Fruits of Labor

May 4th, I laced up my sneakers, threw granola bars, underwear, a t-shirt, my vaccination card and a few masks in my purse and got on a bus for New York with my artist friend, Yolanda. Yolanda had a list of art shows and one Broadway show that she wanted to see and generously invited me to join her. We had two inspiring days in the city. The weather was great, the tulips were blooming and the subway turnstiles scan credit cards now. I visited two new venues for art, The Morgan Library and the Jewish Museum. We saw works by Holbein and David, found a white rabbit with amber eyes and ate delicious Vegan Thai food.

Besides this rare trip out of town Andreas and I have been homebodies. My German class finished at the beginning of the month with a junk food party.

The garden is growing and changing daily. Between work hours we are digging, weeding, harvesting and Andreas is cooking. May is the most colorful month in the garden. The azaleas start to bloom one by one until the entire yard is a rainbow.

Then, the peonies and irises come on. Right now, after some strong rain showers, the roses are dominating the landscape.

Farmer Andreas harvested his rhubarb as soon as they popped up and we had our favorite rhubarb pancakes.

First rhubarb pancake of 2022

Last year’s strawberry bed digging and planting labor is paying off by the bucket full. In one week, he has harvested 16lbs of berries. We tried strawberry pancakes, strawberry sauce for ice cream and strawberry jam. All successes so far! He’s adding cardamom and cinnamon to his recipes to make them more interesting. And yes, he is graphing the harvest.

Speaking of cardamon, Yolanda took me to an Indian grocery when we returned from New York and encouraged me to buy new spices. Andreas has slowly been incorporating them into new recipes. Yesterday he baked a cardamom cake with a crunchy butter/almond crust.

In the studio this month new work for the garden incorporating stained glass into found objects like bicycle wheels and bottle garden edging has appeared.

I’m teaching and filling commissions when not distracted by the weather and flowers. One of my largest artworks is for sale (has a buyer) this month; the Art Car that I’ve driven for seventeen years. It was a VERY DIFFICULT decision to finally let it go. I want someone else to enjoy it while it is still running well. Also, Andreas and I don’t drive much and maintaining two cars was silly. Preparations to paint our newer car in June are beginning. I’m really going to miss my Art Car, my reliable daily commuting companion for years, my moving business card.

We also enjoyed some family time with Andreas’ sister. We look forward to her popping in on the weekend for tea. She and I also went on a walk to my favorite art gallery along the Brandywine River.

Yesterday we congratulated my cousin Erin on her graduation from the University of Delaware. Joe Biden was her commencement speaker.

Congratulations, Erin and good luck in grad school for Oceanography.

Hundertwasser in Magdeburg Germany

Two days after Christmas Andreas and I traveled to Magdeburg from Bad Wildungen. This involved a taxi, an hour long bus ride and three different trains. The temperature was 23F ( around -5C ) so, late trains at small stations without shelter were not appreciated. My little toes were very cold. Our first train was 25 minutes late which made us miss our second train. We, along with 20 passengers ran as fast as we could with heavy backpacks and bags to catch the second train only to see it pull out in front of us. It was a clumsy, comical sight that I wish I had videoed. Waiting for a new second train over a cup of train station coffee, we sat with a friendly cardiologist in a crowded, unheated café.

Magdeburg is located in the former East Germany or as our friend Siegfried corrected us, middle Germany. The city was destroyed twice. Once in 1631 and again in 1945. In 2005 it celebrated it’s 1200th anniversary and in 2013 it was flooded. So, why the hell would we want to visit there? Well, because my Christmas present from Andreas was ten minutes walking distance from the train station:

My favorite artist built a hotel here. “Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, (December 1928 – 19 February 2000) was an Austrian visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection. Hundertwasser stood out as an opponent of “a straight line” and any standardization, expressing this concept in the field of building design.” He’s a fascinating character and artist. If you are interested in knowing more about him read here.

Back in 2018 Andreas and I visited Hundertwasser’s museum in Vienna. Being inside one of his structures is an experience so different from seeing them on a computer or in a book. This hotel the Grüne Zitadelle has shops on the bottom floor with public courtyards, passageways and bathrooms. There were hotel rooms, apartments and offices above that. The building also hosts a kindergarten. There are meadow ramps up the building sides and green roofs and terraces.

