The Scene on Saxis : Watermen

This is our second photo essay from Saxis. The first time I showed you the view as little A and I bike to the beach. Today we’re sharing photos from the hardworking side of the island : the watermen that are working at all hours of the day to harvest oysters and blue crabs that are delivered to markets up and down the east coast.

Unloading Oysters

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Sorting Softshell Crabs

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Watermelon Mojito!

Mint is our ingredient of the season. We’re cutting mint every day for our afternoon agua fresca and evening drinks, adding some to salads, and even taking it into the shower!

 

Remember when I promised a use for Tuesday’s leftover watermelon mint salad? Hands up if you guessed mojitos! Today’s drink couldn’t be easier to make (or drink), especially if you have your watermelon cut up into nice little cubes.

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Ingredients for One

  • ~ 10 mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1/4 lime
  • 1/2 cup cubed watermelon mint salad
  • 1 1/2 ounces rum
  • ice
  • seltzer water

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Instructions

  • Place the sugar and mint leaves in the bottom of your glass and muddle them, bruising the mint leaves.
  • Squeeze the lime wedge into your glass and include the rind.
  • Add the cubed watermelon. Muddle the ingredients again, making sure to fully smash the watermelon (you could also puree the watermelon in a blender).
  • Fill your glass about 2/3 full with ice. Add the rum and water.
  • Give your glass a good stir and enjoy!

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Extras

  • I reduced the sugar in this mojito because our watermelon was so sweet. Feel free to up it to 1.5 or 2 tablespoons.
  • If you want to get fancy, garnish with a watermelon wedge. ooh la la
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Air Plants in the Shower

Last week Sarah gave us instructions and inspiration for a great air plant display using reclaimed berry boxes. Before reading this post, her post is a great place to start for an overview of the plants, how to care for them, and a reliable source for placing wholesale orders.

As soon as Sarah started talking tillandsia, I got so excited about the idea of putting some in the outdoor shower! It’s a great way to add something unexpected to the space while increasing our garden’s vertical reach. I know this seems like a unique project, but we’re hoping it’ll inspire some more creative uses for these versatile plants. What about adding some air plants to your porch posts, up the trunk of a tree, or to the supports on a swing set? As long as the location is getting some nice bright, but not direct, light and a regular misting from either the rain or a hose, then your plants should thrive.

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Watermelon Mint Salad

Mint is our ingredient of the season. In the kitchen we’ve made a few mojitos, some agua fresco, and a Tex-mex quinoa salad. For the (outdoor) shower we have a sand and salt body scrub.

Guys, today we’re throwing mint and watermelon together and calling it a salad. That’s it! It’s so amazingly simple, yet perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day. If you’re looking for a more complex recipe for watermelon salad, they’re out there, but I’m (nearly) a watermelon purist and those recipes never appealed to me. Though on one sweltering summer day in West Philly I threw mint and watermelon together, and now I’m hooked on this simple pairing!

I usually cut my watermelon in half and use a spoon to eat it straight from the rind. No joke. But, if I’m going to get fancy and call it a salad, then I have a super simple method for easily cutting the melon into cubes without making a huge mess. I promise, this is totally worth two cents.

1. Begin by cutting the whole watermelon into quarters. Follow the steps below for each quarter.

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2. With the rind on the cutting board, make equally spaced cuts down through the melon to the rind – you will end up with cuts on both open faces of the melon.

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3. On both open faces make equally spaced cuts that are perpendicular to your original lines.

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4. The center cubes of the melon should now fall out. Once you’ve removed all of the loose cubes, stick your knife in the melon near the rind and cut out the remaining pieces.

With your watermelon cut, coarsely chop your mint.

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Mix the two together and enjoy… but don’t eat it too fast, if you have some salad still in your fridge by Thursday, we’ll show you how to use your leftovers!

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Ecosystem Profile : Tidal Salt Marsh

On Friday, I shared some photos from Saxis, VA and referred to it as an island. Saxis is bordered on one side by the Chesapeake Bay and on the other by about 1.5 miles of tidal salt marsh before you reach the mainland . That wide expanse of marsh is why the town is unofficially an island ~ without a causeway, it would be nearly impossible to reach Saxis by land.  Originally residents and visitors came and went by boat along the town’s Chesapeake shoreline. But, technically the marsh is land connecting the community to the mainland, and so it’s not really an island (of course, that won’t stop us from calling it one!).

