Earthbound Artist

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A Corona Harvest: Feeling Thankful

13 December, 2020 4 comments Leave a comment

Carrots grown by Karen Richardson

What a year this has been. When you throw a worldwide pandemic into the mix, life gets turned upside down, and everyone has to construct a 'new normal'.

Some folks have had a very sad experience with COVID-19. We hear of people who have lost their loved ones, jobs, homes, savings, or businesses, and feel so badly for them.

Tomatoes grown by Karen Richardson

As I write this, I find myself feeling grateful for our own situation. Many positive things have happened in our life because of the global pandemic and related time of isolation, perhaps because of the way we dealt with it. My husband and I realize we have much for which to be thankful.

Onions and garlic grown by Karen Richardson

Here in Ontario, starting last March, life got really simple, really fast. The province went into a state of emergency, schools and non-essential businesses were closed, and everyone was asked to stay home to control the spread of COVID-19.

Garlic scapes grown by Karen Richardson

With me running a home-based art business, and my husband being retired, staying at home is normal life for us, and we have endless to-do lists to keep us busy and content at the homestead.

Raspberries grown by Karen Richardson

I am an introvert, so being asked to remain at home and clear my calendar of meetings and appointments was no hardship at all. In fact, I came to love the simplicity of deciding each morning how to structure my day, depending on the weather forecast. Sunny - go for a walk or work in the yard. Rainy - make stuff in the kitchen or studio.

Crabapples grown by Karen Richardson

Since our spring trip to Australia was cancelled and Ontario campgrounds were closed, it looked like we would be spending the spring and summer at home. Rather than view this as a disappointment, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity to work on some major projects at home.

One of those was to grow a food garden in our back yard and figure out how to harvest and preserve the bounty. You can read about my spring and summer gardening journey in these previous posts:

My Corona Garden (May 2020)

My Corona Silver Lining (July 2020)

Rhubarb grown by Karen Richardson

This gardening project was the perfect way to change a negative into a positive. I got such a kick out of watching seeds and seedlings grow into delicious, nutritious things we could eat. It was miraculous, even in a garden as small as mine.

Tomatoes grown by Karen Richardson

I heard of many other folk who tried growing vegetables for the first time in 2020. The photos in this post are all vegetables and fruits I produced this year. I guess I can add 'farmer' to my resume ;-).

Lettuces grown by Karen Richardson

My husband built me two fantastic raised garden planters, (one of which is pictured below in September), and I grew most of my produce in them.

Karen Richardson's garden

With dine-in restaurants closed, I got used to cooking and baking delicious meals seven days a week, incorporating my garden produce whenever possible.

Tomato salsa made by Karen Richardson

I did some canning to preserve food, such as the tomato salsa shown above, and the crab apple jelly shown below.

Crabapple jelly made by Karen Richardson

I oven roasted most of my cherry tomatoes and then froze them. I look forward to adding these sweet gems to chili and pasta sauce this winter.

Roasted cherry tomatoes by Karen Richardson

I pureed some of the roasted tomatoes in a blender and will add this mixture (shown below) to soups or lasagna - perfect on a cold winter day.

Tomato puree by Karen Richardson

Another big positive to spending much of the year at the homestead was that we got to complete a major renovation on our house. When we moved here six years ago, the plan was to change the siding on the house from white to blue, to match the two new outbuildings we had built. This is what our house looked like in 2014 when we moved in:

Karen Richardson's home 2014

Since then, we have renovated the entire interior, re-shingled the roof, and completed extensive landscaping.

This summer, we hired a couple of local contractors to remove the old white siding, add a layer of rigid foam insulation all around, and then add blue siding with stone wainscoting. Shown below is a photo of the insulation going on in August.

Karen Richardson home 2020

Shown below is what our house looked like in September when all the work was done. We immediately noticed how much quieter our home was inside, and I expect this winter we will save on heating costs while being warm and cosy, with this project finally accomplished.

Karen Richardson home 2020

Another beneficial effect of the pandemic, and one I never would have predicted, happened with my art business. When all the galleries representing my artwork across Ontario had to close for three months this spring, I expected a long, slow period of recovery once they were allowed to reopen.

