Monday, May 2, 2016

murky monday

Mourning Dove

It rained yesterday.
It's raining today.


The forecast is rain for the next six days.


Chipping Sparrow

So to keep our spirits up, here are a few snaps taken way back when the sky was not grey and the air was not clammy and raw.
About two days ago. 


Thank you for helping me with "what shall I draw?"
I really appreciate it! This "poll" gadget is new to me, and last night I discovered that correcting a typo in 
my original post somehow broke the buttons on the poll. Oops. I quickly rebuilt it and posted the replacement. Fortunately I had looked at the poll results just before fixing the typo, so I jotted down those numbers to add to later counts.

Last night, tree was well ahead of the other choices, followed by leaf. But tonight bird has sailed to the front! So exciting! I was beginning to feel a little sorry for stone and landscape and boat, but now they each have one vote. And after reading Maywen's intriguing comment, I googled and learned the trick of figure-eights and boats. Who knew?

This little poll is turning out to be fun, which is especially welcome on such a gloomy day. I'm going to leave it up til tomorrow then add the numbers and get out my sketchbook.
Thanks again!

Meanwhile, here's one more cheery bird:
Purple Pomegranate Finch
Thanks :)

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Dear readers,

In a fit of crazy optimism, I'd like to start drawing before #DrawingAugust2016, and since this is the first day of a lovely new month, what better time to dust off the sketchbook, elbow a few things aside on my worktable, and give it a go? Maybe not a drawing every day, but at least a daily attempt.

The good news is, there is inspiration everywhere I look.

You might imagine the result: I have drawn nothing.

I am immobilized by an overwhelming abundance of inspiration.

Not complaining! The world is glorious! drawing yet.

Help me out?

I've come up with a few simple subjects/themes, and made (I hope! it's an experiment) an interactive poll. Please click whichever choices strike your fancy, then click the "vote" button. I particularly invite readers who don't usually comment to "vote" in this little would be very encouraging to see a lot of clicks :)

Thank you!

what shall I draw? free polls

Thursday, April 28, 2016

tiny marvels

Last June I attended the Town Library Plant and Bake Sale. It's a community event; contributors donate thinnings from their own gardens or flats of seedlings from their greenhouses.

One plant I chose was an epimedium.
I planted it at the base of a young oak tree surrounded by ferns, and by July it looked three times it's original size and seemed quite happy:

July 2015

In Autumn, it's leaves took on a semi-coppery sheen,
and when the "last" snow melted (quite recently, and possibly not the last at all), the remaining leaves looked like this:

As my world begins to green up, I've been keeping a close eye on the many, many places where I planted perennials last year, hoping for signs that the plants wintered well and will be back and thriving this year.

Last week, I was thrilled to find a glimpse of green at the base of that oak tree. A single stalk, elegantly arched over a cluster of deep pink buds:

And then another:

Just a few days later, there were more green stalks, unfurling, and many buds:

And now the first flower has opened!

I had to almost stand on my head for that picture, but I wanted you to get a sense of how threadlike these stems are, and how tiny the flowers. (In case it's not clear, those pink logs to the left are my fingertips.)

When I bought this plant, it was past flowering, so these flowers are a complete and wonderful surprise.

I have an illustrated list of many epimedium varieties, kindly given to me at a nursery last year. At some point, I will locate that list - probably when I am looking for a spool of thread or a screwdriver or a phone number - and then perhaps I can identify the plant with some certainty. Meanwhile, tentative identification: Epimedium alpinum 'Rubrum.'

Whatever it's botanical name, it's an unlikely-looking gem of a plant to appear and bloom at this changeable time of year. I'm thrilled to bits that it's back!

What happy returns have you found in your gardens this year?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

every day is earth day

(I started writing this "Earth Day" post last night and fell asleep with my hands on the keyboard. Fortunately for me, Earth Day comes around with each sunrise.)

Epigaea repens
Trailing Arbutus

When I was little, I learned that this Spring-flowering gem is the official flower of Massachusetts, and that "picking it is Against The Law!" But only when I was about to post this picture did I realize I don't know exactly what that means. Is it Rare? Protected? Endangered?
So I fell down the google rabbit-hole, and wasted a lot of time on found a lot of contradictory "facts" and "history." The way you do.

