Thursday, June 07, 2012

Bits and pieces, somewhat in haste

Something of a  mixed salad here, I keep putting things aside to post and not using them, and I'm off for a the weekend which is as good a time as any to try to use up bits and pieces.

Made a new maquette. It's a true maquette inasmuch as it's to use for a drawing and compositional aid. A chunky woman, for a picture I've got an idea for.

So far I've done a bit of drawing for them but no more, for which the maquette woman was useful.  I put her in some yoga poses, for fun.  Her head is too big, I often make that mistake, I'll trim it smaller.

I got out the old wooden lay-figure too, and confirmed what I'd always found, that these really aren't much use for figure drawing.  They bend in all the wrong ways and none of the right ones.

So she ended up in an angelic role.  According to the Apocryphon of John ( we are on one of our periodic Gnostic kicks at the moment), there are angels with weird names responsible for animating every part of the human body: Aol the right knee, Bastan the right foot, Astrops the right breast, Arouph the belly, etc.  Not sure what this one's called...


Stuff in the garden.

This was our first artichoke, a week or so ago, now it's at least twice the size with its little brother coming along behind, and we really ought to eat it. 

These were plants that Yvette and Paul at Kerbiriou gave us last year, which are now producing heads, just when artichokes can be had in the shops for as little as 60 euro cents.  The plants attract all kinds of different insects, none of which seem to do them any harm nor to be visibly feeding off them, they just gather round and sit on the stems and leaves: blue and green bottle flies, butterflies, horsefly-looking things, the shield bugs in the above photo, 

and ladybirds, though not the aphids that one would think the ladybirds need to eat.

When you start photographing plants and flowers, you become aware that there is always a bug there, or several, it makes you realise just how full of invertebrate life the world is:

these fragrant narcissi are long over;

the long thin green bug in this evening primrose was rather shy and retreated quickly into the centre of the flower.

This beetle on the buttercup leaf I photgraphed on purpose,  Not wishing to gross anyone out, I recognised it as what I know as a dog-poo scarab.  The are extraordinarily pretty creatures which look as if they're made of polished bronze, and most often I see them burrowing into the aforementioned excrement.  I always admire them - and the ancient Egyptians who made a creation myth from similar observations - but stop short of photographing them in that context.

So what else is growing?

Foxgloves, in abundance. Yes, I do these most years.  They're weeds, of course, but we let them grow if they aren't in our way.  It never ceases to amaze me that something so magnificent grows as a weed.  I think I probably say that every year too.

The pale ones are the descendants of a large apricot cultivar we once had, which went on to roll its genes on in robust and promiscuous miscegenations here and there around the garden, rather as the big shaggy Burmese feral tom cat who hung around the lotissement down the road for many years left a progeny of skewbald, seal-pointed, blue-eyed farm strays all around these parts.

And rocambole, or tree onions.

They're in their early stages, they get weirder than this apparently. They are also called in English Egyptian walking onions., (that website has some astonishing pictures). I need to research the word rocambole, it seems to have an sense of fantasy, of baroque curlicues.  These were among some plants I ordered this year, including wild garlic and Welsh onions.  The wild garlic hasn't thriven, not surprisingly, I've only ever heard of it growing wild and if it liked to do so round here it would be growing in the woods, which it doesn't.  But these and the Welsh onions seem to be settling in the same bed as the Roscoff pinks of mythic renown.

Broad beans, which should be almost ready to eat when I get back - this isn't upside down, they grow upwards like this,

and a sweet William or two.

Ah, and pumpkins, or pumpkin plants anyway.

Back in the winter I bought an smallish pumpkin from our local vegetable box people.  It had roughish, bluey-green skin, not very pretty, but the rich orange inside was the most sumptuous of pumpkin flesh, really chestnutty, as good or better than any butternut or potimarron.  I saved the seeds which sat on a plate in the kitchen looking more and more manky, and nearly got thrown out a few times by Tom, whose not a great pumpkin fan.  I didn't really hold out much hope for them, so planted them three or four to a pot, then scattered the rest in various spots around the garden, in the raised vegetable beds and elsewhere.  They all started growing.  I have pumpkin plants sprouting in places Tom doesn't even know about, I am a pumpkin guerilla!  Maybe they are F1 hybrids and will bear no fruit, but there will still be the glory of pumpkin vines and flowers proliferating wantonly everywhere...

Yes, the blue bits are slug pellets, if I didn't put them down there would ver quickly be no pumpkin plants, so spare me your organic lectures.  These are supposed to be harmless to other wildlife, and I'm only using them on the terrace by the house, where the thrushes and hedgehogs don't come.  Interestingly, the plants down in the veg garden which I planted directly into the soil though smaller, look sturdier, and so far aren't bothered by gastropods, even though there are plenty of snails down there,

as the thrushes, who use the stones that prop up the raised beds as anvils could tell you.  

