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Country Churchyard

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's warming up. A little bit. It's in the low 40's lately. And there have been peeks of sun. The peas I planted so hopefully in mid-March are six inches tall,  growing in a strangle in their planters in the greenhouse. It's still too cold to set them out. It's going to be a thing, untangling their roots and trying to set them out. I've never started peas in the greenhouse before. Maybe it's simply not done. I'll find out soon enough. It'll work or it won't.

I have some nice snow pictures and I'd better hurry up and get them posted before, you know, daffodils burst forth and birds start building their nests in the freezing cold, because they can't wait any longer.

Lately when it snows I take off with  my camera. It may just be on the way to town, but I'll take the back roads and shoot. These spring snows don't last long and I love them for that, and for the sudden lace they throw over everything.

I wonder if anyone is still planting catalpa trees. They seem like relicts of a bygone time. Does anyone say,  hmm, I'd like to have a catalpa in my yard?

There's a little church perched high above Stanleyville that I've always wanted to peek into. I can think of only one of these tiny country churches that's still used, and that's Lower PawPaw Methodist farther up the road. Sometimes you can hear the bells from our house on Sunday morning. This one's sitting silent. Such a nice building, it's a shame someone doesn't use it. Such churches stand witness to the old graves all around them. Nobody tears them down until they literally fall apart, but even then the graveyards are sacred and left untouched. I'm glad for that. They have a purpose, even if all their inhabitants are forgotten by most.

What a view these people have. I wonder if they rise like smoke up out of their graves and sit and look at it just before sunrise and sunset. I would. 

The older cemeteries are full of Germans from the Old Country, their inscriptions auf Deutsch.

In the mowing and the frost heaves, some stones inevitably get dislodged, displaced, orphaned. What you do then is lean them up against the church.

There's a moment of blue before the clouds close in again.
I snatch it

and peek in the window to see the cold still pews, waiting. These are nicer than most, with the curved sides.

I watch the winter light play across the landscape.

This would be nice to paint, with its limited palette. I forget how much country there is around here, how it just goes on forever, and how little of it I've explored. There's always something nice waiting when I do.

I peek in the trash can and find used lilies. So someone remembers and puts fake flowers out, and thinks to throw them away when they fade.

I turn for home and pass the dairy farm, little plastic igloos waiting for the calves who are separated from their mothers and fed from bottles as soon as they're born. Sigh. What a weird way to raise a calf, with a plastic outhouse and a bottle for a mother, never to know the loving scrub of her rough tongue on its skin. Imagine carrying a baby to term and then having it taken from you so you can keep being milked. It's a wonder they don't lose their minds, both mother and calf. Maybe they do.

 I'm thankful for fields and broken skies to look out over.

At home that morning, I couldn't see past the bird screen on my studio windows.

but out here, everything's lace.

My favorite shot of the day, an old truck and a redtail. You can hardly see him, but he's the black dot in the leftmost tree.

I've decided spring isn't coming this year. That way, it'll feel like a bonus when it does.

Chet Baker Does Doga!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Chet Baker is a special dog. There are certain things he knows he's in for if he's going to live in our house. Being kissed and snorgled about two hundred times a day, for one. Having fabulous freshly cooked human grade meats worked into his Royal Canin, for another. Poor thing just suffers through all that.

And a daily bout of dog yoga (hereafter called Doga) with Phoebe. 

His roll-with-it attitude could stem from being constantly handled. He's acclimated to being held up in the air, stretched out like so much licorice rope. 

Or it could be that he knows he will get a bikkit afterward.

Because he does get a bikkit.

But we also think he likes it, despite the sotto voce grumble with which this video opens.

Look at his face and see what you think.

Chet Baker Sits Up

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Chet Baker has learned many tricks. Phoebe and Liam teach him. It doesn't take long. None of them are difficult. Here, he practices Sit Up, which needs an assist because he is a long-waisted, deep-brisketed doggeh. The reward? Sugar snap peas. Go figure.

This is about as cute as it gets, speaking as an unbiased, unbesotted and detached videographer. If I were the kind of person who said, "Enjoy!" I would say that. But I'm not.

Landscapes With Dog

Thursday, March 21, 2013

It is staying resolutely, frigidly, no-pea-plantingly cold in Ohio.  I must look for the silver lining. Which is that these two-week old photos still seem remotely relevant even after the calendrical first day of spring has rolled over and past us, leaving us shivering in its icy wake.

Morning fairyland, courtesy overnight blizzard.

Bloggers are thankful for such small mercies. We get busy; we get caught up in life and putting out other products. Which may include piles of clean folded laundry, myriad meals, speaking engagements, commissioned paintings, poster art, garment art and a new CD from The Rain Crows. thiswasastealthadvertisementpracticallysubliminaldidyounoticethat? Being reduced to irrelevance by, say, a warm front with NORMAL TEMPERATURES FOR LATE MARCH, nice as it would be, would be not so good for the blog. How's that for finding a silver lining? Dopey, I know. Yes, I am shouting, and shaking my fist at the heavens.

I have three-inch tall sugar snap peas growing like Topsy in the greenhouse, hunderts and hunderts of them crammed into long narrow window planters, and the nights are still in the 20's. Now what? Thought I was so slick, starting them in the greenhouse. Har. 100% germination, far as I can tell. Highly enthusiastic peas. I normally get about 20-60% germination when I plant them right in the garden, and wind up replanting two or three times. It's a thing. Tried to beat the thing. Got myself in deep with about 200 pea plants with nowhere to go now. I have a reverence for life that my dad used to describe as Hindu, so you can be sure I'm figuring out how to keep them all alive and, I hope, producing snap peas by early June. The goal being to eat peas before we leave for North Dakota.