Then I smartened up a little bit and visited the Massachusetts Legislature website to find the number of the existing law. Then on to the State Archives, to find the history of the law. The original law written in 1918 simply designated the mayflower "the flower or floral emblem of the commonwealth." This law was amended alarmingly soon; in 1925 the following language was added "as an emergency law, to prevent the extinction of the mayflower": 

Any person who pulls up or digs up the plant of the mayflower or any part thereof, or injures such plant or any part thereof except in so far as is reasonably necessary in procuring the flower therefrom, within the limits of any state highway or any other public way or place, or upon the land of another person without written authority from him, shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars; but if a person does any of the aforesaid acts while in disguise or secretly in the nighttime he shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.

I wonder what was behind the law being written in that way, don't you? Very belated Boston Tea Party backlash? 

There was a further amendment in 1953, which spelled out who has the authority/responsibility to enforce the law. Making me wonder if the law had ever been - or will ever be - enforced. Anyone looking for a Term Paper project in botany/history/law? There you go. Please share a copy; I'd love to read it.

Meanwhile, I'll be over here, enjoying this lovely little patch of Epigaea repens I happened upon yesterday. I don't see it often, so finding it blooming was a special treat.

p.s. Trailing Arbutus is very unlikely to survive being transplanted, as it relies on the presence of a specific soil fungus. Even if I was tempted to be a villainous arbutus-thief, I wouldn't risk it. Not even without a disguise.

Monday, April 18, 2016

in the shade

It was a tad warmish today, even in the shade.
Even in the morning.
Half the herd couldn't be bothered coming up to the barn for their breakfast buckets! There's often one or two who dawdle, hoping for Room Service, but this was unprecedented.
So I fed the "energetic" group their buckets, then split a bale of hay into flakes and distributed it across the Upper West Side. I usually do this in late afternoon, but reasoned that the decision to skip breakfast might be regretted long before then. I didn't want anyone getting hungry. And cranky. And thuggish.

 Speaking of hungry...
 With only a little thistle seed left in the sack, these goldfinches were having a hard time remembering to share. I added more seed, and soon there were three of four finches all eating together.

Here's a newcomer, who was not interested in the feeders
but was very interested in the handfuls of mixed seed I scatter on the ground:
I think this is a dark-eyed junco.
But I'm open to suggestions!

Now, here's one I know!
(Because I looked it up.)
It's a (rather stunning) white-throated sparrow:

In the picture below, the white-throated sparrow is atop the stump, way over on the right side. Can you see it? (Left-click to embiggen.)

But, look again!
On the ground, way in back.
Peeping around the root of the stump.
Can you see it?

It's this little bird: 

 Which is a chipping sparrow.
(Looked that one up also.)

I apologize for the quality of these images; they were taken from 10 - 15 feet away, with two layers of not-very-clean glass midway between the camera and the birds. But I decided to post them anyway, so I'll have a record of which birds are appearing, and when, this year.

These birdfeeders are attracting a lot of high-quality entertainment and I'm going to enjoy it as long as I can.
It won't be much longer, because with this warmer weather, will come the black bears. They never seem to forget where they once - and only once! - found a jackpot of sunflower seeds. I think they have a database.

This is the print of a bear who visited years after I stopped keeping a birdfeeder up in summer:

In case you can't make it out, here's the same picture with arrows pointing to the claw marks and a line at the base of the paw pad, in line with my own paw pad:

It wasn't a very big bear. But a bear doesn't have to be very big to get into trouble, and I like bears. I don't want to be part of the problem of bears - or any other wildlife - interacting with humans.

So I'll continue to feed the birds after the feeders come down, but only by scattering seed that will be eaten up quickly. Not so much leisurely snacking for the birds, or leisurely viewing for me.

On the brighter side, it will soon be time to put up the hummingbird feeders! Those stay up til autumn.

Gosh, I'm talking about birds and bears.
Spring. Definitely. Spring.