Larry.s Creative Zone

Larry.s Creative Zone

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Collage of blooms....






























The multi-petaled tulip finally opened. It came in a variety of bulbs and I got a hodge podge of kinds of tulips. The striped tulip also now has opened. I know that group planting is better and as you can see my single row is nice but if I ever plant more I will be bunching them together.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why do we have a pink house????













We have been asked the question many times as to why do we have a pink house? Some people make fun of it and others just scratch their heads. When Della and I added on our art gallery 24 years ago, we had added a lean to shed roofed addition that made the old house look a little newer. The house up to that time was painted with an Olympic Overcoat, dark red-brown overcoat because it covered up bad siding. When we picked out the paint chip, both of us being artist, thought it would look nice to have the grayed red color that we had been seeing on other houses. We looked at the chip, bought three gallons and went home. It is like a rose quartz. When we started to paint, it went on dull but was such a contrast to that brown that it looked great. As we continued, we thought we had made a mistake, it sure wasn't the color we wanted. Since you really can't take back premixed paint and we were young, we just continued on and used up the paint. It grew on us as the more that the brown paint was covered up the better it looked.
Both us knowing our art history knew that it was close to the color that Claude Monet painted his house in France. The color was made by adding to white paint, a ground-up red brick powder. This is how his color was intentionally made and could a great painter like Monet be so wrong. It has stayed pink, brown is it's base and it is lightened to this color. It really isn't pink, and we have added the green accents to it with shutters. The new porch I built last summer fits right in and makes the house look great. The light of the seasons makes it look differently and the favorite time is summer and fall.
Below are pictures of Monet's painting of waterlilies, and a photo of one of his house in the background. His gardens at Giverney are very famous. He has a pinkish house and one other of his buildings is periwinkle blue. Maybe some day we will change it but for now we are happy with it.












A SITE ABOUT CLAUDE MONET'S GARDENS, HOUSE AND PAINTINGS

A summer project....

I built this gate a couple of summers ago and nothing developed from it. I took the photo a month ago so white snow is everywhere. I need to paint the gate door but want to leave all the rest natural. I planted two clematis plants on the trellis and I see that one of them is coming up strong after a very weak start last year. The fountain was given to me and I need to get the wiring going to get the pump working. The snow makes it look pretty bleak but when I get my after picture done this summer is should look good. The red brick on the side of the old side walk has a rill in the middle of it. I need to drain water away from the house and in the most part is does work. The house sits to the right of all of this with old fashioned roses and day lilies. The other gate pictured with the Japanese roof also needs some attention. I want to paint the gate door the same color as the front gate's color. The sidewalk needs to be improved as it looks like a hurry up job by one of the previous owners. I would like to line the sides of the walk with red brick to widen it and class it up a little. Warm weather and some time will make it all come together. Thanks for reading...

An older story about this gate.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A collection of things...

I have put together a diverse group of things here. My Minnesota birch looks great with the yellow green barberry bush at it's feet. I have a sad looking holly bush near there the I see I am going to have to move. The forsythia looks bad this year. It blooms once in a while but most years it doesn't. A guy a block away from me has two bushes that bloom like crazy. Maybe fertilizer would help.


The stray tulip plant photo shows that it has cabbage like blossoms. I am curious to see what they will look like. My rhubarb transplants are coming on strong. This is their second year and they look good.
When I bought this property the previous owner had a row of rhubarb the length of half of the lot. As the years went by, the neighbor girl, who is grown up with children now, liked to receive the ten trees for ten dollars from the Arbor Day organization. She planted evergreen starts, six inches tall, year after year along that row of rhubarb. Needless to say the last ten years I have seen dozens of plants reduce down to two plants. I have been transplanting and have three new starts going. I think I am going to plant it like a shrub in my front yard as I like it's appearance and as long as I keep the seed stalk pruned down, it will stay green.

We have had a lot of rain. We have to laugh as the national news people who cover LA or Chicago or New York, never ever much anywhere else small town. We heard that Chicago had an inch of rain yesterday, as if it were a big deal. We had three inches and a neighboring city north of us had five inches. The weather is only a serious thing when it hits the big cities. There is flooding north of us and also a school was closed south of us because of flooding. For the month we are already 2 inches above our average and more rain is mentioned for Thursday.
Well, enough of this. It is now too wet for me to till the garden. Thanks for reading....

Bluebells....

