Jul 12, 2018

Backyard Botanicals

Annually our Elora Centre for the Arts hosts an exhibition with a theme that is open to anyone.  This year the theme was "Backyard Botanicals" and each participant was given a wooden box, about 24 inches by 10 inches by 2 inches deep.   I am thrilled to say that I heard about this opportunity very early on and got my act together in time to take part and create something that really came out of Nature and my creativity.    












Here are the guidelines:











It all started with the box, which was a lot bigger than I thought it would be:  

Of course it needed a good hanger:


and the beginnings of an idea:


I had collected little objects all Winter and Spring (well, I'm forever picking up little stones and twigs and bits) and they were on trays drying and being bug-cleansed by spending time in the freezer.  Then, all of a sudden, a collection of bits looked like the strange creature in the image above.  What is it?  Who knows!  But it definitely had life.  With a few pieces of quilled foliage and a lovely dried branch, the idea was definitely taking shape.

  


It was a BIG space to fill but I was determined to only have natural objects.  Long curls of quilled paper made excellent grasses.


And even the background was only paper (cardstock, flocked (maybe there's a bit of plastic there, oops) and textured "copper") and a section of a tree trunk found in our front flower bed, probably Maple.


And underneath, the critters!  All wood and flattened pine cones, the two beasts are very real and raw.



The quilled pieces were all constructed one by one, some looking like specific plants while others were just fanciful...



...to create this lush and green wonderland.


To complete the piece, the long outside edges of the box were lined with bark.  




In the end, my offering is completely made of dead things:  the box is part of a dead tree, the creatures are made of dead bits of trees and the papers are dead plant and tree fibers.  And yet, and yet, it's a celebration of life.  

It's "Through Her Eyes", Mother Nature's eyes.  It's her Frankenstein Project, creating life from the dead. 



And the piece was delivered July 10!  I'm really looking forward to the opening reception July 12 to see what everyone else created!  



Thank you Elora Center for the Arts for the opportunity to focus on a project and get it done!  And for the chance to share it!  

Hope you can get to the Center in person and see the remarkable works!

May 29, 2018

When life hands you lemons...

This Winter was a hard one for the shrubs and evergreens in our neighbourhood.  All around, you can spot very brown and dead cedars, evergreen ground covers, etc... and flowering shrubs that are only sprouting from the ground with dead branches.  
  We lost our lovely Wegelia, a few other bushes and, most noticeably, the thick evergreen right at the intersection. 

This beast accepted the harsh spot it was in for years, with the sidewalk salt, exposure, dog pee, etc... but the Winter of 2017/18 killed it.  Yes, it was as crunchy and prickly as it looks.  

So we chopped it down to expose the trunk and our great handyman Tim cut it off at the base (thank you so much, Tim!).


So now we had this big, empty spot, which gets lots of afternoon sun. So we thought... rocks!  We wanted to have a big one, 3 feet or so, but Grand River Natural Stone would not deliver it to this spot for fear of damaging the sidewalk.  So we had to go with what we could move on our own, and three pretty, white marble pieces were hauled, shlept, pushed, maneuvered and dragged into place!  

That was a job!  But once the rocks were in place, we could plant the 4 hostas we got from the Centre Wellington Dog Park plant sale (thank you, Karen!), and the White Bigroot Geranium and the Tom Thumb Creeping Cotoneaster we purchased from Little Tree Garden Market.  There's also a nice cluster of Golden-rod that was trying to survive under the evergreen, so its happier now.


Ta-da!
Now we need rain.  As you can see, the Maple is already dropping leaves and we fear it's going to be another dry Summer.  

Please wish our garden plants a long, healthy life!

Apr 24, 2018

Spring's New Arrivals

On April 21st between 10am - 4pm, Wellington Fibres Mill had their annual open house and we were lucky enough to attend!  Wellington Fibres is a small business owned by Donna Hancock and she has on her farm about 30 breeding Angora goats, which produce mohair. Amazingly the goats produce enough fibre to be shorn twice a year and the mohair is processed right there in their own mill.  Not only did we get to see the new kids but we also enjoyed a tour of the mill.


