Saturday, June 8, 2024

Spring Squalls, Date Nights & Perennial Persistence.


A classic Maine spring...where we were breaking out the shorts and admiring the dwarf iris blooms and creeping crocuses one day and making sure the shovels were close and the generator was ready for another snow event the next. Such a mild winter overall but the two storms that arrived late March and early April brought a lot of trees and limbs down over the whole state and the LocalRootz Homestead was not spared. Luckily after a few hours with a chainsaw and a little help from our plow guy we acclimated back into modern day society after a few days of solitude.   

Speaking of modern day society, it had been a long winter of juggling Hazels busy schedule and both Cassi and I had quite a stretch of long days of work and not much time for ourselves so we made it a priority to have a few moments to catch our breath ask for some help from extended family and prioritize a few date nights to remember what its like to enjoy a lil time to ourselves and get a respite from a very spirited chatterbox 7yr old.

Our first excursion led us through the winding roads of western Maine into New Hampshire for a visit to Tamworth DistillingTamworth Distilling. We were welcomed by a quaint lil tasting room adjacent to the distillery where we relaxed for an hour or so and tasted through a couple flights of some different spirits and cordials. We enjoyed a final cocktail, snagged a few bottles that spoke to us and made our way back to Maine with a nice little late lunch meal at Krista's in Cornish.  

Along with a couple of quick afternoon getaways this Spring we also made sure to get back to our mutual love of concerts. I noticed a familiar name when scanning the upcoming shows in our area and saw Takuya Kuroda was coming to a jazz club in Portsmouth that I have had a few friends mention was a great spot to see a show. I was extra excited about this concert because I had just acquired a recently reissued copy of his album "Rising Son" that had been on my major want records for the past 5+ years so his music was fresh on my mind and after getting an enthusiastic "yes" from Cassi when I mentioned the show I quickly logged in and scored us a front row table at Jimmy's Jazz & Blues Club in Portsmouth!

The show and the venue did not disappoint. We got there about an hour early and had dinner and just as we finished our meals and poured a fresh glass of bubbly from their thoughtful book of wine offerings the show started. The sound quality and service was top notch and the performance Takuya and his quintet brought was up there with the best jazz performances I have ever seen. Cassi was also struck by the structure of the music and the quality of all the players and how harmonious they interacted on each song they performed! A perfect night which was capped off with a neat pour of Eagle Rare 17yr for myself and I must say that was a beautiful pairing for the end of the evening!

Still buzzing from that great performance, we lined up a quick Boston trip in the middle of April to catch another bucket list performance by the legend himself Mr. Lee Fields! Another major bonus was the shared bill with the Monophonics led by Kelly Finnegan!

And although the venue left a bit to be desired compared to Jimmy's, the nostalgia of going back to the Paradise in Boston is never lost on me. Countless nights were spent in highschool chasing down any jamband I could find and most of them ended up at the Paradise in the mid to late 90's. But regardless of the venue, the Monophonics set the pace with a blistering set of mind bending psychedelic soul to warm the place up for the legendary Expressions who skillfully laid down groove after groove as 
Mr. Lee Fields took center stage and belted his way into and solidified why he is the present day Father of Soul!

All love from Mr. Lee Fields with a lengthy monumental set full of lively dance moves, personal stories and heartfelt lyrics. A late night for these parents but well worth the effort! 

Always a treat to pull into the homestead after a weekend away and see the new wonders that have poked through the soil. Crocus pocus!

As the snow receded for it final farewell of the season the eclipse was on the front of every topic of discussion for a few days as the path of totality worked its way across the US and through our home state of Maine. With a busy day of work for both Cassi and I we decided to enjoy the rare phenomenon from the homestead and observe the changes in our environment as we decorated some viewing boxes and tried to navigate the event alongside a working from home Mom and a mandatory "learn from home" school day. 

From there it was full on time to start sowing cold hardy seeds, start a few indooor trays of long grow season veggies and assess our dahlia tuber stock. 

With a fresh pile of brush and tree limbs from the late winter storms we set the pile ablaze in our yearly bonfire as the crocuses faded and the tulips and daffodils began to emerge!

We are so happy with the results of our tulip project and although we decided to not take the plunge in selling them this year we did take time to observe the best methods for harvesting and preserving the bouquets and their vase life for as long as possible, so when we do sell them we will be confident we are sharing the best product we can. One big success was finding that the tulips were all blooming and ready to pull before the dahlia tubers got too out of control sprouting in our front windows so the plan to flip the tulip bed over to dahlia tubers and repeat the process this fall seems to be a success! 