I was always fascinated with this plant as a young boy, growing up on the farm in southern Iowa. When my parents bought the place, it was established as a traditional farm of the those times. Farms were self sufficient with orchards, grow your own meat, and grow your own vegetables. As a traditional farm the previous owners also had things planted that we continued to enjoy. There were all the fruit trees and the grape vines and the stray herbs like dill that came up volunteer each year.
The bluebells seemed magical as they were also planted by the previous owners and many times the gardens then were filled with weeds and depending on the year you cleared them or maybe you didn't. Our one set of plants came up next to the grapes and popped right up inspite of the tall grass. It would be a pleasant greeting and one of the first blooming flowers for the year. We would clear things around them after they started blooming. Forsythia would follow and then dandelions. My mom later got into Iris and I planted sunflowers. That was a long time ago and the barn has fallen in, sheds have been destroyed by wind and neglect and the house hasn't been painted blue since 1973. In fact it hasn't been ever painted since 1973.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Peony bushes in a row...






When I bought this property thirty three years ago, the man who was reworking and remodeling this house gutted all of the living plants around the foundation. It was mud everywhere, even up to the back door. After some time the bluebells came up and a very old rose bush came back but also these peony bushes popped up along the driveway. As a history buff I know the some of the silver maples around my house are as old as the house, but one wonders how long those five peonies have been planted there all in a row and which owner planted them. The house is dated 1903 so who knows how old that they are.
Because of family matters going on, I didn't get them mowed off last fall. I don't like to hurry and mow them down after they bloom as they make a great hedge. But by not mowing them down, I had a mess cleaning off the debris. The old stems had to be each clipped one at a time and the leaves are packed in among them. The top two photos shows what is was like last week when I had just finished clearing them. The bottom one shows how fast they have grown in a few short days.
An artist paints with flowers and sometimes that works but sometime they don't use their head. I find the tulips planted next peony bushes works but it isn't a great thing to keep weeds down on the back side of the hedge. I want to leave the foliage of the tulips so the bulb is nourished so the weeds grown up and it has to be hand weeded. I am anxious to show you how it looks when they are all blooming but that is a month away. Thanks for reading...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Iceberg Rose....
















I bought this cheap rose a few weeks back and for four dollars I thought I would take a chance on it. I did see this rose on a garden show and they said it had black spot problems. That info came after I bought it, but it started growing. They tend to sell these too early in the season and I noticed it was actually starting to bud. So I put it in a child's sand bucket and filled it up with potting soil. I noticed this morning that I have my first bloom. We are just a little cool for it to be planted and I decided I will prune it back after it blooms and plant in May after our frost warning. It is fun to see it do it's thing. I see the same store has apparently sold out of all of those earlier ones and they are ready with another whole batch to sell.
Cheap roses, an older blog about this flower.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Good-bye old friend.....

I bought my first van in 1996. I loved that thing. It had a great interior, lots of room for carrying lumber from the store and it was fun to drive. Della and I used to travel a lot and it has been to Minnesota so many times. The Button dog as we call him traveled with us and he was so certain we were going to leave him behind. He would get up into the front seat and wait while we loaded the van so as not to be left behind. I have left the Windstar set for a couple of years with a few problems and yesterday I found it had lost it's last mile. The towing to the garage should have told me something but it has just worn out. Rack and pinion, brake lines shot, one strut rusted through, two front tires really in bad shape, dead battery and the entire undercarriage is just plain rusted out. We had an interesting experience with the salvage guy, a very nice guy, who gave me $100 for it and tried to sell me one of his 8 used Taurus cars and also many used vans. We are moving on now. I have a dead grass area where it sat for so long. I think I will plant a garden there for it's memorial. Thanks for reading.....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My new friend....


No not really a friend. I now know why my backyard is a lumpy mess. Far Side of Fifty gave our family some really serious discussion about this creature. I had to search forever to finally find a picture of it.
Some of you already know this but I only saw them in Minnesota. It is a thirteen lined ground squirrel. I have owned my property for thirty two years and this is the first time I have ever seen one in my yard ever.
I ran across an Iowan garden web blog while searching for answers and we Iowans are dumb. I thought it was a Minnesota gopher, dumb huh? It looked like some of the cartoon characters that they use for that. . The thread never figured it out. I think the web is too old for me to tell them what it is. They were trying to call them squinny squirrels as I have yet to find a photo on the net for that either.
Anyway, I have a mess in my yard and I don't kill animals unless it is a mouse in my house. I will take a deep breath now, since I finally found the answer. I was thinking I needed to till the entire back yard and replant as bad as it was looking. I was blaming my border collie for the turf problem.
If you don't know me very well, I am always willing to admit my ignorance and I love to learn. This new revelation will give me a big problem to solve. Thanks for reading...
Oh yes, thanks Far Side for your input. You are a good friend to have.
Thanks to Erin for having me change it from twelve to thirteen. I now know why I need to be checked into a nursing home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wild violets...