Such was not the case. When galleries reopened in June, sales of my original paintings were very strong, and have continued since then. I find it incredible that my total painting sales for this year of the pandemic have exceeded last year's levels (and 2019 was an excellent year).

Having to cancel the fall watercolour workshops I normally would have taught allowed me more time to paint over the last few months, and I continue to paint as quickly as I can to keep ahead of demand. 

Karen Richardson in her art studio

As my husband and I approach the end of this unprecedented year, we are filled with gratitude for the life we live and the good fortune that has been bestowed on us. We are people who see the pot as half full rather than half empty, and this outlook allowed us to be flexible and make the most of a challenging situation.

I sincerely hope next year is a healthy and happy one for everyone.

What was your impression of 2020? Has the period of isolation revealed any positive aspects you would like to retain in your future life? If you have comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more life-of-the-artist articles, travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

My Corona Silver Lining

13 July, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

As I write this, I find myself feeling very grateful for silver linings. I am referring to all the positive things that have happened in my life because of the global pandemic which has caused us to isolate at home. I posted in May about how Corona impacted us and you can read the article here.

I realize that some people have had a much sadder experience with COVID-19 and my heart goes out to them. I'm one of the lucky ones, and most Canadians I have spoken to feel blessed about their situation this year.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My husband and I had planned to spend the spring of 2020 touring Australia in a rented camper van, and then venture out on summer camping trips with our travel trailer to various regions of Ontario. The realization that we would be spending more time at home this year lead us to research growing a vegetable garden. This project has become my favourite 'silver lining'. Check out the lettuces I'm growing (shown above and below)!

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Bare shelves at the grocery stores this spring resulted in many people growing a vegetable garden, similar to the Victory gardens of the second world war. I think taking concrete action gives people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty, and growing food in our own back yards makes us feel useful and gets us out into the fresh air while safely spending time at home.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My husband built me two raised bed planters for my food garden in March (shown above in his workshop) and I filled them with organic matter and soil and planted a square foot style garden in a sunny spot in our yard in April and May. I wrote an article showing this process here.

We had a cold, wet spring but the heat really came on in June and July and the plants took off. This is what my west planter looks like now (pictured below).

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

The front row is 5 varieties of pole beans (vines) climbing up bamboo teepees. They are flowering now (shown below) and will start producing fresh beans within the next few weeks. They will continue producing beans for about 3 months, until hard frost kills the plants. I have grown pole beans before and they are excellent producers for small gardens, since they take advantage of vertical space.


Behind the beans are 6 tomato plants supported by spiral stakes. The huge plant on the left (taller than I) is a cherry tomato and I picked my first ripe one this week. The other tomato plants are beefsteak (shown in the first photo at the top of this post) and Italian (shown below). I have hundreds of green tomatoes and I'm going to try my hand at canning when they ripen.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Behind and around the tomato plants I have sweet peppers, chives, basil, parsley, thyme, and marigolds growing. Below is a photo of my baby sweet peppers and parsley.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My east planter is pictured below and contains onions, carrots, raspberry bushes, leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach, radishes, mesclun mix, and marigolds.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

I've been picking baby lettuces and spinach since early June and they are excellent - mild and tender - and very prolific. I thought the lettuces might bolt (flower) in our excessive heat the last few weeks, but they are still growing tidy little leaves and taste great (pictured below).


The spinach has flowered so I pulled it out today and will plant more seeds in August for a fall harvest. I had less success with radishes, harvesting a half dozen before the plants flowered. I dug up my first samples of onions this week to check the size and it looks like I will have a large harvest of small onions. Carrot tops are looking healthy and I have my fingers crossed.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Shown above are two more food gardens. At the house foundation is a row of rhubarb, which I harvested twice this spring and preserved rhubarb nectar (shown below). I mix this sweet syrup with club soda to make a delicious rhubarb lemonade.


