Saturday, August 01, 2015


Back in 2012, I planted my odd little collection of slightly sad fig trees in the narrow strip of ground that separates our house from the neighbors' driveway. 

Since then, California has been suffering through a multi-year drought. Keeping any garden plants healthy has been a struggle. Robb and I have tried to re-use as much of our household water as possible. We capture our laundry water in a re-purposed winebarrel, and use that water on our lawn. Dishes get cleaned in a washbasin, and that water goes directly out the kitchen window. 

This prompts me to make the following observations:

It's very obvious which fig plants are nearest the sink, and which are under the dining room windows. 

Robb has been doing a lovely job, re-pointing and re-painting our 1920s windows. 

And finally, our neighbors must think we're total lunatics, every time we chuck a basin of dishwater out the window. 

Friday, July 24, 2015


Once again, Robb and I are raising Anise Swallowtail caterpillars, in the hopes that they will thrive and transform themselves into butterflies. 

We haven't seen as many caterpillars as usual on our fennel plants, so this year I've been bringing foliage with eggs attached in to our butterfly hatchery. Robb and I figure that by bringing them inside, we protect them from predation. 

At this moment, we have one chrysalis, one caterpillar who is in the writhing process of attaching itself to a branch in preparation for turning into a chrysalis, and a variety of caterpillars in various stages of growth.

To me, this is a truly magical process. 


I was walking with my friend Emma, when she spotted this jeep. Crammed with layer upon layer of pea sprouts. 

What wonderfully odd things have you stumbled upon lately?

Monday, July 06, 2015

One Stitch Follows Another

It's been a while since I've posted to the blog. I had gotten myself into the stupid mindset of thinking that I had to write something truly momentous, and so of course, I wrote nothing at all. 

I'm going to cut myself some slack, and not worry so much about perfection. I'm going to give myself permission to use unedited cellphone photos, because I'd gotten a bit hung-up on only posting "real" photographs. 

What is it they say?  

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

Thursday, April 16, 2015



For the last few summers, Robb and I have collected the Anise Swallowtail caterpillars that we find on our fennel, and raise them in our pantry.  This keeps them safe from hungry birds, and other predators.  The caterpillars eat voraciously, and form chrysalises quite quickly.

After that, it's anyone's guess how long it will take for the butterflies to emerge.  Most come out in a few weeks, but some overwinter.  We need the space, so we don't keep a tank of chrysalis-encrusted twigs in our pantry all winter.  We stick them in a flowerpot in the garden, and hope for the best.

On March first, I was watering my plants when I noticed this butterfly, freshly emerged from it's cocoon.  It was unfurling its wings and gaining strength.  It was a lovely surprise on a beautiful spring morning.

*  *  *  *  *

Blog readers who haven't abandoned us must be wondering when Robb and I are going to emerge from our blog-stasis.  In truth, we've been hugely busy, and I've been simply too tired to write about any of what's going on.

And this week, I'm also sick as hell with laryngitis, and what's probably bronchitis.  My physical state is not particularly enchanting at the moment.

But at some point, I'll re-emerge.  And I'll write about all the lovely things that have been going on.  

But it may take a little while.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Wrapped in the Flag


If there has been a lack of activity on the blog of late, it is because I've been so inundated with work.  I've had virtually no life. I work thirteen hour days, and then pass out on the couch, watching British gardening shows on tv.  Apparently, I find watching other people work very soothing.

Here's what we did, the week before last.

On Friday March 13th, we drew a series of rectangles on the paper that covers our studio floor.  We spread the massive backdrop fabric out, and then carefully stapled it inside the boundaries of the boxes we'd drawn. You'll notice that we go pretty much from wall-to-wall.  There's about two feet between the fabric and the wall on the left side of the photograph. On the other side, the fabric goes right up to the concrete floor of our spray booth -- not so easy to staple into that.

I cooked a batch of corn starch, and sprayed it onto the fabric.  This "sizes" the fabric, making it easier to paint.

Over the weekend, I painted a base-coat of white on the fabric, and then applied a watercolor-y underpainting. We're painting the Union Jack, but in our version, there's a lot of texture and staining.  The underpainting is painted in dirtied primary colors. In this photo, I've finished the blue and the yellow, and am preparing to paint the red undercoat.

Because the final product will be so huge, we painted this in four sections.  When assembled, it will measure over seventy feet in width.

Once the underpainting is complete, we have to mask all the areas of the flag that we don't want to paint.  Here, we're using four inch wide automotive masking tape (the green stuff) and four foot wide sign-painters' masking paper ) the white stuff with the brown backing).

Here's where we were on Wednesday March 18th.  I've started painting the blue areas of the flag.  This flag wants to look somewhat faded, so I built up the colors with layers of spray.  I used a hand-held garden sprayer to apply my paint.  All colors were custom-mixed in our studio.

Here's all the blue completed, on Saturday. You may notice something strange about the diagonals. Because of the way the scenery goes together, the shapes are extra-complex.  I won't be entirely comfortable until I see it all go together.  The mathematical aspect of this project was remarkably tricky.

The masking is reconfigured, so that I can paint the red areas.  This was remarkably time-consuming.

Here's how things looked at the end of the day on Saturday.  I've painted the first coat of red.  Red is a remarkably transparent pigment, so these sections will need many layers of paint.

All the painting was finished by the end of the day on Sunday. The sun is starting to set, and there are dramatic shadows on the floor of the studio. 

In addition to the red paint, there are more layers of staining, to add texture to the flag.

All the masking has been removed, I think the flag looks wonderful!  Removing the masking took a remarkably long time.  We spent Monday morning getting to this stage.

Here's a photo that my coworker Lynne Eve took.  Emma and Anna are drawing guidelines that will help the carpenters attach the flag to the hard scenery. 

For a sense of scale, consider this: Anna (who is wearing the red shirt) is almost six feet tall. 


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