Thursday, July 28, 2011

Native Plants - There Be Giants!

Silphium perfoliatum
(Cup Plant)
Haven't had a lot of time to get out in my garden, not least of all because I've been spending most of garden time taking care of client's gardens, or doing pottery-related stuff.  If I do get out there, it's usually for a few minutes in the morning to make sure everyone has enough water (although that really wasn't an issue this morning!)  So, when I actually do have the chance to take moment and see what's really going on out there, it's pretty amazing to see the changes since the last time I had such a moment.

Eupatorium purpureum
(Sweet Joe Pye)
When I started converting my garden over to more and more natives, part of my "agenda" was to embrace the native plants for what they are instead of going the way of "well-behaved" cultivars.  (I have a philosophical objection to anything "well behaved," as most folks who know me would agree.)  I figured that, if the species could work, I'd grow it; if not, I'd give it a pass but not without at least trying to make it work.  So, no 'Little Joe Pye Weed' or 'Miss Manners' for me; give me the real deal and I'll see what I can do with it.

Rudbeckia laciniata
Cutleaf Coneflower
When my friend Don sends me a photo he's taken of a Monarch butterfly nectaring on my nine-foot-tall Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), I'm reminded of how it serves as a critical water source for small animal species,  When I see swarms of pollinators working over my six-foot-tall Sweet Joe Pye anchoring my big central bed in my back yard - so many insects, the efflorescences are positively vibrating with their activity, I know I'm also helping my neighbors who raise food crops in the area by spreading a complementary repast for the folks who help their tomatoes, squash and peppers bear fruit.  And even though the Cutleaf Coneflower is running rampant and is well over the three to six feet that William Cullina attributes to it (try eight to nine, Bill!), I can't help but be impressed with its scale - and I know it's visible to anyone looking for a little nectar!

So the next time you're out in your garden, think about how you might be able to fit in just one native plant species, even - maybe - one of these giants.

(Photos courtesy of Don Schulte at

Leaf Platters

Three-Leaf Redbud Leaf Platter
Back in January, one of the "topics" Don and I worked on during our shoot was a new series of pieces I call my "Leaf Platters".  They are a direct off-shoot from the small leaves I featured in this blog (much) earlier this year.  In this case, I had wanted to come up with a larger-format design that could work as a small serving piece for the table or simply be a beautiful object in the home.

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Leaf Platter
The first challenge was to come up with leaves of sufficient size - not a lot of trees have really big leaves - or find ways to combine multiple leaves.  I also had to find an appropriate mold to get the shallower shape I was looking for.

I solved the first by focusing on species such as Redbud, Oakleaf Hydrangea (not a native to this part of the States but does well here without being at all invasive), Northern Catalpa, Tulip Tree, Eastern Cottonwood and American Sycamore, at least for starters.  With the Redbud, by combining three large leaves together (in many tree species, juvenile foliage can be much larger than the foliage found on a more mature specimen), with the points facing out, I was able to create a satisfactorily resolved form; I used the same approach with Eastern Cottonwood.  I was able to find the occasional very large leaf on my Oakleaf Hydrangea and local individuals of Tulip Tree.  American Sycamores can have some very large leaves, which present their own challenges in this format; medium-sized leaves (while still quite large relative to other plants) from this tree worked well.  The same applied to the Northern Catalpa.

Tulip Tree Leaf Platter
The second challenge - finding the right mold - was solved by making a plaster cast of a beautiful glazed terracotta bowl I was given as a wedding present by my friends Marcia Mogelonsky and Barry Strauss (that tells you how long I've treasured this particular piece of pottery!)  It had a relative shallow draft with a flat bottom that really worked nicely with the pieces I wanted to do.

American Sycamore
Leaf Platter
I followed my basic slab technique, rolling out the slab of clay and smoothing it with a metal kidney to remove any texture from the canvas.  I'd then roll the fresh or re-hydrated leaves on to the clay and then cut them out with a very sharp cutting tool.  One concern was to make sure, especially on plants with very think stems and primary veins, the clay slab was thick enough that it wouldn't split while drying; this was especially a challenge with the Northern Catalpa leaves.  I'd then press the clay (with the leaf still on it) into the mold and let dry.  In some instances, I could remove the leaf before bisque firing, after the clay was completely dry.  (Removing it while the clay is still wet can diminish the leaf's impression.)  Before firing, I use a piece of synthetic steel wool to clean all edges.