As the patches of daffodils appeared around the landscape we began preparing our beds for planting and getting more of the cold hardy crops in the ground. This front bed has an heirloom painted mountain corn in the middle of the cone trellis that we planted a blend of pole beans and nasturtiums around... in the past our corn has always blown over so I'm trialing a small patch and hoping the beans and cone trellis may help stabilize the patch this year... but honestly its 99% decorative and a pure experiment to see just how much variety I can get out of one bed. Along with the beans and corn we have our broccoli, cauliflower and brussels, beets, carrots,amaranth and sunflowers as well as onions, sweet allysum and probably some marigolds if I remember correctly... kind of smorgasbord of seeds sown just to see what does what! 

Phoebe (resident Eastern Phoebe) is back to raising her babies and gladly claiming the toolshed perch for her second year in a row after many many years of building around our security light. She is right at home in there and pays no mind to me but is always curious what I am up to in the shed and out in the garden. 

Our hive is buzzing with new life as our native pollinators are also beginning to appear just as the trees finish leafing out and the first blossoms begin offering the important nectar and pollen to support a healthy ecosystem for them all.

Our shiitake log project has been expanding slowly and the production along with it! 

Some of the older logs that I presumed to be spent based on their size and age are still popping beautiful specimens and we had a steady harvest over a few weeks cutting about a pint a day!

Asparagus season is always a treat and signals the start of garden goodies on our plates!

Along with early season Asian greens like mizuna, bok choy, tat soi and spinach the garlic always provides some tasty spring nibbling as we thin out this years batch!

Our Native Perrenials have been flourishing with the warmer days as they call to our local ecosystem and proclaim their space on our homestead. It seemed everytime we took a moment to stroll through the garden beds we would notice a new area of growth as our memories of what we planted last season.

Jack Frost

Solomons Seal

White Dandelion

Blue Spring Daisy

Golden Ragwort

Sweet Woodruff

Assorted Hostas

Blossoming Fruit Trees.

Some reality of the garden life is dealing with Asian Jumping Worms... we got overrun with them last year and have been observing our soils and remediation techniques over the winter. With a few 90 degree days before some of our beds were planted we decided to solarize the beds with plastic in hopes it would keep some of the eggs laid last fall from turning into more worms this year. Research is showing that the eggs terminate when they reach above 104 so hopefully this trick will show some results as the warm weather becomes more abundant!  

Another not so fun part of being a responsible homesteader and neighbor is cleaning up our stretch of the road. Obviously we are not ones to throw litter out the window but seeing the amount that gathers along the gully in our quarter mile stretch of road is a bit disheartening. Finding a dozen hypodermic needles among other disgusting treasures left me a little bewildered about our current state of the world... but I was smart and used a grabber tool and it felt good after filling a couple large trashbags to know we at least did our part to help our community look a little less careless and a bit more inviting!

Speaking of more beauty, dahlia tubers are in!

A new rose bush has been planted as our traditional Mothers Day offering to Cassi continues! 

More daffodils are spreading across the homestead...

and the late comer pheasant eyes finally made an appearance!

Let the growing season begin!

Friday, April 12, 2024

Diurnal Inspiration.

As the days start to grow longer and the diurnal shifts more drastic, we are reminded of what lies beneath this subtle white blanket of yet another rather mild winter. Seasonal changes that we have been observing over the last few years seem to be the new normal. Hard frosts are flipped with rainy warmth, even during what should be the coldest parts of the year. Finding mud season creeping into the February side of the calendar and recalling more worries about making sure homestead drainage is up to snuff and less worries about keeping snow paths cleared to access compost piles and tool sheds leave me wondering what winters will look like for the generations to come. I'm sure the deer herd that beds down in our humble hemlock heavy forest have similar thoughts as they struggle through the mud and deal with the challenges of these lengthy labored winters flush with diurnal disparity.

With the temperature swings in full effect it was time for tree tapping and Hazel was eager to lead the charge, as I quizzed her on the order of the tasks at hand. We loaded up the necessary materials and headed out to begin maple season 2024! 

As the afternoon warmth embraced the forest, birds began chirping, puddles began to form and of course the sap started its run.  Hazel made sure to sample the sweet sap drippings from our first tap!

As the week warmed up, 30 gallons of sap was collected and we started our first boil as the weekend arrived. Along with the usual boiling we decided it was a good chance to thin out some lower branches that were shading some of our perennial growing space

Seemed fitting to split a bit of the maple logs from last year to get the pans steaming as wafts of maple sweetened sap smoke filled the air.

