Bawdy Botany


Today is the birthday of the Prince of Binomial Nomenclature, otherwise known as Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish naturalist who attracted crowds to his botanical lectures by openly discussing stamens, pistils, and other shocking intimate details of plant reproduction. For sketches and a mini-bio, please see Prince of Binomial Nomenclature.


CakeWeddingSole & Jacob


Spring Is Near

Here is a sketch from recent wanderings, and below it a verse my daughter and I learned while experiencing the properties of numbers in first grade. Its delight and usefulness lie in its three-fold-ness: three verses, in anapestic (short-short-long) monometer, about a charming three-petaled flower. During the same block I taught her to waltz, and we danced around the room chanting this poem.

For another March 1st welcome, please see In Like a Lion.


Snowdrops we
Petals three
You may see.

White, green, gold
We unfold
In the cold.

Words of cheer
Speak we clear:
Spring is near.


An Apple a Day


I post this painting today in memory of Steve Jobs. It’s an odd coincidence that his birthday follows the anniversary yesterday of the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible, another communications technology supernova to which the Apple computer, with its many offspring, is comparable. The ways in which we interact, work, and educate and entertain ourselves have been transformed through Steve Jobs’ vision, brilliance, and determination. He would have been 57 today.



In honor of much-beloved poet and storyteller Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), whose birthday it is today, I post her poem “Vegetables” and a new painting.

For a brief bio and other Farjeon poetry, with accompanying paintings, please see Morning Has Broken and Cats.


The country vegetables scorn
To lie about in shops,
They stand upright as they were born
In neatly-patterned crops;

And when you want your dinner you
Don’t buy it from a shelf,
You find a lettuce fresh with dew
And pull it for yourself;

You pick an apronful of peas
And shell them on the spot.
You cut a cabbage, if you please,
To pop into the pot.

The folk who their potatoes buy
From sacks before they sup,
Miss half of the potato’s joy,
And that’s to dig it up.

—Eleanor Farjeon


Squash for Supper

Today is the birthday of my friend Susan, who is, an addition to her many other admirable qualities, a terrific cook. In her honor I post this painting and a recipe from her boundless repertoire. Susan makes it with acorn squash, but any of your favorite winter squashes would work just fine. On a cold autumn or winter evening it makes a lovely golden appearance on the table, with or without birthday candles. Happy birthday, Susan!


Susan’s Squash Pudding

Bake 1 whole acorn squash at 400º until soft when pricked, about 1 hour. Scoop flesh into mixing bowl. Add 2 T butter and salt to taste and beat for a few minutes. Add 1 box of corn muffin mix [alternatively, I use the blend from Moosewood Cookbook: 1 cup yellow corn meal, 1 cup unbleached white flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, ½ tsp salt, to which I add 1/4 cup brown sugar]. Add 1 egg and 1 cup milk and mix until blended. Pour into a pretty 1-1/2 quart casserole dish, dot with 3 T butter, and bake at 375º for 30-40 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Serve immediately.



It Works!

The Christmas before last, our friend Martha gave us a beautiful poinsettia plant that I repotted and set outside for the summer. It grew so large and bushy that, in November, I decided to try something I had never before attempted: getting it to bloom again.


To achieve this, one must fool the innocent poinsettia into thinking it has been suddenly transported to, say, Reykjavik, by keeping it in complete darkness from 5pm to 8am for ten weeks. This would mean: 1. putting it into a dark closet, assuming there was space among the family shoes, umbrellas, and vacuum cleaner; or, 2. lugging it downstairs to the basement every night and remembering to bring it up each morning (ha!); or, 3. covering it with an opaque material.

I opted for the third option. Every night (well, that is, when I remembered), I immersed the long-suffering poinsettia in a double layer of trash bags—kind of like covering a bird cage—and removed them in the morning. I stopped before Christmas, by which time, according to the instructions, “you should see flower buds.” Hmmm. No flower buds. Oh, well, I thought, I suppose I forgot to cover it too many times, and I returned it to its sunny alcove with other wintering-over plants. What a lot of bother for nothing.

When I went to water the plants this week, lo and behold: there were BUDS, some of them beginning to open! I am thrilled, and ready to try it again next winter.


Yahrzeit3Sister Mary Daniel

Winter Apples



Although branches are bare, and strawberries and peaches are a distant warm-weather memory, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy in the midst of winter the beautiful, varied, and ubiquitous apple: crisp and juicy when fresh, yet even after months of humble cellar-storage a shining star of the pie and the still-life. And, in my experience, pies from cellar-stored apples are superior to those made with fresh. But either is suitable for painting.

Today is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), creator of the Thesaurus. For a sketch and a mini-bio, please see Man of Many Words.



Sisterhood of Squash


It’s finally getting too cold to draw from nature outdoors, so we’re sketching from the pantry, and thus cut open a recent discovery: a Sunshine Squash. (If you like winter squash, you will love this super-sweet and tender variety.)

It was my daughter who noticed the squash’s interior division into thirds, and, more subtly, sixths, and who suggested we add our squash drawings to our cucumber drawing pages. So we did. It’s exciting to find, despite their apparent exterior differences, their interior commonalities. And together they make a lovely pair. There’s a life lesson for you.