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If you’ve gone to the beach, it’s likely that you’ve driven past (or through) a tidal salt marsh to get there. These are such an amazing and valuable features along our coasts, yet we rarely stop to visit them, and so for that reason, I thought it would make for an interesting ecosystem profile. We’re going to keep these profiles brief, just giving you an overview of the ecosystem with photos, and, of course, some links that will direct you to more detailed information.

Physical Landscape

Situated along coastal areas in the intertidal zone, tidal marshes are intimately connected to both the land and the sea. Looking at the marsh in profile, we generally expect that the area closest to land has a higher elevation than the area closest to open water, but depending upon the pattern of colonizing vegetation, there are areas of high and low elevation as you move parallel to the coast too. The land-ward side is often dryer and has a lower salt content than the ocean side, while the forces of the tides are more prominent on the ocean side. Throughout the marsh are meandering creeks and pools that facilitate the flow of water into and out of the system with the changing tides.

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Every day the marsh is flooded and drained multiple times with the rise and fall of the tides. The brackish waters of the marsh are a mixture of fresh water flowing off the land and salt water from the ocean. As a result the salinity level varies depending upon the time of day and year; a heavy rain increases the fresh water content while high tides flood the area with salt water.

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The size, shape, and elevation of the marshes are in a constant state of flux, but the rates of growth and erosion are variable. Both the incoming fresh and salt water carry sediment and nutrients that are deposited in the marsh. At the same time, flowing water erodes the sea-ward sides. A single hurricane can erase large sections of a marsh that required years of sedimentation to develop.

Flora & Fauna

The different physical zones create unique microhabitats within the ecosystem. More salt and water-tolerate plants and animals will be found in lower elevations while those requiring a dryer and more stable environment will be found at higher elevations.

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The most prevalent vegetation within the marsh is Spartina Alterniflora and Spartina Patens, two species of cordgrass. These grasses, particularly Alterniflora,  are able to tolerate the water-logged anoxic environments of the mid to low marsh. Once established the cordgrasses’ roots hold the mud in place, and their stems and stalks help to slow water flow, increasing sedimentation in their vicinity and creating the muddy mounds visible during low tide. Vegetation is more diverse at higher elevations, where the environment is slightly more stable. You may see a variety of herbaceous plants as well as low shrubs, and eventually trees at the highest elevations.

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The marshes are home to a variety of animals, but perhaps the most visible are the birds that visit every day to feed on insects and organisms in the water. We see a lot of egrets and herons in our local marshes. The water column itself is a valuable fishery habitat, nursery, and food source for a variety of fish, crabs, and shrimp. The area is also home to a healthy population of insects (if the mucky soil doesn’t deter humans, the insects often do!). And, of course, the water and soil are full of bacterial colonies that help to break down detritus and keep the nutrients flowing. This combination of rich food sources is what attracts the birds, particularly those that need plentiful energy sources on their migratory stopovers and those using the area as a nesting habitat.  Though rarely seen, some tidal marshes are also visited by mammals; I often see deer and raccoon footprints in the sand near our marsh.

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are the benefits society receives from native ecosystems.

As mentioned, the tidal marsh is a nursery and habitat for a number of aquatic species, including crabs, shrimp, and a variety of commercial fish species. Some aquatic species lay their eggs in the calmer waters where they are also protected by the dense foliage. This also protects the larva as they develop. When marsh habitat declines, either in size or health, so does the populations of these species, lowering catch size and increasing seafood prices.

The marshes provide a crucial physical buffer to the mainland from incoming storms. They are the mainland’s first line of defense, absorbing the energy from the storms and lessening the intensity of their flooding. A healthy marsh with dense vegetation also helps to minimize the erosion that inevitably results from the powerful storms.

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Marsh Impacts

Invasive Species : Many of our marshes are being invaded by Phragmites australis subsp. australis an invasive grass from Europe (not to be confused with the native variety subsp. americanus). Phragmites is a vigorous plant that can spread 16 feet per year, survive in standing saline water, and even grow as a floating mat, ideal characteristics for marsh invasion.