Well into the evening we stoked the fire and eventually reduced the 30 gallons and strained the remaining 2 gallons of sweet nectar into a stock pot to bring into the house to do a quick strain through wool, followed by a simple cold crash in the fridge overnight. In the morning we brought the remaining sap to a strong boil and used a hydrometer to measure the sugar content until it hits that sweet spot where it is ready to bottle!

All bottled up and corked for the cellar!

Localrootz Maple Syrup - Batch One/ 2024

Speaking of Maple, here is our sweet feline taking a big stretch now that her favorite season is here!

As the days of snow ebbed into more wind and rain, we assessed our seed stocks and gave our houseplants a pre-spring equinox bath and pruned some dead leaves. Still plenty of last years garlic, gonna have to preserve it as it to knows spring is whispering in our ear and will begin showing signs of sprouting soon I presume.

This winter has been productive in the studio as a few larger paintings that have been in the studio for sometime have slowly come to completion. Its funny where you can find inspiration... above you can see a snowman painting Hazel did with her class that I was observing while wandering her schools hallways waiting for her violin lesson to finish up. I noticed something stood out in her piece and after a minute or two I realized the addition of falling snow was what was drawing my attention and it inspired me to add this element into the piece that I had been working on. 

The inspiration for snow led my creative thought process into how I wanted to translate snow into my painting... I started to conceptualize how I wanted the snow to translate in my work and what the meaning of this winter woodland painting was. My original inspiration came from that sense of peace and tranquility I find when I walk through a winter forest. Especially when its experience is heightened by fresh fallen snow. There is something about a winter walk through the woods that amplifies natures ability to calm the mind. It's like the forest is sleeping and the falling snow is tucking everything under natures nurturing blanket. However as I get older and wiser and maybe less idealistic... there is also an underlying sadness and overwhelming sense that we are just a piece of this puzzle.  That alone doesn't seem very sad but unfortunately it seems our piece of this puzzle has been carved and extorted into a shape that no longer fits into natures. Human kind no longer feels a part of nature, but more just a slow evolution against nature, that is driven by commodity and consumerism. Everyday I slip into the news feeds and viral social content that seems to be laying the map for the human race. I am overwhelmed by its lack of  empathy and hunger for power and greed and likes. War is on the headlines and quickly followed up by hollywood scandals, quick fix pharmaceuticals and economical outlooks that persistently highlight the dichotomy between the haves and have nots. It falls on our minds like gentle flakes as we brush off our distaste and tweet about its serene beauty only to wake up feeling like we are shoveling a mountain with a teaspoon.  The idea of using the news to highlight this eerie feeling made me harken back to my juvenile days of being a paperboy delivering the Lowell Sun. It was those formative years of waking up early and being ready for whatever weather was in store for the day and noticing the seasonal changes, the different insects that I would see or sometimes get attacked by. The mockingbird that would dive bomb me every spring when I snuck around to leave a paper on the elderly womans screen porch or the morning the tent caterpillars spread their webs over the entire neighborhood and my head was spinning with horrors of the recent movie release called Arachnophobia and how quickly I finished my route that day and how every mailbox I had to open was like pulling a wire on a ticking bomb... memories of finishing my route and wandering along the Merrimac River, thinking about the people that inhabited this land long before video game systems and high end basketball sneakers. Listening to my walkman and absorbing who I was and why was I here on this planet. 
Fast forward to present the snow falls outside my studio window I cut circle after circle from the war drenched headlines. Diving deeper into the Economy section as markets rising and falling, the warmongering lobbyist herd the elected cattle into their places to feed on their greed, all the while knowing a seat on the corporate board they appease the most will be waiting for them in their golden years, securing a place for their future generations at the top of the wealth ladder. Forgive me as I ramble and digest. The current state of the union seems to be igniting something in my consciousness that is asking me to do more, say more and act more. 

Each flake of snow falls with snippets of this orchestrated chaos tediously cut and pasted from the current headlines. 

I've hung this piece in our living room to sit "untitled" as I absorb it and contemplate its completion.
It may be done but until it has a final protective coating and remains unnamed I will still say its a 
"work in progress".

Accompanying this piece is another new self reflective work that is evolving with my use of collage. I have used collage in the past but until recently it had fallen out of my methodology. I found it sparked a creative avenue that needed to be revisited and am excited about the dialogue it has created in this current allegorical self portrait that is slowly evolving... 

The barrage of inspiration that has been flowing is exciting, though as a full time worker, husband and father with a smorgasbord of interests... the work is coming in fits and spurts. 

Stay tuned as the ground begins to break for another year of growth, blossoming and learning.

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