Our room was small with a very high ceiling. All of the corners of the room and walls were curved. No plastic or tropical wood was used in creating the room. The bathroom was tiled in his style with primary colors. We had a very nice stay there. Every time we left the room, we discovered something new.

We stayed for two nights and had one day to explore the city. Unfortunately, we were there on a Monday and all of the museums were closed. It was very cold so we explored the area close to the hotel, returned to warm up and then ventured outside again. By chance we met the man in charge of the tourism bureau while he was throwing a ball for his dog. The dog was very pretty with a plaid bow tie. He had no interest in us. The nice man mentioned that he was an exchange student in Nevada while he was in high school so, his English was easy to understand.

The Archway to the right of the nice man and his dog in the photos above is significant because Martin Luther walked through it many days of his life.

The local Christmas market was still open and we were near a shopping district so we explored some book stores and a few churches. Magdeburg had many churches along the Elbe River. Most were bombed during World War 2 and several were razed by the communist regime took over the city. There are still a few left in various stages of ongoing restoration.

Luckily, we had some food with us in our room because on the evening of the second night when we were thinking about going out, we heard a lot of noise from the street. When we opened our window, we saw what turned out to be an illegal protest march of 5,000 people. They were protesting Covid related restrictions. There were also a lot of police men and women walking around and driving in vans. We ate our leftovers a few floors above them and watched the spectacle. None of the protesters were masked. Again, seeing something in real life as apposed to a screen is so different.

The next morning I said goodbye to my Christmas present experience and we took three trains back to Lübeck for New Years.

I love this photo. The marbles were so pretty.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Happy Fall Equinox

Hi friends, let me catch you up on the second part of our summer on this first day of Autumn.

Andreas and I began the month of August celebrating the four-year anniversary of our first coffee date with more coffee. We had a fun time remembering how nervous we were to meet each other in person after connecting online.

Early August was a time of preparation. Andreas completed and submitted a grant proposal long in the works. Next, we prepared a party for grad students who are attending his classes. We had a nice bar-b-que outside on the deck serving salmon, sausages, potato salad and local corn on the cob. Andreas had to teach a few of the new foreign students how to eat corn this way. They enjoyed throwing the finished cobs into the garden to compost.

 The most important thing Andreas had to prepare for in August was his trip to western Greenland aboard a Danish Navy vessel. His job was to assist his friend Steffen in Copenhagen with data collecting and processing aboard the ship. He left in the middle of the month for a five-week long voyage from Aasiaat to Thule Greenland.

While Andreas prepared for his trip, I prepared the house and our guest room for our nephews from Oregon to visit at the end of the month. They arrived with a long list of ideas of what they would like to do in Newark. We accomplished some things, as much as we (I) felt like during a hot, humid week. Unfortunately Andreas was at sea because they enjoy many of the same activities he does.

College nephew waking up with his cup of tea at 11:30am.

We visited local relatives who haven’t seen the boys in a long time, went swimming almost every day, and did a survey on the best playgrounds in the city; Downs School won.

Ritter Park.
On the playground at Downs School.

My friend Christina and her finance’ Scott super generously hosted us for dinner three times. The night nephews arrived Christina had a party with some of our high school friends. The boys played cornhole and got to talk with people their dad and I have known for years.

Another night she and Scott made spaghetti and we all watched an Indiana Jones movie. On the boy’s last day in Newark their aunt, uncle and cousin drove up from Baltimore and Christina hosted again. I am forever grateful as a person that doesn’t like to cook to have such amazing friends. My nephews are pretty good at cornhole now too after so much practice and good tips from Scott.

Since I don’t cook too much we also went to some fun restaurants. We visited the Miss Oxford Diner sitting at the counter and listening to the waitresses’ conversations with the locals. We drove past some Amish farms which the boys hadn’t seen before. We went to Jessop’s Tavern in old New Castle and walked around the Delaware river and historic buildings.

Delaware Tourists.

We also ate at Feby’s in Wilmington because nephews were told that seafood on the east coast is really good. They were brave about trying new things.

We were invited by our cousin Erin to hear her play with the University of Delaware marching band. The band gave a friends and family performance after their band camp week. Unfortunately, we were sitting far away from where Erin was on the field, but we got a few photos. After the band performance we had ice cream at the UD Dairy and then walked around the botanical gardens.