Upstream activity : Farming and urban development in areas upstream of the marshes increases both the sediment and nutrient flow into the ecosystem. This can disrupt the natural progression of a marsh by speeding up sedimentation and favoring plants that are more tolerant of high nitrogen environments.

Land “Reclamation” : For the longest time, marshes were assumed to be wasteland. They were often backfilled with sediment and converted (not reclaimed, I would argue) into urban and agricultural uses. This was before we understood the ecosystem’s true value in biological and physical terms.

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Visiting a Salt Marsh

Marshes are nearly impossible to walk or wade through, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting! As I mentioned, you’ve probably driven through marshes to get to the beach. Next time take a pair of binoculars and stop, with a little bit of time, you may see some beautiful birds. If you have even more time, rent a kayak and take a slow paddle through the marsh’s creeks at high tide. It’s an amazing way to get an intimate look at the marsh. The waters are unbelievably peaceful and easy to paddle, making it a breeze to move through the marsh without disturbing the wildlife.

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If you want to make a true adventure of it, look for a refuge or park with marsh area. It’s always nice to stop in the visitors’ center for more information and to talk to the ranges about prime wildlife watching areas. Some have kayaking tours and others have dedicated trails. We’ve done quite a bit of paddling around Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, entering the water from Tom’s Cove park and paddling over to the marshes. We’ve just learned about Jane’s Island State Park and are so excited to check out their miles of trails!

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Tidal marshes are such a beautiful and dynamic habitat, and while they aren’t often thought of as a destination, we hope you’ll give them a second look the next time you pass through!  

 

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The Scene on Saxis

As our final farewell to the east coast, little A and I are spending June at our family’s house in Saxis, VA. Today we’re skipping our regularly scheduled In Season post and sharing some photos from the island (more on that next week).

Saxis is 350 years old. It’s a small community full of history, and we are so happy for the chance to spend some quality time here. There is one main street that winds through the town, and all of the smaller lanes are often just someone’s driveway! The main street used to be lined with businesses, but now there are just a few ~ a museum and ice cream stand are among them, but no grocer!. This is a place where everyone knows everyone (and their business), but being the new kids in town, we get a tickle out of hearing bits and pieces of the gossip and meeting the cast of characters. Every day Alex and I head out for morning and evening bike rides. We easily ride from one end of town to the other, stopping along “glass beach” to look for treasures and to cool off in the water before checking in with the osprey nest. Today’s photos are snapshots of what we see on those rides.

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We hope you have a great weekend! Any fun plans? We’re waiting for the rest of the family to join us in the sun and sand.

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Mint Agua Frescas

Mint is our ingredient of the season. So far we’ve used it for a couple of mojito recipes, but today we’re excited to offer some non-alcoholic options.

Ever sip on some Agua fresca?  It’s basically juice made in a blender.  Agua fresca is popular in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.  I actually first had it in Jamaica, but at the time I just called it juice.  It wasn’t until this past weekend that I realized it is known as agua fresca, which is a combination of fruit, flowers and seeds blended with water and sugar.  My recipes don’t contain sugar, but feel free to add something sweet to yours if that’s your thing.  After you blend the fruits and flowers, you separate out the pulp using cheesecloth or a strainer.

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Water is by far my favorite beverage, but from time to time I like to switch it up a bit.  Sometimes it’s hard to find a cold beverage, besides tea, that I can make on the quick and cheap, but not anymore!  Agua fresca is the perfect remedy; it’s cold, tasty, healthy and hydrating.  There are also a million and one variations.  I looked at what I had on hand and came up with these two recipes in just a few minutes.  It’s also a great substitute for juice lovers that don’t own a juicer.  I like agua fresca because it keeps really well unlike fresh juice or traditional infused water (where you leave the fruit in the container).  Don’t get me wrong, I love both of those options, but sometimes I want something that I can make ahead of time.

Cucumber Mint Agua Fresca Ingredients & Instructions:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 cup fresh mint
  • 4 cups cold water
  • Cut a 1/2 inch slice off of the end of the cucumber. Rub it against the whole cucumber, quickly, for about 15 seconds.  Repeat on the other end.  This is supposed to draw out the bitterness.  Peel the cucumber, cut it into a few chunks and toss it in the blender.
  • Wash the mint leaves and add them to the blender along with two cups of cold water.
  • Blend on high for about one minute.  Strain the juice into your desired container and add two more cups of cold water.  I used a 32 oz Ball Jar.
  • Serve with ice and garnish with a few slices of cucumber and mint leaves, if desired.

