Violet Fern also partook, one must decorate the tree with a bit of spiked nog. What's that you say? Vegans, or plant based weirdo diet people, do not consume dairy nor eggs — which astonishly to some are a main ingredient in egg nog, or perhaps it's the revelation that the eggs are raw that is astonishing if you were to make your own. No matter! There are now dairy-free, egg-free nogs on the market and they are just as delicious especially with my favorite spike of Kraken and a bit of sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg. Some traditions can be carried on with slight modifications.
One of the expected joys in decorating my Christmas tree this year was unwrapping (inanimate) ornaments, each of which sparked (alive) memories of who gifted onto me or their origins. As I mentioned in a previous post, I did make some cookie dough ornaments with the fond memory of making sugar cookies decorated with colored egg washes with my mother and family. I brought some of those with me. I have missed hanging up ornaments given to me by my grandmothers and great aunt. These are little treasures to me and remind me of the 1950s era (even if I wasn't born until the next decade) and of Christmas Eves past spent in my grandmother's basement complete with pool table and bar or my other grandmother's living room. All fond memories of Christmas cheer. What's a little bit synchromatic is that the glasses here in our winter rental, as pictured in the nog shot above, also remind me of my Grandmother's basement bar and that 1950s era.
Some of my favorite ornaments given to me by my Grandmother and Great Aunt.
I love the tinsel nestled inside the pink glass tear drop shape, and the tea kettle — so delicate!
A pink Christmas ornament of either my Grandmother's or Great Aunt's that is frosted with
Merry Christmas always reminded me of Florida! I feel its at home this year.
My other Grandmother kept things simple with only an array of gold ornaments like this.
What spurred this post was actually a comment I made on another blog that encouraged its readers to share their Christmas traditions. That long winded answer/comment told me to write it out in a post of my own. And I encourage you to share your traditions or a favorite tradition here in the spirit of Christmas.
I have collected "star" ornaments for years but this star also belonged to my grandmother.
It slides apart to store.
I'll try to sum up my immediate family's traditions here — the ones I am pining for. I wish I could go to my Mom's for Christmas Eve — wish I would have planned ahead to fly up to Syracuse and pop in for a surprise Christmas! — spend the night and then go to my brother's (close by) for Christmas Day brunch. Christmas Eve is all about family — exchanging gifts from family to family including family pets. (When we were kids, Christmas Day morning gifts were from Santa.) Christmas Eve gift exchange includes gifts with an abhorrent amount of tape so that opening the gift without some sort of tool is nearly impossible. It also includes girl gifts from Mom, i.e. kitchen gadget, and boy gifts from Dad, i.e. power tool. It might also include a candy cane inside the gift box — something my Grandmother would do when she mailed gifts to us. The comment "oh, this bow is like one of Grandma's!" may be exclaimed meaning it was tied around the gift very, very tightly. I included candy canes in my gifts this year that have been mailed to my Mom's. I will also say I used almost an entire roll of packing tape on one of the boxes I mailed, mostly to hold it together, but I can't help thinking about the tape tradition. Tee hee.
This special star ornament hangs from a branch swing and was given to me by a
dear friend. I have made my wish.
This ornament was an ambitious Christmas for me in which I once again, made cutouts,
only from craft clay, and handpainted. I lived alone in an apartment at this time of my life.
I incorporated some of my button collection which came from my Mom. I made more of
these as gifts for my family that year but kept this coyote moon one for myself. The moon
is a big, white, glossy button.
In place of dinner on Christmas Eve is an excessive array of appetizers/cookies that we munch on throughout the night while drinking spiked egg nog, wine, and mixed drinks with Christmas carols playing in the background. We used to follow that up with midnight mass but that has morphed into 5 O'clock mass so we can drink responsibly. Back to that array of snacks: homemade fudge from Grandma (now made by Mom) and/or the seasons' Christmas cookies, homebaked rolls (family recipe baked by Dad) with egg, tuna and ham salad filling, and pickled herring are staples — quite a combination! Breakfast brunch at my brother's includes more homemade rolls, kuchen (coffee cake - the same dough as the rolls with a crumbled sugar topping), and "potato sausage" made by my father — recipes carried down from generations on my father's side. I have "veganized" grandmother's roll recipe as my husband, brother in law and sister now all eat plant based diets. The "potato sausage" is a little bit more difficult as its secret ingredient, aside from shredded potatoes, is leaf lard. My dad bakes all the rolls and kuchens now with the help of my nieces carrying on tradition.
My Mom gave me these slip on stars to make your Christmas lights sparkle.
I believe they were from Avon, now a collectors item?
I also have these hot chili pepper lights that seem closer to home here.
This Christmas we will once again be headed to Gulfport. Gulfport is where my husband's parents lived. It is good that we have spent the last couple of Christmases in Gulfport because both of my husband's parents have now passed on. Last year spent there because it was the first (and unbeknownst to us at the time, the last) Christmas his Mom would spend as a widow. The year before because of his Dad's health. Prior to that because we mostly spent Christmas with my folks when we stayed up North and his folks were in Florida. So that switched around finding ourselves in Florida, too. This year we are going to sort through their condo along with his sister and brother-in-law to put it up for sale. And although that may sound dire, it's a mixed bag because my husband and I now have a Florida home to furnish come the New Year. That is my secret, a home here in Cedar Key of our own! We will, be assured, still be returning North come April. Our Florida home will be rented out when we aren't here. It is simply a stepping stone to a very long range, far in the future plan of sorts. So this Christmas is the ultimate of where the ghosts of the past meet the ghosts of the future.
I am always an advocate of change. Change is good, it's evolution. Sometimes it is forced upon us but I am a firm believer that things always turn out for the best. So, though I am pining for traditions past, sometimes even to the point of tears (in paradise — do not feel the least bit sorry for me who is blessed to the nth degree), I know that Christmas will evolve for my, our, family and we will spend it together once again somehow in some way that will make more precious memories, new traditions that we will all come to love.
I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, holiday — however you celebrate, and please share — much peace and joy, and the spirit of the season.
Author Kathy Sturr
In this blog I may write about the garden, flowers, plants, and the garden ... mostly the garden, but also new art and inspiration.