I lived on a farm south of Murray and the wild violets were all purple. When I would visit my friend in town they had a whole lot filled with violets and they were mixed purple and the viola colored. I was so fascinated with the white and purple flowers and really couldn't ever understand that they had mixed colors in town and that we didn't. When I bought this place that we live in now, the purple and white mix is all over the property. They are like weeds among my ferns and in the city's undeveloped ditch there are masses of them which eventually get mowed. Things are really starting to green up here and alums are sprouting up. I have a few iris that survived that are kicking in also.
I saw a little Minnesota gopher last night out on my patio. My neighbors are trying to get pictures of our mother raccoon and babies that live in one of our old silver maples. They leave dry cat food out all the time on their porch for cats so the mother raccoon brings her babies up at night to the porch to eat. They say that they will send me a picture to share when he catches a good shot. We live on the edge of town with one house across the street between us and a farm field. The raccoon has come in to our tree and had her babies the last four or five years. One year she got one of my largest Koi fish from my pond, so I don't put my fish out until I know she has left the area. Thanks for reading....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Learn from your mistakes....




Having been a teacher for thirty five years, I learned early on to be honest as you teach and to teach that you own your mistakes and that is how we learn. Learning from your mistakes is a common saying but I found it is easier to admit them up front and be yourself. I had planned on transplanting these into bigger pots a week or more ago and don't they look great. No, not really as they are too crowded now, twisted together and have way too long of stems. I found that I had so many that I planted two to three per pot and I tried to lay them down to increase soil contact. The photo of the replants look really sick but I have faith that in another week I will have them back into shape.

One thing that bothers me is that I don't like working with this fluffy potting mix. My father-in-law got me to use the material and I dutifully am using it up but next year I am doing something differently. I was raised in southern Iowa where the soil is a large percentage clay. My dad's farm was hilly and yellow except down by the creek. I live north of Des Moines and here where I live, the soil is black, really dark black soil. I was so excited to have such great dirt when I bought the place. In fact northern Iowa is claimed to have seventy percent of the richest soil in the world.

Anyway, I am going to mix at least half of my garden soil into this potting mix to give it a little body. I don't like trying to stand up a tomato plant into something that won't hold it vertically. I guess I could go to peat pots but I feel that I have the material that should work to keep me from purchasing them. I do have some nice looking pepper plants started and that I will post about them soon. I will mix dirt with that and see how it goes. They are not over-sized and I can wait a few more days to do that. I know some one will tell me to wet that soil first and I guess I want someone to give me some hints if that is how it is done.
Have I complained about the weather enough for you? My brother in California was 102 degrees yesterday and we were windy and fifty some degrees. Today it is 53 degrees and blowing strongly and by Friday we can kiss the cold weather good-by as it is predicted to be 82 or more degrees. Sadly we sometimes will never see the cool weather again and we will regret that we complained. The warm weather will bring out the leaves on the trees and the tulips will really come alive. I guess I am ready for that. Thanks for reading............

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring growth...


It is 53 degrees and windy outside but I found two things that look hopeful. The sedum is coming up strong and the alpine-like flowers are blowing in the wind. This sedum is the dark red variety. The white flowers I really can not identify but I think it is a bulb that I planted a few years ago. I don't remember seeing it bloom before as it comes up in the leaves early in very cool weather.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Japanese Maple and....




Last June, our son was married in Chicago at a place called The Grove. It is a state park near one of the airports and originally was a private home. One has to drive off a busy street up through a very winding road surrounded by trees. A couple who were both writers, built this wonderful large cottage with a great two story den with a large window at the one end. The wedding took place in the den with about a hundred people with violinists in the balcony playing wonderful sounds.
The place was planted well with good structural plants and lots of perennials. The photo of the Japanese maple was taken from inside a sun room looking out an old fashion picture window. I really like Japanese maples but where I live only one variety works and it has to be planted in just the right protected area. I haven't been brave enough to front a hundred dollars so I couldn't tell you the variety but a neighbor lady kept one alive for about four years. The one in the photo is planted so that it is protected from the north and west, perfect location.