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Lemon Ginger Mint Agua Fresca Ingredients & Instructions:

  • One ripe lemon
  • 1 inch chunk of ginger or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger paste
  • 1 cup fresh mint
  • 4 cups cold water
  • Peel the lemon like you would an orange. Cut it in quarters and drop into the blender.
  • Grate the 1 inch chunk of ginger or measure 1 Tbsp of ginger paste and add it to the blender.
  • Wash and add the mint and 2 cups of cold water to the blender.
  • Blend on high for about one minute.  Strain the mixture into your desired container and add 2 more cups of cold water.

 

Quick Tip:

  • *If you want to add sweetener, I suggest dissolving it in a 1/4 cup of hot water before putting it in the blender.  Mint simple syrup would be perfect in these recipes.  You could also use honey, stevia, raw sugar or your preferred sweetener.

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I don’t know about you, but I love having multiple drinks during meals and really all throughout the day.  Teas, juice, coffee and cocktails are my favorite kinds of treats.  Whenever I sit down to work with a fresh cup of whatever, I feel a little bit pampered and more motivated to complete the task at hand.  For me, drinking is my snacking – if that makes sense?  I have to admit I favor the lemon ginger mint recipe.  The combination of spicy ginger, fresh mint and tangy lemon transports me right back to summers in Jamaica.  Drinking it over ice is perfectly refreshing and exactly what I need during this ninety degree North Carolina summer.  It also looks a lot more appetizing, but I trust that you juice drinkers out there know that sometimes the best tasting drinks and are the worst looking.  These agua frescas are so good that ca$h the dog tried to get in on the action.  I dare you to blend up a pitcher for your friends.  You could even add a few lemon ice cubes to their glass.  I bet they’ll be requesting agua fresca every time they come over.

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Air Plant Display DIY

Ever think of hanging air plants in the shower? We did and we loved it!

Hey Ya’ll! (I swear I’m developing a southern accent already)  If you recall, last Friday I shared some tillandsia (commonly known as air plants) and succulent display inspiration.  I’m truly obsessed with both.  Tillandsias and succulents are easy to maintain and display and both are easy to propagate as well – win, win, win.  For the past few years, I have pinned countless air plant displays with the hopes of making one myself.  Well, that day has come my friends.  That day is today.  Actually, it was yesterday, but the big unveil is today, it’s right now, so scroll on!

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I really like the idea of displaying the tillandsias like artwork so I knew I needed some type of frame.  I picked up two antique berry boxes from my local flea market for 75 cents a piece.  The vendor told me they were about 35 years old.  They definitely had 35 years of dirt on them, which I didn’t wash off BTW.  I figured it added to the feel of the whole project, but who am I kidding? I was just too lazy and dry dirt is ok with me, wet dirt is when things get messy, right?  I bought my air plants from this wholesale vendor.  The site isn’t flashy and I wasn’t really sure what I was getting since there aren’t photos for each individual item, but I was blown away by my package of plants.  It arrived severely dented (because it was so light), but not a single plant was damaged or dead and I ordered sixty plants!  Yes, I spent $84 on air plants, but the most expensive kind was only $2.20!  Now I have a whole little colony of air plants. They’re my children. Don’t come too close.  After spreading them out on my kitchen table and looking at them for days (that is not an exaggeration) I finally came up with this easy display idea.  While I had enough plants to fill up the berry boxes, I also wanted a display shelf for crystals and treasures and thus my design:

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Air Plant Display DIY Supplies:

  • air plants
  • 25 gauge wire
  • scissors
  • pile of clear (or really whatever color) thumbtacks
  • frame of choice (I used a berry box. You can use an empty photo frame, crate, pallet, random rusty frame you found in the woods (I did that also!) or whatever you have on hand)

 

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Air Plant Display DIY Instructions:

