Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Garden Royalty and White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow. Acrylic Painting by Ken Januski.

Above is the finished 6x8 inch acrylic painting of a White-throated Sparrow. It's not as yellow orange as the photo indicates but close. I decided to leave it as is rather than fool around with it on the computer and perhaps make it less close to the actual painting.

In my many years of art I've always swung between what I think are it's two main elements, at least in two-dimensional work, line and mass. They both have tremendous appeal and at times I'll value one over the other. I think in good painting you get both but there are artists who manage to make a great painting out of mass alone. And of course there are great drawings out of line alone.

In any case now that I've taken up acrylic over the last week I realize how much I love being able to move mass around. That's the virtue of painting, especially oil or acrylic where you can keep painting over the first layer of color, unlike in watercolor.

Watercolor, especially in the hands of artists like Homer and Sargent, has a singing light that can't be beat. I much prefer the watercolors of both to their oils. But if you can't get that singing light then at least you have a better chance of getting the sense of mass right in oils and acrylic because you can keep reworking them.  I think that's what I'm enjoying in acrylic right now. But I'll never lose the desire to use watercolor like Homer and Sargent.

Early Wonder Tall Top Beets.

Pictured above are some of the last vegetables from the garden, pulled yesterday: Early Wonder Tall Top Beets, from Seed Savers Exchange. If I can I like to recollect at this time of the year, really the end of the growing season, just what has been particularly successful this year.

This changes, sometimes drastically from year to year, depending upon weather, pests, how much time we have to keep on top of the garden, etc. So here are what I'd called the Kings and Queens of the Garden this year:

1.Early Wonder Tall Top Beets. I've always hated beets. In fact I grew these for the greens at the top, not the beets in the ground. But out of curiosity we tried various methods of using the beets themselves: beet salad in the summer, and  roasted beets with other vegetables in the fall. They were a revelation to me. Now I see why so many people love beets.

2.Tasty Evergreen Tomatoes. These also are from Seed Savers Exchange. We usually grow some green tomatoes. They taste like red tomatoes and are eaten when fully ripe, not as 'green' red tomatoes are in an unripe state. We always try to grow one green tomato but most of the time we grow Green Zebra. We like green tomatoes for their less acidic taste. What was surprising about these was their larger size and their prolificness. I think they were our favorite tomato this year.

3.Hillbilly Potato Leaf and Cherokee Purple Tomatoes. A tie I guess. These are both heirloom tomatoes, as are all of the tomatoes from Seed Savers Exchange. The rainbow colors, and rich taste of Hillbilly Potato Leaf can't be beat. But each time I grow the purplish, almost bruised looking, Cherokee Purple I'm taken with it as well.

4.Clio Dandelion. This is from Johnnys Selected Seeds. We've grown it for a number of years now. In the spring and summer there is nothing better than wilted dandelion greens where you eat them raw with a warm bath of olive oil, vinegar, garlic and shallots. When I first tried dandelion greens I cooked them. Inedible!!! Only later did I realize that they are best raw. Not only do they taste good but they also taste healthy. I really can't describe that except that it strikes us that way each time we have them. This spring and summer their usual accompaniment was grilled chicken - a perfect combination.

5. Bennary's Giant Zinnias, already featured many times in this blog. Their bright appearance, popularity with bees, wasp and butterflies, and beauty even when dead in the late fall garden make them one of the very best plants in the garden.

6. Oregon Giant Snow Pea, also from Johnny's. Peas are always a bit of a problem for me. Are they worth the time it takes for them to fruit or do they take up too much of our little garden space for much too long? I'd stopped growing them, and garlic which I used to plant in late fall, because they weren't ready until June, often mid-June. But this year we got so many of these delicious peas that it was well worth the wait.

7.Basils. I can't remember all of the types we grew and where the seed was from. But basically they were these types: Genovese, Lettuce Leaf and Thai. We got them in earlier than usual, mainly because I planted seed inside earlier than usual, and we reaped the benefits: basil all summer long and lots of pesto now frozen in the freezer.

8.Beam's Yellow Pear Tomato. We grow this each year, and each year it gets out of hand, growing 10-12 feet high and long, escaping all constraints. But at the end of the year, when all else is dead, there is the Yellow Pear, with a few more tomatoes still there and waiting to be picked. You can't beat that.

And of course there are the annual duds and disappointments. For some reason the Fortex Pole Beans from Johnny's, royalty in other years, were disappointing this year. Perhaps it was just different weather. Dester Tomato, from Seed Savers Exchange, was very bland we thought, even though taste testers at SSE thought it one of the best tasting.

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