I am an architecture buff and this house was a huge doll house with great features. I am going to go ahead and show you the stairway with a grandmother and grand daughter at the top of the stairs. The stairway gives you an idea of the style on the inside. Arts and Crafts style but not the over decorated kind. If the house were ever turned into a residence again the windows would have to be replaced as it was fitted with windows that reminded me of single pane trailer house windows of the nineteen fifties. Thanks for reading....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Creative Spirit Studio and Gallery...

When Della and I first married I thought if she wanted to be a stay at home mom that would be ok with me. After the first year I could see that she had to keep drawing and painting and that was great. She was doing so in very dark areas of our house. So the next summer we started to make plans to build a studio addition to our house in which she could work and have a home business gallery area for her to sell her work. Once we were finished and opened, the public noticed that I custom cut frames so they almost demanded that we frame things for them. It was not our original goal at all but now for twenty five years we have also been a frame shop. We were grandfathered in before zoning laws hit and even so we thought we would squeeze in as a craft business. Our business is an easy going one. Don't advertise and keep things moving slow. It has been great for Della to sell her work.
When Ebay came around, our focus changed, and we were shipping her work to France, Ireland, Australia, Canada and and all over the United States. Our gallery has been hurting in appearance. Della would sell things out of the door and we never got much work hung on the walls. We have had blank spaces on our gallery walls for quite a few years.
So two days ago I decided to get the hammer and nails out and started filling in all those blank wall spaces. I found stuff that she still will sell over Ebay and I put up stuff for sale that I have done during some past summers years back. I didn't photograph all of the walls but this is the way it looked when we opened in September of 85. We have diverse themes and various mediums.
I started blogging so I could get acquainted with the skills of blogging. The selling of any art on Ebay requires a blog for self-promotion. As I build my stock pile of paintings, I will have an art blog solely for the sake of sales. I hope that I can keep up this blog once I start. I really do enjoy the social and education benefits of blogging. Time will tell if I can keep them all three going. Thanks for reading...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wearing my artist hat.....




This is sort of my show and tell day as an artist. I have finished my second painting in acrylic paint. It is a scene of a regatta in progress. I really love seeing the white sails of the boats as they are racing through the water. We watch them at the North Shore in Minnesota in the summer. You can see the mess that I left behind on my work area. I haven't cleaned it up yet but that is the part of preparing to get on with the next painting.
The photo of the boxed set of oil paints is my new purchase. As an experienced painter those beginner sets are really for beginners. I have a lot of oil paints and brushes and the works, but the oils haven't been touched for ten years. I have a feeling that I am going to have to do battle to get the tubes open and I am not looking forward to that. What I found at the art store was this set that was marked down so low that I had to have it. It will be my new beginning in painting with oils. I can start out with the new set and add in my old paint tubes gradually. My wife and I bought lots of canvases too.
The other show and tell item is the old book that I had painted two different paintings. I did this with my high school students last year as the library was throwing away many very old, outdated books. As you can see I am in conflict on the style that I like to paint. I am anxious to work with oil as acrylic paint demands a different way of painting. I love the blending characteristics of oil. Enough show and tell for now. Thanks for reading.....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time to transplant...















I know that my father in law was the inspiration behind the tomatoes but he didn't feel well enough to help this year so it will be time to move on and get these transplanted. I can leave them in there a few more days but it really would help them if I got them into bigger individual pots. I have to get some tilling done as I want to get my potatoes into the ground soon. They need to have a lot of time to grow and develop. I bought a couple of packets of seeds, herbs, this week but the spinach seed was all gone. I guess it is popular to grow your own now. I hope our weather continues to be nice and I can get some of these things done.
I bought a new set of oil paints today and a canvas, so I must be headed for painting another one. My old oils were so old and some of the caps had fallen off so they would have been hard to use. A new start is good and it will get my creative juices going.
I took my wife our for dinner tonight and stopped at the bookstore. It has been a good day.
Thanks for reading....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let us eat cake....




When I was young, my mom would let me use the big mixer and make the cakes for the family. I was curious and using the mixer made it fun. Cake mixes were just being made for sale and I think there were only four or five choices of flavors of cake. No pre-made frosting was available. I made my own with powdered sugar, butter and milk. Those old mixers were really noisy and I would get the scraper caught in the blades every once in a while. Now that I am older I realize that it probably helped my mom out a lot to have that task done for her.