  • Depending on what type of frame you are using, your DIY instructions may differ.  Use this as a guideline and if you have any questions just drop me a line.  Because everyone’s frames will be a little bit different, I’ll show you two basic ways of setting up your display. Here we go: The first option is to wrap the wire around the frame edges (in my case the frame is a crate, but it’s the same basic structure) to create a wire grid.  Thread the wire (length depends on your frame width) through and behind the frame, bring it around in front of the perimeter and tightly twist it around itself (the length of wire that will run horizontally across the frame). Repeat by threading the length of the wire through and behind the frame, bring it around the front of frame and this time run it in a straight line across the frame. Repeat on the other side by wrapping it around the outside and back of the frame and pulling it through the frame opening two times and finishing it off by twisting it around the straight horizontal wire.  Cut the excess with scissors.  Repeat this process down the entire length of the frame.  Leave 1-2 inches in between each row.
  • After you have completed the horizontal rows, it’s time for the vertical columns. Cut a piece of wire 3 inches longer than the inside of your frame.  Twist the wire onto the top rung of the horizontal wire “ladder” and thread the wire behind the rungs.  Twist the wire onto the bottom rung as well.  Repeat across the entire frame leaving 1-2 inches between each vertical column.
  • Now you are ready to add the tillandsias, but first let me briefly explain the thumbtack method.  If you are using a wooden crate or pallet, this method is nice because it completely hides all the wiring.  Simply create a wire grid like previously mentioned, but instead of wrapping the wire around the frame, wrap it snuggly around a thumbtack and stick it in place inside the edge of the crate.  Continue the process starting with horizontal rows and moving on to vertical columns until a grid is formed.
  • Placing the tillandsias is quite easy, but it must be done with care.  Simply push the bulb of the plant through a wire square and thread a couple leaves behind and then through adjacent squares.  Two or three leaves should do it.  Start with the largest plants and don’t put them too close together.  Tillandsias need good air circulation to survive.  As you add plants, you can thread them into place by using larger tillanndisa plants’ leaves.  As you can see, some of the plants aren’t threaded through the squares rather they are held in place by other plants.
  • Remember you’ll have to mist or submerge your plants every so often to water them.  I plan on taking my frames off of the wall, misting my plants, waiting until they dry (they dry pretty quickly) and hanging them back up.

*If you want to hide the wrapped wire, try wrapping your entire frame in hemp, jute or yarn.

**If chicken wire is available to you (I didn’t buy it because I didn’t want 20 yards for a .3 yard project) you can easily attach it to the center of your frame by wire wrapping or the thumbtack method instead of creating a grid with 25 gauge wire.

 

Air Plant Care:

  • Air plants prefer bright, but filtered light. Don’t place them in direct sunlight.
  • They thrive in 45-95 degree weather (7-35°C).
  • In dry climates (air conditioning especially) mist your plants 3-4 times a week, mist less frequently in humid climates.  You can also water your plants by soaking them in room temperature water (don’t submerge the flowers) for 10 minutes at a time ONCE every two weeks.
  • Allow your plants enough circulation to dry within 4 hours of watering.  To check for dryness, look at the leaf bases in the central part of the plant.  If the plant remains wet for too long, rot may develop.
  • Water in the morning or afternoon so that they dry by evening time.  Tillandsias are nocturnal and respire at night, which means they take in carbon dioxide at night. If they’re covered with water they cannot take in carbon dioxide.

As you can see, there are endless ways to display these little gems.  Since you don’t have to worry about soil you can get really creative.  I love the little Peru Inca Gold in the shell casing.  Don’t you?  In case you were wondering, the plants with the pink buds are a Xerograhica x Brachycaulos hybrid and they were only $2.20 a piece! Also, the potted plants from left to right are Harrisii ($1.65), Ionantha Guatemala ($.61), and Kolbii Large ($.94).  I also purchased 10 Brachycaulos ($1.38), which is the lone plant in the wire grid  and lastly, six Velutina ($1.83), which kind of look like a bigger version of the Harrisii.  I would recommend doing a quick google search of each plant before you buy them to get a better understanding or at least a general idea of what you’ll receive.  Like I said, I was ecstatic with my package and I’m dying for an excuse to buy more.  Christmas come quick!

 

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Quinoa Salad : Variation 1 (vegan & gluten free)

Mint is our ingredient of the season. So far we’ve shared a few mojitos, perfect for sipping while using our minted foot scrub.

