Sliding into summer; creative projects

I’ve been enjoying that in-between feeling where the last blossoms of spring are falling and the snorts of hot air are pushing the new plantings towards the sky. Nights are sometimes still cool here and the unpredictable New England climate makes my mind wander into centuries past when creativity here was necessity to thrive. It’s a good reminder for me to stay in that creative place and it settles my modern-day angst.

The vegetable garden is planted. Four types of tomatoes, 6 types of peppers, eggplant, artichoke, cardoon, celery, 2 types of summer squash, 2 types of cucumbers, tomatillos, celery, more greens, dry beans and fresh beans, winter squash, potatoes…In the raised beds, the kale and spinach and broccoli are telling me that they wish to go to sleep now—“it’s too hot mom”—so I will let them go soon and plant again for fall when the cooler temperatures make them happier. The garlic looks good and soon I will cut their curling blossom shoots (called scapes) so they do not flower and the bulbs will continue to grow until fall when I pull them for winter.

spring veggie garden; janebalshaw.com

I have already harvested and dried my herbs for the season. Their flavor and aroma is best in early to mid-spring before the heat of summer has changed their constitution by concentrating their more acrid resinous oils. Its still not too late; before they blossom, cut them first thing in the morning before the sun has hit them and dry them very slowly by hanging or laying in a basket in a warm room or attic. I will use some for cooking, some for sachets and some for tinctures in the facials I give and skincare products I make.

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My annual window boxes have been planted for long over a month now. I decided to go with a fairly muted palette this year inspired by the local grower’s petunias and a new crazy colored coleus paired with that purple potato vine; inky purple, burgundy-brown, acid yellow with a hit of red, a split-complimentary color scheme.

Coleus window box 2; janebalshaw.compotato vine and coleus color gradation; janebalshaw.com

I always love an American flag in the summer and this year I designed a quilted interpretation for the front door that ties together plant colors. Since commercial fabrics fade in the sunlight I instead painted my flag on a solid piece of fabric with textile paint which, after setting with heat, will not fade. I use colorless Jacquard brand paint that I custom mix with Createx brand tints.

painting the flag quilt; janebalshaw.com

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I’ve been reading “Summer” from Stillmeadow Sampler again, a gift from my mother-in-law years ago. Written by Gladys Taber in 1950, it chronicles her life by seasons living in her 1690’s home in Connecticut. There was a colonial revival in the 1940’s and 50’s when many New York based writers retreated to old farmsteads in New England. Living in such old dwellings and utilizing the historic land was quite a departure in the era of TV dinners. There is a lot of creativity expressed in those pages and the name of her home, Stillmeadow, expresses the non-static approach to living a creative life which I strive for.

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Last week-end my son helped me build a woven fence to contain my blue thistle.  It is of the wild variety and was given to me from the Shaker Village gardens here in Canterbury from their original plantings.  It is sentimental but given it natural habit, it falls forward.  The fence should help.  We had just trimmed our trees so the fresh green branches we used just bent into shape held by tension around the stakes.  The color of the stakes will mellow with time and it will all blend right into the landscape.

building the thistle fencd; janebalshaw.com

I hope this post has given you some inspiration to put your own ideas to use this summer.

Please stop by my OPEN STUDIO this summer on Saturday July 30th from 12-5.  I will have some of my latest artwork on view PLUS my studio is open to former students to come have a day of practice with my tools.  Read more about it here…

Also visit the Canterbury Fair that day from 9-5!!

Love, Jane

 

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