The reason I am showing the cake is that one of my French blogspot friends is always putting food on her blog and it looks cool. I joined her blog purely because of this great looking baked chicken dish. She has other great stuff on her blog but the food looks good.The difference is that she gives us great recipes and mine involves a caramel flavored cake mix and coconut pecan frosting from the can. As you can see the frosting is a little thin for putting it on the sides of the cake. Oh well, I mean well. It is my wife's birthday tomorrow and she picks the kind and I bake it. She does the same for me.
Did I mention that cake is my drug of choice? Happy Birthday Della. Thanks for reading....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Kids can be off the wall...



I taught art for thirty five years. I added computer graphic design into our program fifteen years back but art was my major field. I found this photo that reminded me why I really liked kids. These high school students were in one of my pottery classes and one of their major projects was to create a chess set of their own. It requires making the sixteen pieces in wet clay, let them dry, get them fired and then glaze and fire them again. Today's students love to find distractions, being it illegally using cell phones, talking instead of working, or just plain spacing off and trying to do as little as possible. I had been helping other students and turned and looked and in this photo here were these two guys sitting there trying to play a game of chess. The clay is wet, it sticks to the table, and when they try to make a move, they have to unstick it from the table. It was ridiculous to even try to make it work. I asked them if they knew how to play chess and they said sort of, meaning they were just faking it. Those boys are grown up now and out of school but this was really a good memory of my teaching years. Thanks for reading...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Promises of renewal.....



The seasons remind us of the plan of our ever changing cycles in life. Just when I get discouraged about how bleak it looks like in the garden, the renewal of life starts. The chokecherry tree was planted with the overseeing help of my father-in-law six years ago. It buds out first, sooner than the lilacs, and it will have fragrant white flowers. I have never seen a good crop of berries on it. I am ignorant as to if it is just an ornamental or if the birds just clean it off early in the season. My memories of wild chokecherries were of hundreds of berries that came on in June.
I live in an old house with evidence of the many people who before have lived here. They left me lilacs, bridal wreath bushes, peonies, wild violets, and bluebells. On the farm as a kid we had only one batch of bluebells that came up every year, but they never spread. Our house has bluebells scattered all around it and they look really great. They just keep spreading. As you can see we need more warmth but by the end of the week they may be sprouted out to full height.
I really enjoy reading the blogs of all of my followers and those that don't follow me. I have diverse interests and I find it a privilege to share and to read about others all over the world. I hope everyone has had a great Easter weekend and that our lives will continue to be blessed with hope and happiness. Thanks for sharing and for reading.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hyacinths for our soul....

My wife recites to me every once in a while a poem. It says that if you are blessed to have two loaves of bread that one should sell one loaf and instead buy hyacinths for your soul. It is such a true thing that quality of life is important and the created beauty and the smell of hyacinths reminds of our need to continually renew ourselves by appreciating the true creator. A blessed Easter greeting to you all.





Barney misses the one we lost. He is need of so much petting and does not want to lose sight of us. He seems to sense the missing Grandpa who was blessed by Barney's nurturing behaviors. Thanks for reading....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Clarence...


My wife's dad has lived with us for almost seven years. It has been an interesting experience and sometimes difficult one. On Tuesday, he passed away at the age of 98 years, he would have been 99 in August. Being born in 1910 made it difficult for him to understand how this world even works in 2000. He farmed with horses for years and eventually had a Massey-Harris tractor just like the one pictured above. Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My brother....



If you have been following my blog for a any period of time, you have noticed that I have been down this road before now. My mother passed away in May and I showed one of her group photos from her funeral. My brother died in August, three months later.   I know the picture above is bad but I can explain. These were  at my brother's funeral and all the pictures were flat, but heat and humidity got to it before I could take pictures of it. I guess I think it has a surrealistic effect that makes it one composition and not just a group of curled pictures.


My brother didn't have a happy life even though his young pictures show that he seemed to grow up normally. He didn't have a wife when he died as he divorced her after they lost their two year old child to cancer 32 years ago. He had glimmers of success and he did the best he could considering that his loss of his child destroyed him.

The photo collage actually represents his life as the good intentions that just never seemed to work out. His loneliness and hurt kept him from accepting help from anyone, and his hiding in addictions obscured his reality. He threw in the towel when he lost his son and his struggle to stay even with the world destroyed his body. His brothers who remain will always be wounded from the guy who was so wounded. All of the rest of his relatives, who were many, will always remember mostly his struggle. He tried so hard in his own way but he got it all wrong.
So as you look at the total grouping of photos, it is a time to reflect, to see how it is going in your own life. I hope and pray that the pictures people are taking of you, are happy, that you have love around you, that life is good and the bad around you doesn't overcome you, and the peace of God is in your heart.
Thanks for reading...