Have you tried quinoa yet? It’s an uber nutritious grain, or psuedo-cereal, that’s high in protein, fiber, and minerals.  Quinoa is native to the Andes, and that’s still where most of the world’s crop is grown, but with its increasing popularity over the past decade or so, it’s easy to find in most markets across the US. If you haven’t tried it before, don’t be deterred. Cooking quinoa is as simple as boiling water, and then you can eat it warm and lightly seasoned in place of rice or couscous as a side to meat and veggie dishes. Beyond side-dish status, we love to throw quinoa (warm or cold) into salads. It’s a fantastically simple use that quickly ups the salad’s nutritional content and can turn it into a hearty meal (and we aren’t the only ones singing the quinoa salad’s praises).

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Creative Corner: Artist Buffy Maske

Happy Monday folks!  We’re back with another artist interview and studio tour!  In the past, we interviewed Ben Gazsi, an eco-sculpture creator, and Connie Zamorano, the young artist inspired by insects.  Today we are happy to introduce Buffy Maske, jewelry artisan, painter and sculptor from Pittsboro, North Carolina.

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Miss Maske is a North Carolina native and she currently lives in Pittsboro .  She sells her jewelry at festivals and markets, in several local stores like Vino!! and Design Archives and sometimes online.  Buffy grew up prospecting in the mountains and mines of Spruce Pines near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Every year, for her mother’s birthday, the family would explore the old emerald mines in Spruce Pines, which resulted in a love of nature and wildlife not to mention Caboodles full of gems, crystals and minerals.  Buffy was trained at Savannah College of Art and Design.

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She only started making jewelry six or seven years ago. She was painting, but it’s a very involved process.  Around the time of the housing market crash, she said people kind of just stopped going out to buy art.  They were more interested in functional and affordable pieces.  It all started with her friends being interested in the jewelry she was wearing.  After making a few pieces for friends, Buffy started going to markets.  She can spend half an hour working on a necklace or earrings instead of forty hours on a painting, which makes her work more accessible and affordable.  She still has some trouble with the online business sphere of her work, but like most artists, it just feels like wasted time when she could be working on a new piece.  That’s why you won’t find any of her new work online, you’ll have to catch her at a festival or market instead.

Remember those caboodles I mentioned?  Well, Buffy is still pulling out treasures from those trips to the mountains.  On any given day, Buffy sifts through her caboodles and selects the crystals and gems that talk to her.  Then she decides how they would be best displayed.  She asks herself how she can highlight the natural beauty of each crystal or stone.  This work is quite easy or rather instinctual for her.  She says it’s just an appreciation for science and nature.  Many of her pieces have some type of recycled or natural material showcased.  She has less of an attachment to the jewelry than the other stuff (paintings and sculpture), which makes it more accessible to others. Every piece is different and unique which is great because that’s usually what buyers are looking for.

You’re probably wondering about this awesome.freaking.studio that Buffy works out of. Right? Are you? I was. It’s a tiny littlesolar-powered cottage type structure that is built on the property of Piedmont Biofuels.  I could probably talk about Piedmont Biofuels all day even though I know very little about it.  My interview with Buffy was my first trip to the coop, but holy cow, that place is amazing.  In short, Piedmont Biofuels is a small renewable energy company that produces biodiesel.  They collect used cooking oil from restaurants in central NC, bring it to the plant, and turn it into a clean burning fuel for their Coop members and so much more.  They design and build biodiesel plants, they conduct research, develop technology and offer consulting on everything concerning biodiesel.  They basically offer up all the information they wish they had when they started.  Besides the biofuel operation, there’s lots of other happenings.  There are two farms on the property (yes those are solar panels in the farm photo) Piedmont Biofarm and Screech Owl Greenhouses as well as Fair Game Beverage Company, Buffy’s artist studio, a metalsmith workshop, and all kinds of other workshops and labs that I couldn’t remember because I was skipping all over the place asking, what’s in there? What’s in there? What’s that? You get the picture.