So we're traipsing along with Shila and Chet Baker diggin' the old barn scene near my house. I keep seeing landscapes with dog

and toothless barns, oh ghaww I love this barn and dread the day it collapses

when I'm not seeing the remains of a pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) which had the misfortune to grow up in jail. How this plant made it to 5' tall inside a barn encased in stock fencing I don't know. Doesn't look like it was able to fruit, poor thing, and it's etiolated (a lovely favorite word meaning all stretched out from lack of light) but hey. Nice try. My guess is that an eastern phoebe perched on the fenceroll, pooped out a pokeseed, and the seed took it from there. Grow where you're planted. One of my mottoes. Unless, of course, you find yourself etiolated. Then get out and get you some sun.

We tromp around the abandoned farmstead noting details like the dental molding on the once-kinda-fancy front porch awning, dating to a day when they cared about such things

and the fabulous color and texture of the oil tank that marks the well on the acreage, a regular Pollack painting it is

and we see a Boston terrier in a sport jacket go down an allee of white pines

and past an outhouse that yes, really is leaning at a Pisa-like angle

He pauses at the top of the hill where, on Thanksgiving Day, I lost him for a couple of hours. But that is another story. He's looking back, making sure it doesn't happen again. Obviously, he found his little doggie way home, because there he is, still with me, checking to see that I'm coming along.

Yes, Chet Baker. Mether's coming. 

All right then. I will start down the hill.

Oh little dog in snow how you make my heart skip.

As does the cornice of the cabin at Fergus' pond, whose reflection is peeping over the edge of the sish ice that rings it.

Little bluestem looks nice against a leaden sky.

Oh look. There's our house, peeking through the thinned forest our neighbor had logged a couple years ago.  Never mind. It's still forest. It'll grow back.

By now, about 4 pm, it's bitterly cold and a freezing wind is tearing at our clothes. Tears stream down our cheeks but Shila still stops to catch the changing light. At this point I am thinking about hot tea

and last year's cardinal nest, given away by the snow egg it's holding.

Right after I took this photo I stepped off the side of a slick snowy road bank and rolled down it, falling conveniently on the snap fixture that holds the strap on my camera, opening it and allowing the camera and treasured telephoto lens to fall to the ground. Nobody was hurt. Actually it was pretty funny. Ask Shila.

I've got a blitz of speaking engagements this coming week in Columbus (check the left sidebar labeled "Julie in the Flesh" ) so if there's a hiatus in posts it's because I'm taking it to the streets. I'll be back, just like Arnold.

Barn Fulla Petrified Cow Poop

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It doesn't take much to make me and Shila deliriously happy. An old barn full of petrified cow poop will do it.

Chet Baker likes those, too. We let ourselves into the lower portion of this unused barn, marveling at the dry-rotting still barked timbers on the ceiling, at the remnants of cattle long gone.

At a door that's not doing anybody much good now. The light, oh the light. Made me want to paint it right now, right now.

Vine fingers feeling their way in, finding it dark, and feeling their way back out through the barn's gap-toothed smile.

A garrotte of poison ivy hanging in one window

over exquisite hand-cut sandstone blocks.

A Valhalla for phoebes, if they can keep away from the rat snakes, which they try to do by situating their nests in the middle of beams, away from the vertical and thus climbable supports.

Shila has this thing that she does, where she chuckles continually when she's finding compositions and subject matter to her liking. I do too, although I intersperse my utterances with moans, exclamations, rarely words. We don't have to say anything in English when we're grooving on visuals, and it's just as well because when we're on a photosafari we're so far into our right hemispheres what we said probably wouldn't make sense anyway.

And the snow fell, and the knocked out panes were perfect.

as was this poor door that the wind bongled up and left for dead.

I'd never explored this barn. I guess I was saving it for a time when I could share it with Shila. 

Barns and Baker in the Snow

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shila and I had been trying to get together for weeks. Months. We kept deciding we had other stuff taking precedence, which is a sign of overmaturity. We were in the process of deciding to bag a planned walk on a fine snowy Sunday (there were taxes to be done and houses to be cleaned, yawwwn) when the conversation got more involved and Shila suddenly said, "I'm coming out there."

I squealed with delight at having my prosaic and dopey plans changed for me, and began scurrying around gathering lenses and gloves and vests and snacks. There were a few places we could go, but there was one place in particular I wanted Shila to see. My abandoned farmstead on the hill, a bit under two miles distant. It would be a nice walk. The sky was lead and the snow was whiter than white and still falling.

Chet, of course, would come along, wearing his Woolrich letter sweater. He lettered in Handsome, and also in Cute. And in Chipmunks.

I wanted some pictures of this beautiful fresh snow, which was still falling as we walked. If winter is going to drag on into March, by gum I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. 

Chet marked some little bluestem

and kicked up a storm of snow

and investigated the edge of a barn with his newly graying dog thong showing

A rubber horse froze in mid-gallop

and I liked the line of the gutter going down the side of the barn

and also the way the snow-covered roof disappeared into the white sky no matter what I did with the exposure.

The whole thing, very Currier and Ives, Chet very Orvis or LL Bean, so jaunty in his little jacket in the snow. I couldn't stop shooting my pup.

this is not the end, not by a long shot.
More Baker and Barns to come.

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