Five Leaf Redbud Leaf Platter
Glazing consists of Mason Stains applied as a water-based wash, removed with a damp sponge so the colorant stays in the veins.  I then wax the upper surface of the piece and glaze afterwards, so the glaze covers the edges and the bottom.  I fire to Cone 6 inverted on one or more posts of a height so the piece will not touch the shelf, even if it "relaxes" in the firing (this last part requires a lot of trail and error).  I wanted these pieces to be very clean and wanted to avoid stilt marks on the underside as much as possible.  It is important to use a ceramic post or other ceramic prop as anything with metal (the pointy side of a stilt, for example) will burn into the clay.  The large American Sycamore leaves were especially challenging because they'd relax so much.  I finally started firing them right side up, even though it left stilt marks.

I'm taking this idea further with larger format pieces, generally using larger arrays of leaves.  I've managed to do a five-part Redbud platter with the leaves pointing in but the clay ends up having stresses both at the joints between the leaves and along the leaves' midlines.  I also did an even larger piece in one of my larger bird-bowl molds with twelve Redbud leaves (four in the center, with eight outside but these pieces split as well - so I have a challenge to resolve!

Farmbrook Designs - Large Troughs

For our upcoming Garden Tour on August 20 (10a-2p), we'll be featuring the work of Chris Hopp of Farmbrook Designs.

I started to get to know Chris about four years ago when both of us were vendors at the Master Gardener Conference at Michigan State University.  It was my first time there with my pottery and it was a pretty heady experience (not least because it was held in East Lansing on March 17; amazing what people are up to on the highways of Detroit in the early hours of St. Patrick's Day!)  I had seen Chris's work at previous conferences when I had been an attendee but only then had the opportunity to start getting to know him better.  In the intervening four years, Chris, his girlfriend Chelsea, his Mom Glenda and Grandmother Mildred and Chelsea's parents Gar and Gerry have definitely become part of my family.

Trough #1 (Tallest)
From the get-go, I had really liked Chris's work - beautifully designed, high-quality, climate-proof garden enhancements, ranging from small planters and larger troughs (empty or planted with winter hardy Sedums, Sempervivums and other plants, with carefully-selected rocks and gravel to complete the piece) to fountains, lanterns, candleholders, mushrooms and Inukshucks (go, many of which are also suitable for indoors or out.  I certainly wanted (at least ) one of his pieces but wasn't quite seeing what I wanted - I wanted something... bigger.  We were doing an event together at in Saginaw in the Fall of 2009 and I asked him if there was anything he had wanted to try but hadn't had the opportunity to do so.  He mentioned he had wanted to try doing a really big trough on legs.  So, I asked him about how much it would cost (so I could start saving) and said, "Go to it!"

Trough #1 and Trough #3 (Shortest)
Chris delivered that first trough just before my Garden Tour in May 2010.  It was actually pretty funny, the day he delivered it, as we were deciding where to put it.  I was concerned that the lawn mower could knock it over (during one of the three times per year when I actually do mow); Chris patiently explained to me that the trough, alone, unplanted, without the legs, was about 200 lbs.  So, no worries about the trough being tipped over.  Ever.  Three days later he made it back to plant while I was teaching class off-site; I rushed home and turned on the outside light and was just delighted with the composition of plants, larger stones and gravel Chris had used.  Hey, the guy's a natural-born designer!

So I loved the trough.  I ordered two more.  Thought I'd make a "wall" between the grassy, seating area and the driveway (which will someday go away for more garden space; Chris has already offered to supply the beer when we tear out the lawn, as well).  It didn't hurt that, when I had my Clematis Pruning Workshop in April this year, the attendees were absolutely swooning over the first trough, even though it was still coming out of its winter dormancy and looked a bit worse for wear.

I tend to leave the concept stuff up to Chris and he came back with two more troughs, same size, with different heights for the legs.  These he delivered just before our Garden Tour June of this year and, despite a rough start with some early hot weather, they've done beautifully.  We've since decided to move them closer together to make more of a wall and give more space at each end for traffic.  I'll let Chris take care of that, too....