First, of course, we saw the goats!



On this gorgeous Spring day, the barn was airy and bright with the light scent of straw, and animals of course.  The ladies with their 3 week old offspring were in 1 large pen, the yearlings in another, the 3 males were all separately penned and the moms with very new kids were also separate.  



Here are the moms with their 3 week old kids and above is a proud papa.




And then there were the babies!  To say everyone was enamoured with these little darlings would be an understatement!  







The wee little ones were adorable to watch.  Kids don't walk, they bounce, like grasshoppers!



Take a look at these two videos!  







And here are some pictures of them standing still... it happened occasionally!



When we had our fill of Springtime newborn joy, we headed for the mill and shop.  There, Donna gave us a tour of the operations, which were complex and required a lot of calculations, know-how and experience!  


After washing and turning the raw fibre into rovings, this machine (once set-up for the desired weight, twist, and other features beyond my understanding!) turned the rovings into thread...  


...and here the threads are combined into what you buy as yarn.



From beginning to end, the art of creating a workable product from the raw fibre was fascinating.  


While the goat barn and mill were only open for this special annual occasion, if you're a fibre enthusiast and indulge in knitting, weaving, needle-felting or other fibre arts, the shop is open year-round and you'll be treated to some of the nicest fibres on the market, locally produced!   Check their website for hours and go indulge your senses!  

Feb 18, 2018

First Impressions

When we first purchased this historic house, we knew the front entrance (into the sun room) needed work but other, more pressing issues had to be dealt with first... so for 3 years we endured snow blowing into the sun room and swarms of flies and ladybugs!  In the Spring of 2017 we finally found the people, the time and the finances to rejuvenate the house's main entrance.  From neglected to magnificent!

The entire rejuvenation consisted of four projects:  new steps, a new front door with frame and surrounding panels, scraping/reglazing/repainting the outside of the whole sun room and finally a wired doorbell (the wireless was completely unreliable). 


Project #1:  The Steps.  Our old steps were narrow and there was no landing outside the door, making it very awkward to stand, luggage in hand, and ring the bell.   





So this was the old door and stairs....  

And here are the new steps:

Each step is significantly wider, especially the top landing.  It's Sienna treated planks and hopefully will be easy care.



So once the steps were installed, the door project began!
We were fortunate enough to find a carpenter up to the task!  Rob Dupree took this part of the renovation in hand and masterfully replaced our old door and the plywood panels that framed it.  




Notice the lovely lever handle:  no more scrapping your knuckles on the door frame!
A major issue for us was the desire to keep the concrete sill that runs all around the sun room.  Most of the workmen who came to give us estimates wanted to cut these off, flush with the door opening.  While we were willing to change the door, we were not willing to alter the concrete, especially as this "permanent" feature of the home is in photos of school children from the 1940s (click here to see one).  As you can see in the photo, the sun room at that time was not enclosed, with no door at all.

While the door was being installed, Natalie Simpson and her crew worked on the stripping, reglazing and painting.


Obviously, this part of our home had been neglected for some time and was in dire need of protection!  Especially as this was the front of the house, it desperately needed to be taken care of properly and Natalie did a wonderful job of reglazing the windows and applying protective paint.

And project #4:  the new doorbell!  
When Rob rebuilt the door framing, our electrician Brock from Fergus Electric had already drilled into the basement and left us an electrical line to run all along the outside of the room and hide behind the quarter rounds.  Rob therefore had everything he needed to include the doorbell in his part of the project, with Brock finishing this detail. 


And finally, it was all done!  



And Willow loves being able to see outside!  

Thanks to all our great professionals:  Rob Dupree, Natalie Simpson and her crew and Brock Richardson from Fergus Electric!  If you want contact information, simply send me an email and I'd be very happy to share.