Next to the rhubarb garden I am growing 6 blueberry bushes (in cages to protect from rabbits) and 50 heads of garlic. Shown below are the garlic flower stalks (scapes) that I harvested a few weeks ago. I made a delicious pesto for pasta, and froze some chopped scapes. They are very tender and mild and I enjoy them sauteed with potatoes.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden 

This week I dug up the ripened garlic bulbs (about half the crop - shown below) and will wait a week or two to harvest the rest when they are ready. I will set aside enough bulbs to plant 50 cloves in late October and use the rest for cooking from now until next July.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

I'm 'cautiously thrilled' with my Corona garden and am hoping that pests and diseases will stay out of my beautiful raised beds. So far, so good.

I will post a garden update later in the season so you can see how things progress. If you are growing a Corona garden this year, I hope you are enjoying it and have good luck with your silver lining. Be well and safe.

If you have comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more life-of-the-artist articles, travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.


My Corona Garden

12 May, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson home and studio

My life has been impacted in many ways by the Covid19 global pandemic. During these last few months of isolation, it has been an interesting journey to design a 'new normal', while my husband and I hunker down at our home property, which is pictured above. In this article I am sharing with you a glimpse of how we have been spending our time at the homestead.

The biggest impact to our personal life was the cancellation of a 7-week vacation in Australia. My husband and I were to begin our excellent adventure in early April with a week touring Tasmania in our rented camper van and then fully explore the coastal route from Melbourne to Cairns before flying home at the end of May. Here is the type of adventure we had envisioned:

Gallivanting Oz Adventure in Australia 

Hopefully we can re-book the trip at a later date through the same company, Gallivanting Oz, who did an excellent job of arranging our camper van rental and subsequent cancellation and refund. If anyone is considering a similar holiday in future years, I highly recommend this awesome Australian company. We cancelled our first class flights with Air Canada but have not seen our refund or credit yet.

Karen Richardson gardens

Our life at home has gotten quiet, yet not boring. My husband is retired but his handyman hobby takes him to his shop out back (pictured above), fixing things for the house and doing vehicle maintenance. We order repair parts and supplies online or by phone (from local stores offering safe curbside pickup if possible) and I make a weekly trip to the grocery store. I'm doing more cooking and baking for us than I usually would and we are making the most of this chance to live life simply and deliciously.

Karen Richardson's baking

Since we live on the edge of a small town, there are lots of places where we can walk during the day for exercise without getting close to anyone. We don't have cable or satellite TV but enjoy spending our evenings watching educational videos on YouTube or programs on Netflix. I also enjoy reading most days. We have conversations with friends and family by phone or Facetime. I look forward to the day when we can resume our in-person walks, visits, and dinners with our longtime friends.

Karen Richardson studio

I'm an introvert by nature (as many artists are), so being told I have to stay home actually makes me happy. I have an infinite list of fun things to do in my home and art studio (pictured above). As is my usual habit, I spent the winter months creating lots of new paintings and then moved to outdoor mode once spring arrived. Shown below is the mound garden in our front yard, tidied up for the start of the growing season.

Karen Richardson garden

The fact that I don't have to go out for meetings, fitness classes or appointments, means I can decide how to fill each day based on the weather or how energetic I  feel. I find myself wondering how to change my habits going forward, so I can continue this simpler existence in a post-pandemic world.

My husband and I had planned to spend the summer of 2020 making short camping trips with our travel trailer to various regions of Ontario, after we returned from Australia. It remains to be seen whether those excursions will happen or not. The realization that we may have to stay home this spring and possibly summer lead us to research growing a vegetable garden.

The current upheaval of our food supply caused by the pandemic has prompted many people throughout the world to start a vegetable garden this year, just like the Victory gardens of the second world war. I think this activity gives people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty, makes us feel useful by growing our own food, and gets us out into the fresh air while safely spending time at home.

I have enjoyed establishing raised bed flower gardens at all three of our home properties over the years, but never had the time to devote to growing many edibles before this year. The photo below from 2013 shows some of the backyard flower gardens at our Port Perry home, which was on a one acre property.