On the evening I had to work the boys walked to Main St. by themselves to have dinner during the city’s alfresco night. They gave themselves a campus tour, ate more UD ice cream then landed on the porch at Klondike Kates Restaurant for dinner. They took their time walking home arriving after dark which made Auntie-Fly a little nervous. It was the first time they had ever dined out on their own together, kind of cool. In a very unteenage fashion they left their room and bathroom as clean as they found it. Their bed was made and they sent me a thank you card. Their mother should be proud.

A few days after the boys flew home, I received a message from Andreas saying that his Navy vessel was unexpectedly called into service. He and the other scientists onboard were told to go home and he was dropped off at the Thule US Air Force Base on the north western coast of Greenland. Luckily, he was able to secure a military flight to Baltimore soon after and then, surprise he returned home two weeks early. This is great news for me, but I feel sorry for the scientists and their mission. That is a lot of money and time lost. Here are a few of Andreas’ photos from his trip. The man standing on the ship is Andreas’ colleague Steffen.

Through August and September in the studio I have been working on my yearly commissions for Special Olympics Delaware and a few smaller side commissions and skateboards.

I am also working on a large painting commission, but the level of complexity involved has made for very very slow progress (sorry customer/ friends). A University of Delaware art student contacted me asking about a paid internship and I hired her two weeks ago.

Dragonfly Art Studios new intern Natalie from Milton, DE

Natalie has been preparing painting surfaces and cleaning stained glass for me. We talk about being an artist and the business of art. It’s interesting for me to hear how the art department has changed at my alma mater during the past twenty-nine years. It’s wonderful having her work here. It forces me to spend a little extra time in the studio and she is helping me catch up on some projects I’ve been putting off.

Play with your food.

In garden news the tomatoes keep coming and coming. Everyday we pick at least one. We had a good crop of carrots and recently we have planted a fall crop of radishes, leeks and something else. I can’t remember the third thing so we are referring to that as the winter surprise.

Just some of my friends I caught up with this month. There are more, but I have photos of these guys. That is Christina with the beautiful purple cocktail.

I will end this blog by mentioning as of fifteen minutes ago Andreas and I have rented our guest room to a visiting professor from France. He needed a place and we had one. So now Julien lives in our house this year. He seems very nice.

The Merry Month of May

May was about being outside as much as possible. We appreciated every warm, sunny, mosquito-free day in our garden, in others gardens and on our deck.

My main project this month was acting as Chair of the Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour. I did my best impression of a responsible adult to keep the event and the people on schedule and informed. I think the event went well. It was a very warm day, we had almost two hundred people tour six local gardens and everyone seemed to have a good time. Andreas and I led the garden hosts around to each other’s properties at the end of the day. Even though they were hot and exhausted, they were in good spirits and enjoyed sharing their garden knowledge.

Our own blooming garden has transitioned from tulips and azaleas to peonies and roses. The ferns and hostas are filling in the bare spots and the view is lush and green.

Our second garden across the street is growing well. We’ve harvested some radishes, the tomatoes, cabbages and peas are getting taller and the flowers are starting to bloom. Andreas has all of his strawberry plants in the ground now and I think we’re finished digging and removing sod until next year.

This spring the cicadas emerged after 17 years in the ground. They really like our area of town. We didn’t see any in the gardens on the Garden Tour, but they are everywhere here and singing loudly. I like them a lot, I think they’re fun to photograph and they provide a lot of food for birds and other creatures that eat insects. It is a little gross to go for a walk, though, because it’s impossible not to step on them.

Cicada song.

I was focusing on outdoor art projects this month before the mosquitos come. I’ve made eight stepping stones for clients, a few for us and painted a bird house for a Newark Arts Alliance fundraiser. I continue to take on more private students; some of the older ones have been vaccinated. My studio needed organizing and a good cleaning after having it to myself for a year. Andreas helped me build some extra shelving and it’s much nicer now.

My Bremerhaven portrait series moved from the café to my friend Thom Thompson’s photo studio. He’s already sold a painting.

Andreas had a busy month working on a paper, helping his graduate student prepare her thesis, gardening and working at another election. It’s also rhubarb season, so we’ve been enjoying that in pancakes every Saturday.