Buffy is actually the Piedmont Biofuels newbie.  She just arrived on the scene a couple months ago.  After some reflection, Buffy realized she was stuck in her artistic career.  She needed to make a change. She used to paint and create jewelry in her yard, but as you can imagine, there were just too many distractions at home.  Speaking from personal experience, it’s damn hard to work from home.  After six months, I finally feel like I have a somewhat productive and proactive working environment, but for the first few months I was working from my couch, which wasn’t ideal.  Back to Buffy.  She has cats, dogs, duck and guineas at home so it’s no wonder she found herself preoccupied, not to mention all the household chores that seem to be of prime importance when one is looking for a bit of a work distraction.  Realizing she needed to switch-up her routine, Buffy started looking into studio space.  She searched on craigs list and came up with a whole host of options.  One day she checked out a trailer studio with chicken poop on the walls and the next she walked into the breezy little cottage at Piedmont Biofuels.  Initially, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to move and lose all the great connections with creative folks she had made over the years or stick it out in NC.  After walking into the Piedmont studio on Lorax Lane (yep, that Lorax) and smelling honeysuckle and cedar, she decided to sign the lease and she’s never been happier.

Buffy realized that by moving into this space she decided to have a different working style.  She’s the type of artist that needs to clock in and out in order to really be motivated and creative (aren’t we all?) and that’s exactly what this studio space gives her the freedom to do.  She likes to work until she doesn’t want to work anymore and it’s a lot easier to do that in this space than it was at her home.  She still has the comforts of a communal kitchen, bathroom, library and shower space.  They even have fresh and local bread delivered during the week!  One Friday night she stayed until 2:30 a.m. and she left feeling rejuvenated and proud not worn out and tired.  Often times it’s hard for artists to separate life and work, but this space affords Buffy the opportunity to do just that, which makes her time in the studio more productive and inspired.

 

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She also loves that lots of good people are here on their own little paths and they decided to go for it.  Buffy said, “they could have gone one way but they decided to go another and they realized if they weren’t going to focus on their projects no one else was going to focus on them either.”  She mentioned that one team of people is working on organic fish feed for tilapia.  How oddly specific and awesome is that?  A bunch of the farmers live on site as well so she’s surrounded by a great little community of excited and inspired people.  That kind of energy breeds even more creativity and inspiration for herself.  Buffy mentioned that she knows a lot of artists that are really talented, but they have families or are busy doing something as a means to get by and they’re falling away from their art and getting disconnected from it.  That’s exactly what she went through and she hates to see people’s amazing talents fall by the wayside.

Buffy is currently working on securing a grant that would go towards building sustainable artist studios in North Carolina.  She and a friend (who is familiar with building small structures) have been dreaming up the idea of small scale artist cooperatives.  She said she’s been thinking about it for almost a decade.  Of course, she wishes they were set up all over the country, but you have to start somewhere.  As we both dreamed about tiny artist colonies where creative folks could work on their craft, I realized Buffy is setting a great example.  She is showing the nation (ok, ok, she’s showing everyone who knows about it so spread the word! 😉 ) that having a small studio to work in is attainable.  Creating a community of caring individuals who all have goals of their own can happen and it does happen in some areas, but it needs to happen more often.

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In her spare time, Buffy likes to fish from her canoe well, she used to.  It was destroyed by a waterfall! How epic yet tragic!  She couldn’t help, but laugh as she told me about the good ole canoe and it’s demise.  Buffy also likes to work in her garden (did you spot the soil under her nails in the first photo?), cook, and hang out with a bunch of ducks.  She says it’s therapeutic.  Maybe you should try it? I know I’d like to, but I don’t think they would find my balcony too homey.  She also added that when she has spare time she likes to enjoy the simple things.  We have to agree with her, the simple things in life are often times the best.  Maybe this core realization was the reason Buffy and I connected immediately.  As we toured the farm and other work spaces, I couldn’t help but feel an awesome connection forming.  The type that is easy going and natural.  As a great blue heron flew over head and we both simultaneously shouted, “blue heron!” and that connection was confirmed.  Buffy even gifted me a sweet crystal casing necklace and screen printed treasure pouch.  You’ll see those presents floating around on instagram sometime soon.

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We just had to ask Miss Maske, “What would we find you doing during each season?” To which she replied, “In the spring I’m raising ducklings and in the summer I’m tending to my garden and traveling to concerts and markets. The fall is actually my favorite time to work markets and festivals and it’s also when I make a lot of pieces for the winter shopping season and during the winter I like to catch up with my friends and family.”

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Creative Corner is quickly becoming my favorite feature here on Seasoned.  What do you cats think?  I’m excited to catch up with Buffy this Friday at the Fair Game Beverage Co. Grand Opening at Piedmont Biofuels.  If you’re in the area you should stop by!

 

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