Karen Richardson garden

We downsized to our lovely bungalow in Lindsay the following year. The raised border garden shown below was one I constructed shortly after our move, using stone dug up from our one acre yard. I grew pole beans and garlic successfully, but invasive grass runners from the adjacent farm field had started to invade my stone garden. This spring, I decided to dismantle it and try something more robust and permanent for my new vegetable garden.

Karen Richardson stone garden 

My husband and I designed wooden raised planters 18 inches tall with a top frame wide enough to sit on, to make gardening more comfortable for me, and to have high quality soil with fewer weeds.

He built the two cedar planters pictured below in his shop. These are each 4 feet wide by 8 feet long and have no bottoms. The little legs will keep them pinned to the ground and the planters are lined on the inside with builders' vapour barrier to help extend the durability of the wood. He also varnished the outside surfaces with clear Varathane wood preservative.

Karen Richardson garden planters

We moved the planters to a sunny spot in our yard in mid April, and since then I have been steadily filling them with a custom mix of soils and amendments using a sustainable agriculture technique called Hugelkultur (meaning 'hill culture' in German).

Hugelkultur mimics how plants grow in a natural forest ecosystem, where trees fall over onto the forest floor,  and other organic matter falls and accumulates on top of the fallen trees and breaks down. This creates a fertile place for the seeds of new plants to germinate and grow on top of the decaying wood and other organic materials. This environment not only provides extremely fertile soil for new plants, but the woody materials also soak up water like a sponge.

The photos below show the layers I used to fill my planters.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters  

First I covered the sod with cut up paper leaf bags. By the time they decompose over the next year, the grass will have died and will not invade the garden. Worms and other beneficial organisms will be able to travel between the ground and the raised beds. The second layer was wood from apple trees we cut down. The largest pieces went in the bottom, followed by all the cut up twigs. This wood layer will slowly rot, providing nutrients to the soil above and acting as a spongy layer to retain moisture.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters  

Next I covered the twigs and wood with layers of composted manure and native top soil (screened to remove gravel and weeds) that was cleared from our yard when my husband's shop was built.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters

I had saved garden clippings from the spring cleanup of my perennial beds and all those dried trimmings went on next. I covered that with about 8 inches of screened native topsoil mixed with peat moss and composted manure. Then I created a grid with string and aluminum plant markers, in preparation for my 'square foot gardening' planting layout. In this bed I am densely planting raspberry bushes, onions, carrots, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and marigolds (to deter pests).

Karen Richardson garden planters

The photo above shows my other raised planting bed which will have asparagus, pole beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuce, herbs, nasturtiums, and marigolds. You can see the bamboo teepees that will support future pole beans. The plastic bubble is a cloche, protecting herb seeds while they germinate. To the right of my planters is where the stone border garden used to sit, now seeded with grass.

I will post a garden update later in the season so you can see my progress. If you are growing a Corona garden this year, I hope you enjoy it and have good luck with your green thumb. Be well and safe.

If you have comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more life-of-the-artist articles, travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

The Artist's Garden

27 May, 2016 0 comments Leave a comment

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

In addition to painting, Gardening is a creative pursuit that I enjoy, although perhaps a better term would be 'Gardenscaping'.

Summer weeding can become a chore (although mulching helps reduce weed growth), but I love to build new garden beds - planning the shape; making my own triple mix from top soil, peat moss, and sand; and placing boulders in strategic spots as stepping stones.

Then comes plant selection - perennials and spring bulbs are my favourites - then planting, fertilizing, watering, and mulching. To me, it is such a satisfying process and result.

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

I've been working hard this past week getting my gardens tidied up for spring. They all needed edging with a spade, some weeding was necessary, and I had to add a deeper layer of mulch to several beds.

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

I planted tulips last fall in the garden outside my kitchen window, and I get such pleasure out of seeing them bloom for the first time.

Tulips in Karen Richardson's Garden

We have two crab apple trees in our front yard, both in bloom at the moment. The white one is ornamental, with inedible fruit that stays on the tree all fall and winter. The pink one has sweet fruit that drops every fall.

Tomorrow I'm off to the annual plant sale at our local horticultural club. I still have blank spots to fill!

I hope you enjoyed this little garden tour. Happy spring everyone.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of the artist's life and travels, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.