Now that we are fully vaccinated, we are slowly coming out of the house and enjoying the things we used to. We ate indoors at a restaurant for the first time. Andreas walked in, opened his arms and announced very loudly and happily, “I’m vaccinated!!” We are also having friends over occasionally and eating at the same table instead of distancing.

We have new neighbors across the street and a new neighbor hiding behind our trees eating Andreas’ favorite plants that he shoos away with his coffee cup. Ha Ha, all is well here.

All photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Spring Garden

What, April is over?

The first week of May is almost over?

Wow, what a fast month. Our almost post Covid lives are busier and time has been flying by.

Andreas and I received our first Covid vaccine shot at the beginning of the month. Andreas was happy to find a pharmacy close enough to travel by bike.

Vaccine shot 1

The garden has been our focus this April. With the sunny, new property our possibilities for growing healthy fruits and vegetables increased. We spent weekends creating new beds, weeding and watching the plants grow during our work breaks.

Andreas’ apple trees are growing leaves and he is surprised how fast his new rhubarb grows with lots of sunlight. We are also growing herbs and flowers and the 100 or so tulips we planted all over both properties last fall bloomed. He is still trying to find room to plant 50 strawberry plants he ordered. We have them in garden beds and pots. During his election officer training he found a woman willing to trade a rose bush for a few.

Our garden is in full bloom right now with Andreas’ thirty or so azaleas in many different colors. I love photographing them. Instead of participating with our garden on the Newark Garden Tour as we did last year, I am chairing the committee this year. The Newark Arts Alliance has six beautiful gardens lined up for people to tour on May 22nd.

Andreas is working hard to finish a paper with two colleagues. One is visiting from Israel to help wrap it up. This document has been months in the making and I’m sure the three of them are happy after they submitted it to a journal for peer review.

I’ve had a lot of inquiries for art lessons and met with three new students. Many art commissions with deadlines are on the studio table. Stained glass, a drawing of a New York City park for college friends, and a bird house to be painted for an Arts Alliance fundraising event. The shows at the Café and the Cecil County Arts Council are down. I sold some pieces! I will be showing work from both of those shows in a photographer’s studio in Wilmington soon.

May 1st we received our second vaccine shot. Like the first, I had a fever and was very tired. Andreas was tired as well. We have 7 days to go until we are fully vaccinated and we are excited to not worry so much and to be able to visit with vaccinated friends.

Vaccine shot 2

Growing Food Not Lawns. (Hopefully)

Andreas' Graham Thomas roses at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ Graham Thomas roses at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We have big news, but first, the Garden Tour. Andreas and I have been preparing for this event for months. We’ve been gardening, improving the outside appearance of the deck and house and creating artwork to place in the garden and to sell.

 Andreas and I recieved recognition from the Audubon Society for our natural habitats and attention to planting for the birds.
Andreas and I received recognition from the Audubon Society for our natural habitats and attention to planting for the birds.

Recently, I refreshed most of the paint on the Art Car and created 10 mosaic stepping stones to sell during the tour. They all sold. I even sold a few of the old stones from the ground that I made years ago.

Fresh paint on the Art Car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Fresh paint on the Art Car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Mosaics are like puzzles. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Mosaics are like puzzles. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Seven of the ten stepping stones created for the tour. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Seven of the ten stepping stones created for the tour. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The tour was a success. The Newark Arts Alliance sold a lot of tickets. We think we had over a hundred people walk through physically distancing themselves and wearing masks. Andreas and I distanced ourselves from others on the deck. The weather was perfect! Warm with low humidity. Even the mosquitoes weren’t too bad.

Andreas at Garden Tour speaking with visitors. Photo by Josh Shannon of the Newark Post
Andreas during the Garden Tour speaking with visitors. Photo by Josh Shannon of the Newark Post

We had a wonderful time and ended the day sharing wine with friends who had purchased the wine in Germany when they visited us. Wine from Cochem on the Moselle! That was a huge treat.

Tired and enjoying some wine after a long day. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Very tired and enjoying some wine after a long day. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

So, the BIG news is that Andreas and I settled on a rental property today. We bought a neighbor/ friend’s house to fix up and hopefully rent out. The property is across the street from ours and we will be extending our garden to include more vegetables and fruit trees as that yard receives more sun. We’ve been working on making this happen since March. I’m excited to start painting to make it a fun, cool place for someone to live in and an easy place for us to garden.