(Photos courtesy of Don Schulte at

Fancy Sunflowers 2

Ginormous Fancy Sunflower, Sienna
Finally getting around to posting some more of my newest Fancy Sunflowers, from an earlier shoot with Don and than this latest on July 17.

I tend to get on these creative "tears" when an idea strikes me and then just run with it, especially trying to come up with combinations of textures and glazes, within a given piece, and then creating "suites" of pieces that will go well together.  (Because, let's be honest: one sunflower looks lonely; two looks kinda odd; whereas three together really starts looking like something.)

It was also critical to make sure I used textures that really worked with a glaze over them; anything really delicate or subtle would be lost once the glazes was applied and fired.

The piece to the left was made using a metal grid I was given by my first pottery teacher, Gene Pluhar.  The openings are oblong/ovoid, so when I drop the clay on it to get the impression, it really looks like an array of sunflower seeds, which is just perfect for the theme.  The texture is distinctive enough to take the glaze really well.  Again, I'm using Amaco's Potter's Choice Series on most of these pieces (I tend to be very systematic as well as thematic in my approach, which seems kind of weird for an artist, but I've got a lot of left brain activity going on).  In this case, in addition to the Temmoku I use for all the centers, I used Deep Sienna Speckle for the petals, as I wanted to evoke a particular variety of Helianthus annuus known as 'Velvet Queen'.

Ginormous Fancy Sunflower, Sage
I needed ten different flowers for an event earlier this summer and had only come up with eight.  Plus, I also needed another design that could complement the Sienna and Melon flowers.  So, I tried out the chair caning I received from my old friend Franklin Reed.  He was going to recover some kitchen chairs and decided, in the long run, to have it done rather than do it himself.  In the interim, however, he had purchased a piece of chair caning, which he generously gifted to me.  (Folks who know me know I'm always on the look-out for cool textures.)  Although this texture is a little "machined" for my purposes (I like more "organic" stuff, oftentimes), it was certainly distinctive enough to take the glaze for the center.  I also like the idea of using something rather commonplace (when was the last time you actually thought about chair caning, how it looks, how it's made?) in a new context.  I glazed it using Toasted Sage from the Potter's Choice series of glazes and it turned out quite nicely but I don't think it quite works with the Sienna and Melon.  So, I still needed at least one more design for the event, as well as something that would work with those two other colors.

Medium Fancy Sunflower, Jasper
One of the textures I had used for my Original Sunflowers was a paper-wrapped wire basket I found in the clearance section at my local Joann's etc.  (You can find some very interesting things in the clearance sections of your favorite stores!)  It's a little difficult to work with because the depth of the texture is not consistent, so I need to work with a slightly thicker slab (when I got around to doing the ginormous version of this piece, the center kept cracking along some of the deeper fissures) but it does make for a rather interesting, idiosyncratic, organic form and because of its irregularity, every piece really is unique; plus, there were no concerns as to whether the texture would hold up under the glaze.  I used a new (for 2011) Potter's Choice glaze for this one, Ancient Jasper, which is quite similar to Ironstone but is a bit more orangey and not quite so red.  That orange-ness plays nicely off the Deep Sienna Speckle used in the first piece discussed in this post.

So, I finally had my ten pieces, although at this point in time, you've only seen six of them.  So you know, there's more to come!


Danaus plexippus on Silphium perfoliatum
 My friend Don was over in my yard yesterday, responding to a request to do some "professional quality" photos of my friend Chris Hopp's (of Farmbrook Designs) hypertufa designs and maybe check out some native plants in bloom as well.  Don stops by every few days as things are happening pretty fast in the garden these days - especially with the heat and the rain (can you believe it - in July?!?!?)

Anyway, I received an e-mail from Don yesterday evening with photos of the beautiful troughs and fountain I've gotten from Chris (I think a lantern is in my future, by the way) and included in the e-mail were two images of butterflies, one of a Monarch (Danaus plexippus) in my Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in my Joe Pye (Eupatorium purpureum).  Don didn't mention anything about where they were taken and I'm always hesitant to get too excited (it seems to have been a rough year for butterflies - I just haven't seen as many of the monarchs and have not found any to raise, unlike this time last year).  So, when I got the e-mail this morning that, yes, indeed, these were photographed in my garden, I was ecstatic.

Papilio glaucus on Eupatorium purpureum
Although they're beautiful, butterflies, both as caterpillars and adults, are important players in our natural system.  They, along with moths, bees, flies, bats and other animals, are critical pollinators, especially for native plants.  As caterpillars, they are an important food source for our native birds, which, regardless as to whether they're insect, fruit or seed eaters as adults, are feeding their young on native insects.  One caterpillar is packed with more protein and other key nutrients than a similar mass of ground beef, which makes it a pretty good meal for a baby Robin.

Nor is it enough to have lots of great nectaring plants for the butterflies; you also have to have the host plants on which the caterpillars can feed.  Whereas a butterfly can nectar on pretty much anything, they are very exclusive in terms of their host plants.  For Monarchs, it's native milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)  For Eastern Tiger Swallowtail it's Wild Cherry, Hop Tree, Ash and Tulip Tree - again, all native plants.  Although I have five species of native milkweed, I've lost my Ash tree to Emerald Ash Borer and don't have any of the other species at this time.

I'm not home much during the day this time of year, as I'm frequently gardening for clients.  Or running around on other business for my various enterprises.  So I don't often have the time to see who might be hanging around in the garden.  So, considering all this, I guess it makes some sense that I was so excited about the members of Lepidoptera (the insect class to which all butterflies and moths belong) visiting my yard yesterday afternoon.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bird Homes by Tim - New Work!

In preparation for our upcoming Garden Tour, I wanted to share images of some of Tim Hanks's more recent Bird Homes.

Tim, of course, can speak much more knowledgeably than I about his work.  He uses sustainably harvested redwood for his work and follows the guidelines set out by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in his work so these bird homes are designed according to the very highest specifications.  All materials are non-toxic for the birds and the homes are designed to provide secure, comfortable nesting locations for our smaller songbirds, which are under so much stress from invasive avian species and other predators.

Tim spends a part of his creative time tracking down the vintage hardware he uses to enhance his designs, including antique door plates, doorknobs, keys and other features.  All are carefully cleaned and prepared for inclusion in his designs.  He goes to a great deal of trouble to combine elements into cohesive designs, in terms of style  and materials.  The bird home I purchased from him last year features hardware manufactured from what is called "marine brass", a higher copper-content brass with a rosier hue that is not often seen anymore.

By using metal doorplates, with holes cut to the specifications set by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for smaller birds, Tim's bird homes cannot be damaged by chewing squirrels or pecking birds.  He also uses pyrography, or wood burning, to enhance many of his designs (the top and bottom images), drawing on motifs in the hardware included in his designs.

Come to our Garden Tour on August 20 and have a chat with Tim about his bird homes, what makes them special, and other things you can do to help our native avian friends thrive in your garden!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deluxe Sunflower - Words

As a member of the Grosse Pointe Art Association (GPAA), I occasionally take the opportunity to submit work for their various exhibits.  I've actually done quite well this year; I don't often submit because pottery seems a stretch for some jurors, but this year I've submitted work for three shows successfully, as well as the Michigan Pottery Show closing soon at the Anton Art Center in Mt. Clemens.

The most recent show for which I submitted work at GPAA was for their "Word Play" exhibit, which closed earlier this month.  I had had an idea for many years of using words and/or images for the center of my sunflowers and had wanted to make the equivalent of a printer's plate with snippets of poetry and graphics of sunflowers.  My friend Tim Hanks (BFA, Wayne State University) suggested getting individual rubber stamps made of the various images/phrases I wanted to include but time got away from me so I downsized (but have not abandoned) that idea.

The solution?  I used my Poetry Stones letter dies and created a slab of clay with the word "sunflower" (all in lower case, 'cause that's all I had!) repeated over and over.  I started with a very large slab of clay, ruled baselines using a yardstick, then stamped the words on the slab.  I had one false start - I realized, due to the ascenders on the "f" and "l", that I had to start from the bottom and work my way up; otherwise, it was too confusing.  To resolve the remaining space above the "f" and "l" in each word, I used my Kemper rosette cutout and used those to fill the gap.

I wanted to do a piece consisting of three sunflowers - Ginormous, Extra Large and Large - for my submission, so I had to stamp a very large area just for the centers.  I know it took me between two and three hours just to prepare the slab for those centers, not including the actual fabrication of the pieces.  (I'm actually kind of glad I don't know how long it took me to do this....)  I then assembled the rest of the three pieces in the usual mode, trying to get enough of the word "sunflower" visible on each center that the concept would be intelligible.

The next challenge was how to glaze them.  I discussed this with Tim and his wife, Barb, and we concurred that glazing them all the same color would make the most sense and we agreed that using iconic sunflower colors would be best.  So, I glazed the centers with Amaco's Potter's Choice Temmoku and the petals with Frosted Melon from the same glaze series.  The three pieces got into the show under the title "What kind of flower is that?"

The same flowers were featured at my garden tour in August as well as my show at Galeria Mariposa in Grosse Pointe Woods. They will now reside at my friend Estela Boudreau's Windrise Retreat Center in Metamora, Michigan.

Garden Tour, August 20, 10a-2p

We'll be having our Annual Late Summer Garden Tour on August 20, 2011, 10a-2p.  We'll be featuring the work of Black Cat Pottery, Notable Greetings (floral/botanical notecards and prints), Farmbrook Designs (hypertufa garden enhancements) and Bird Homes by Tim.  We're hoping Chris Hopp of Farmbrook Designs may be able to do a demonstration (we were hoping to do a planting workshop but haven't ben able to pull it together -maybe next year!) and Don Schulte of Notable Greetings will be shooting in the gardens as well.

I wanted to share some of Don's recent work in the garden.  He's quite passionate about his work, showing up here on the hottest day (so far) of the year to get some critical images before plants got blasted by the heat.  We had just missed the Wild Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) last year so I think he felt particularly compelled to capture it this time 'round.  This lovely wild member of the onion family is particularly delicate in form, although it's got a tough constitution.  I had originally planted it out in the middle of my "Pink and White Bed" but, when I saw it planted under an ornamental tree during one of my winter-time walks through my neighborhood, I decided to move it under my dogwood.  It has done beautifully there, helped along by supplemental water from emptying and refilling a nearby birdbath.  It has beautiful grassy foliage and typical onion-type flowers.  Keep in mind that Don shoots in situ - he can only work with what's available, in terms of the plants themselves and existing lighting conditions.  He does use reflectors and I do sometimes lend a hand holding something for him, but more often than not, he's doing all of this on his own.

We've learned that Don's better images tend to have some context with the subject plant.  You can see in the allium shot a bud in the background, just forming, as well as parts of three efflorescences.  He followed this model in a recent image of Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata).  This was a tough one for Don - or anyone - as this giant is well over seven feet tall!  Luckily, I have a six-foot ladder, which we carefully placed in the bed.  I offered to spot for him but, when I went out to check on him (I was working in the studio - much cooler in the basement!), he was up on that ladder, camera in one hand (and keep in mind, this is a heavy camera, with a macro lens!) and reflector in the other.  In this case, he had used a handy little twist tie to tame the wind the plants were picking up to get the shot.  He did three superb images but this is my favorite, as I like the tension of the flower emerging from the lower left of the frame.  Notice all four corners, and borders, of the image - Don emphasizes for his audiences (he does presentations on "making" good photos of your garden flowers) the importance of checking these key areas for distractions.  This image captures the main flower (also called "Greenheaded Coneflower" for the green cone of disk flowers), as well as another flower in the background in the upper left corner.

According to Don, the most challenging forms for him to capture are spiky flowers - Verbenas, Lobelias, Culver's Root, etc.  Spiraea tomentosa (Steeplebush) certainly continued the challenge.  In this case, to defeat the wind and keep things in context, Don tied the plant's boughs off onto slim rods I had in my garage for pottery display.  The plant's common name refers to its very upright growth habit, unlike the more popular Spiraea alba (which is not, contrary to popular belief, native to this part of the country).  I had had a Physocarpus opulifolia (Common Ninebark) cultivar growing in this location near my faucet but this plant's smaller footprint and upright habit works better with the hose's interference.  The challenge with the spiky plants has a bit to do with Don's format - they don't lend themselves very well to a square frame.  But, despite these inherent structural conflicts and a dearth of natural light (this plant is still in the shade until about noon, by which time the contrasts are so high, a good photo is all but impossible), Don captured a superb image of a plant which is less common than it should be.

Photo Shoot, 17 July 2011

Don and I have been at it again in the studio, documenting some of my more recent work.  We had hoped to shoot back in April but, due to a medical emergency, Don had to take a hiatus.  He's now almost back in form and we finally got back on track a few months later than anticipated.  As usual, we had a superior supervisory staff; in this case, Dora and Doni, as we were photographing one of my newer Fancy Sunflowers.

Dora was the first to get involved, making sure the piece was properly secured to the background.  She's usually a little more reticent on these occasions but she really stepped up to the plate last week Sunday.  And, of course, Doni had to get involved as well.

Much as I like to talk about my work and what goes into it, it is always an interesting and educational experience working with Don, whether we're shooting my work in the studio or capturing some of the Clematis or wild flowers plein air in my garden.  In this instance, we rolled through about 28 pieces in record time, even with feline "assistance".

One thing I really appreciate about Don and his work is his ability to roll with the situation.  The cats are, frankly, all but uncontrollable and his ability to shoot some superb images on the fly is truly awe-inspiring.  I'm especially taken with his image of Doni (to the right), how the cat's profile echoes the contour of the wood slab we're using as a prop.  You can't get these guys to pose (although Doni did demonstrate a remarkable degree of composure during our shoot in late January) but somehow Don makes it happen.

It's not that often that the cats get that interested in our goings on - frankly, they find the studio pretty boring (Alex and Meli were more interested in the business than most of the younger generation).  Unless it's getting close to what they think is feeding time.  Then they're quite vocal and engaged and not above interfering with our "work" to get some action on the dietary front.  We got lucky this time with some great images of Dora and Doni.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meli Topaz English, Spring 1993-May 16, 2011

If you've been visiting this site at all this Spring, you may have noticed that I haven't posted since I wrote about our loss of Alex on April 30.  I had hoped that I could post, on average, once a week, but that was a bit of blow, which was followed up by the loss of Meli Topaz on May 16; I've known I had to write about this loss as well, before I did anything else, but it's been difficult to do so.

Meli was one of the biggest kitties I've ever known, in terms of personality.  She wasn't particularly large physically but she more than made up for that in force of character.  There is no doubt that she, in fact, ran this house (and the businesses it houses), which is probably a big part of the reason it's been hard to get past losing her.

Meli was diagnosed with cancer in February of this year.  Due to the location of the tumor, and the fact it had mineralized, the vet and I agreed surgery was not an option.  It was a slow-growing form and we were more concerned with Meli's ongoing Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  The stress of Alex's passing, however, seems to have kicked the cancer into high gear and she was visibly slowing down day by day.  When I took her to the vet on May 16, I knew time was short.  I had hoped we could stay together longer but the vet and I discussed it and decided to let her go home while still the cat she had been her whole life.  The hardest part about it was that, unlike Alex, Meli was still quite articulate and engaged.  However, I could not run the risk of her suffering.

Meli came to us in 2001.  She is, without question, the most beautiful cat I've ever had the privilege of housing.  She was also one of the most expressive - and territorial.  She was a past master of exit strategies; this, coupled with her extreme territoriality, made for a challenging situation.  Somehow, she would always manage to escape when I was wearing my slippers and it was precipitating.  Except for the time she shot across the front porch, down my neighbor's driveway and stopped, dropped and rolled in the garden.  And picked up a very large leopard slug in her fur.  She got a bath that time but that didn't stop her.  (Slug slime in long cat fur is pretty gross, by the way.)  Then there was the time she took off after her "outside brother" Bubba (who lives with Kate and Jan, two houses down); I discovered her in a Mexican standoff with Bubba and his brother Pootie.

So, she was tough and fearless.  And articulate.  We had conversations.  Lots of 'em.  Mostly about her ongoing disappointment with my performance in the face of her persistent corrections.  One of the best things about the warm weather coming in the Spring and Summer was that she was a "rubber" - she would rub up against my legs; nothing was softer.  She was a kisser - I know she kissed me many thousands more times than I managed to kiss her.  (Dora is a kisser too, but not my face; only my hands.)  It's hard to go on - there are so many wonderful memories.

The house is so much quieter, now.