The other thing that's coming on nicely:

the understairs cupboard.  Tom's had to take it easy on construction work for a little while, at which he chafes, owing to having worn a hole in the tendon of his shoulder by doing too much of it, but lately this has shown a little improvement, and he has been converting the black hole under the stairs filled randomly with jars of macerating sloe gin, boxes of PG tips and deckchair cushions, into a bijou space which if located in central London would probably command a high rent.  Look, shelves for jars of macerating sloe gin!  

Anyway, that must needs be it as my flight goes at lunchtime today; I have wormed the dog and stocked up on cream crackers and cheese so the two of them should be all right for the weekend.  Tom has promised to look after the pumpkin plants so I hope I there will be no sabotage.  It's another flying visit to the UK, just long enough to catch up with youngest niece from New Zealand, Alison's daughter, whom I've not seen for some years, not since before we lost her mum, who is taking a few weeks in Europe.  She has requested a visit to Camden Lock, which I guess when you're 23 and 'doing' London has to be done; I don't think I've been there since I was her age.

Anyway, I've painted my toenails for the occasion, though it'll probably be too cold and wet to expose them.

Bye for now, see you on my return.


Steve said...

Very nice post and photos. The wifw and I have not been to Camden Lock in many a year.

Catalyst said...

I love your potpourri posts, Lucy. Especially your "popsicle toes."

Nimble said...

Toes! and pumpkins! Huzzah for both. I like the understairs shelves. Sometimes little nooks are the best parts of a house.

HKatz said...

Especially love the photos of the bugs on the flowers. It's a small secret world.

Dale said...

I confess I kinda like the big head :-) And I adore the toes!

Rouchswalwe said...

Magical stuff! I must confess I have no idea what Camden Lock is. Yet I somehow feel I have missed a youthful escapade.

christopher said...

Hmmm...your toes are getting too...

And the artichokes. We had a bush in the front yard of our university student house in San Jose. The year we let the yard go (1971) during spring to do its natural thing, that artichoke bush did the same thing yours is doing, attracting a very large menagerie of bugs, none of whom seemed to hurt the plant and also none of whom were ever in the yard anywhere else.

The Crow said...

GASP! Your macquette has my shape, minus a few pounds (it, not I).

Absolutely love those toes, too! Oh, I hope you get to show those off while on holiday. Would be a shame not to share them farther afield.

Unknown said...

I think I am half in love with your chunky woman, an archetypical Venus. I have one of those wooden lay-figures which I value for almost any reason other than as an aid to drawing. Your toes seem to be on the look out for something.

Anil P said...

Your garden is a haven. Just looking at the pictures makes for a meditative experience so the real one must be even more so.

Leonard Greco said...

Good maquette, I don't see the problem with her head, but we are all sensitive to certain "flaws" we believe we possess.
Concerning your manniken, yes the wooden ones are god awful, charming but useless aside from Gnostic archangels. I have a pair, purchased here in LA, very nimble, very useful . both well built-this is LA (:
I imagine they are not at all difficult to find. i have a few links on my blog roll for artist's mannikens, feel free to scroll through. They seem to come in grey and "flesh".
Your garden looks lovely, I have the same snail bait, hoping to heavens it is as safe as promised, but they are beastly buggers.
Take care, good luck with painting , look forward to updates .

Marly Youmans said...

I'm surprised that Zephyr has not wafted by and admired your toes. That's how she does self-portraits...

Garden looks delicious. Some years I have troubled myself to grow foxgloves from seed--oh, to have them grow like weeds!

Thinking of your insects: did you ever read the little book "Tainaron," by Finnish writer Leena Krohn--meditative letters from a fabulous city of insects?

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

Back now, the garden is sinking under a sea of vegetation and pretty much out of control, with little prospect of doing anything about it until the apparently remote event of it stopping raining for five minutes.

The toenails got a brief exposure and are still quite shiny, though they looked very rough and ready compared to my very glamorous niece's tootsies, glazed with shellac and dried under a UV lamp, which looked like a very good purple car finish.

Marly, I've not heard of that book, I'll look for it!

Leonard, lovely to see you. I found a good lay figure pattern to make in card in a life drawing book; rather fiddly just to use as a maquette but might be an interesting project in itself...

Sheila said...

Oh, Lucy, your photos are just wonderful. Nature is just wonderful. I am full of wonder as I take this all in. Thank you!