Big house for rent. Four bedrooms and three full baths.
Big house for rent. Four bedrooms and three full baths. Say goodbye to the lawn, garden beds are coming.

The kitchen is a little outdated looking, but it's in excellent condition. That goes for the rest of the house right now too.
The kitchen is a little outdated looking, but it’s in excellent condition. That goes for the rest of the house right now too.

The back of the house.
The back of the house.

Now we hope life will slow down to a summer pace and the Coronavirus will disappear soon.

Time to read again. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Back to reading. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Art Gardening in Nottingham Forest

There is a dove with babies living in that Trumpet vine. She doesn't seem to mind us.
There is a dove with babies living in that Trumpet vine. She doesn’t seem to mind us.

Star date: May 29, 2020, week 11 ½ of quarantine from Covid 19. The Governor will lift quarantine restrictions next week, but it is for economic not health reasons. The numbers of infected and dying are still relatively high here so, we are staying home. We’ll continue quarantining until those numbers go down. We are not sad about staying home, rations are holding out and Christina brought toilet paper.

Our hero Christina braved Costco and brought TP. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Our hero Christina braved Costco and brought TP. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Last week Andreas and I finished our classes. I got a 93% in my German 1 class and now I wish I had taken it for credit. Ha ha. It was a lot of information to learn in a few months and I was getting pretty confused with different sentence structures in the end. I signed up for the next level class in the fall so I better figure out what I mixed up over the summer. We don’t know yet if the University will hold classes online or in person in September. We’re guessing that they will try to do both.

The sidewalk repair and heavy machinery driving by finished at the same time class did. They are working on a different street now, but they must like us because they’ve left their equipment, rock pile and potty on the side of our house. The rock pile is a huge attraction to the smaller, louder neighborhood children.

Thanks City of Newark for the new water pipe and sidewalk. These guys did a great job.
Thanks City of Newark for the new water pipe and sidewalk. These guys did a great job.

Since the weather warmed the garden grows and blooms. It started with the camellias, azaleas and Celandine poppies.

Andreas' favorite Fire Azaleas. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ favorite Fire Azaleas. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Peony. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Peony. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Now we are seeing irises, roses, peonies and Mountain Laurel. The Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour is on for June 13th. Who knows what will be blooming then?

Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Graham Thomas rose. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Graham Thomas rose. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The gardener. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The gardener. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The vegetables we planted struggle. We really don’t have enough sun. Andreas’ poor tomatoes look sad and small, but they are still alive so we have hope. I can’t remember where I planted kale now. I don’t know if I’m seeing Kale or weeds. Sometimes I pick and eat it anyway. If you don’t hear from me after this post, you’ll know what happened. I just harvested some cherries and the blueberries and currants should be ready soon. The birds that we have been admiring will soon become our competitors for food. They will probably win.

Mountain Laurel. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Mountain Laurel. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. We re-stained the deck, have been eating outside and occasionally hosting a family member or friend for social distance coffee. Today, however was hot and humid and the mosquitoes have returned. If you are from here you know that they are our “state bird” and there are a lot of them.

Dinner on the deck. Andreas cooked. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Dinner on the deck. Andreas cooked. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

I’ve been painting. Nothing major, just fun stuff around the house. I painted a bird house, signs for the plants, the mailbox, a bee house for a friend, some cement mushrooms for the yard and have been working on paintings to show with the Trashy Women. Now that it’s warmer and sunnier I will be making mosaic stepping stones to sell at the Garden Tour and the Art Car needs its annual paint refresh.

Wren house and photo by Dragonfly
Wren house and photo by Dragonfly

A rose by any other name is still a rose. Sign and Photo by Dragonfly
A rose by any other name is still a rose. Sign and Photo by Dragonfly

Mason Bee house and photo by Dragonfly
Mason Bee house and photo by Dragonfly

Snail mail with flair. By Dragonfly Leathrum
Snail mail with flair. By Dragonfly Leathrum

Is it poisonous? Yes! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Is it poisonous? Yes! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Andreas is in research proposal and paper writing mode in his office. He sent something off to NASA last night.

We hope you all are well, keeping busy, wearing your masks and staying safe.

Yeah, probably not coffee in that mug. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Yeah, probably not coffee in that mug. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum