In our kitchen by the sink, we keep an indoor compost container for the throw away vegetable scraps that we eventually dump into the large compost in our garden. Then all those scraps after they have decomposed over several months will be tilled into the ground. Every year the garden will offer volunteer vegetables from the seeds that go into the compost and survive through the year. Some years it’s tomatoes and potatoes; or, an unidentified squash plant appears out of the ground that often does not mature so we pull the long stems and root out and toss it back into compost.
This year, a new squash plant appeared with curly shaped leaves that were different from the other previous squash. Bill wanted to get rid of it but I insisted we keep it for the adventure of seeing what it will turn out to be. We left the single plant in the garden and watched the long healthy stems reach the climbing pea plants, the beet and chard plants so I redirected the long stems away from the other veggie plants. The plant produced several nice orange blossoms but only three squash developed to full maturity to the point where I was able to identify the fruit by a photo that was very similar on the internet. I am certain it is a Buttercup, a winter squash.
Reading information on when to pick the ripened fruit is when it makes a hollow sound when tapped with your hand and by the lighter colored vertical stripes appearing on the outside. Being that the squash appearance met all three mentioned requirements in the description, I selected one of the squash as possibly being ready to pick. I did so but before cutting it open to prepare it for a meal, I painted the outside skin, then cut it open to expose the inside meat to determent if it’s color was orange enough for eating….sure enough, it was ready!
In the early spring the red huckleberry, a native bush, peeks out from beneath the tall evergreens reaching for sunlight, protruding from the tops of rotten old growth tree stumps or growing in the open sunlight at the edge of the forest. They are covered with small delicate almond shaped spring green leaves. Several branches extending from the main stem crossover other branches creating a delicate lacy texture juxtaposed against the nearby tall dark thick tree trunks. The long draping branches extend outward and droop slightly to the ground so the light weight of the branches will dance and twist with the wind.
During the spring months, tiny single blossoms appear throughout the bush before bearing small bright red transparent berries in the summer. The bush maintains its delicate lacy appearance with the addition of the tiny red berries decorating the plant like a unique Christmas tree with red ornaments. Throughout late summer, the birds that habitat the area before returning south for the winter will harvest the entire bush for the nutritious fruit that gives them energy needed to feed their young and the return flight.
This sketch was completed today from a branch I broke off from the main stem during my walk. Several bushes are becoming dormant and dropping their leaves. Soon all that will remain through the winter will be the interlacing branches. Note: The sketch was photographed by me using my iPhone and then downloading the image onto the photo icon on the computer. The final image has a green tint background rather than white as the original. The tint was not my intention and it causes the lack of crispness to the image….
On Thursday, Bill spotted what he thought was a green twig on the porch. But after taking a closer look at the unusual appearing object, he was surprised it was a three to four inch Praying Mantis resting in the open space. The Mantis was very well disguised in its green leaf appearing garment from the overhead owls, hawks and eagles.
Praying Mantis on Whidbey Island! In all my many years, I have never ever seen this unique insect on the west side of the Cascades, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to not have seen this creature on Thursday. But yesterday, taking a stroll on the nearby road, I saw my first ever P.M. resting in the open on the paved roadway. Its vibrant green body color immediately attracted my attention toward it. The size was two and half inches long and in a sitting position and as I approached it for a better observation, it raised the front legs in a praying position (probably praying I wouldn’t harm it.) Praying Mantis are amazing creatures and beautiful to the human eye but a deadly threat for other bugs! The P.M will attack its prey for a good meal, even the female will eat off the male’s head while mating! That’s a very short and strange courtship!
Sighting two Praying Mantis in one week was an unbelievable treat to us and I want to share our special treat to all.
The first wind and rain storm during the beginning days of autumn blew like a torrent through the island ripping the dry summer leaves and brittle branches to the wet ground. The dry decaying deciduous trees toppled onto the roads and long driveways to block owners from entering onto their property. Fortunately, the power remained intact on most of the island and we did not have to wait hours for it to return. The rains were welcomed by the trees, plants and vegetable gardens and many folks who were in close proximity to the threatening forest fires along the western coastal states. The heavy rains doused most of the fires so we no longer had to endure the heavy smoke that forced us to stay indoors for more than a week!
After the wet and windy storm, I ventured outdoors for my usual two mile walk to observe any changes from the strong winds and possible social chat time with neighbors if they were outdoors. I noticed that a fragile tree had fallen across the new neighbor’s long driveway to their house that will need to be removed when they arrive back on island; it’s too heavy for Bill and I to remove it. The fresh air and light wind was welcomed into my lungs with the brisk walk and feeling content with the coming change of weather. The treasures I found were a few wet windfall leaves I picked up, brought them home and painted their image onto watercolor paper experimenting with a variety of hues using the three basic primary colors as my palette.
Stopping at the Bread Farm bakery in the small rural community of historic Bow is always a treat for anyone meandering or browsing while driving through it; if you blink while following the turn in the road, you’ll miss it among the other shops next to it. Before my husband and I arrived at that particular bend, we spotted a mother and young daughter standing at the edge of their large property selling bags of bright red apples for five dollars. Being that fall is arriving and the sugar in apples is sweetening and possibly ready for harvest, we made a quick stop and purchased a bag.. The young girl was so pleased and appreciative she gave us a big smile and thanked us.
We continued on into Bow for a stop at the bakery for Bill to satisfy his sweet tooth with a cinnamon twist and then continued home toward the island. Upon our arrival, I bit into a deep red apple and discovered they had been picked too early and were without much flavor and had a rather woody texture; even so, the purchase was worth making a young sales person happy with more money in her cache. Also the beautiful assortment of reds, yellows and greens in the apples made a colorful center piece in the kitchen, plus gave me the opportunity to sketch them.
Wednesday was a muggy hot day on the island with no wind to clear the moist marine air as it wrapped around my skin. By the afternoon I was exhausted from the heat. I needed a rest…my activity level doesn’t tolerate hot weather as years in the past. I did an early morning walk along the shore collecting items for future paintings while Bill painted the trim on the cabin. Mid day while he was working, I sat on the porch for several hours and sketched the calm still waters of the late August summer scene.
The eagles, blue herons, and deerkillers and other marine birds kept me busy enjoying their activity near the water. We spotted an bald eagle grasp a small fish from the shallow water then take it to a beach log to consume it. There was a lot of pleasure boats cruising the Puget Sound on their way north to the San Juan’s and south to Puget Sound waters. I would have liked to place those images into the painting but the results of doing so sometimes appear awkward and distracting in the painting.
Last evening I peered out my dining room window seeing a strange object on the ground underneath the giant cedar trees low hanging boughs in the front of the house. The ground is soft and warm from the shedding needles and droppings from understory native plants. The sun had been shining on that spot in the afternoon and remained warm after sunset. From my view point of about 50 feet and considering dusk was approaching and softening edges of objects from a distance, it was difficult to see what this doe was doing while resting. She appeared to be cleaning her body coat while her ears moved and twitched. I thought she would spend the night in comfort with no fear of coyotes approaching and threatening her, but later into the night she was gone.
The deer often give birth to their young near neighbors’ houses for the protection of their fawns. Then, I think after the birthing, the doe will leave her fawn in search of nutrients. In the past, we found a new born fawn on the walkway to our house while mama deer was out foraging for food. We did not touch the fawn but left it in its place until the doe returned to start their adventures together into the nearby forest.
The next morning, I walked over to the spot where the doe had been the night before and there I found an indentation in the ground the shape of a round belly where the doe had rested for a few hours. The above sketch done in pencil was drawn with the memory of the deer scene. The trees were my models that are always there.
“Ouch!” The loud cry coming from my mouth when accidentally I grab a sharp prickly leaf on the Oregon Grape plant that grows wild on our property. The green and red colored leaves on the plant blend in with the Salal and Evergreen Huckleberry bushes, so it is easy to not see the sharp ended points on the edges and ends of the leaves before it sticks into my skin.
The Oregon Grape is a Northwest native plant that grows from southeast Alaska to Northern California and is an exotic plant invading into the other wild plants growing nearby. Its growth can range from three feet to six feet, depending on the species, with spiny leathery leaves resembling holly; the stems are tough and twisty and rather corky. It blooms in the spring with bright yellow blossoms that attract bees before the lovely blue berries form on rust colored stems. The berries are edible but very sour and bitter to human taste; a few birds seem to tolerate the bitterness. only to obtain the nutrients.. In the fall the leaves will glow a range of colors from yellow, rust to red. These plants can be colorful in a native garden but need to be controlled to prevent spreading via their deep root system.
Constant one hundred percent wet rain for the last few days has kept me indoors most of the time so to not drive my husband crazy, I sat at the window for a while and sketched the bird activity at the feeder. What an assortment and variety of birds gathered around the feeder at the same time without social distancing or carrying whether the other species was within their space; but tolerance became short at times, when I noticed a bird would charge another with warning “this is my feeding territory, go find your own.” A total entertainment for Bill and myself, plus practicing and learning to loosely sketch different shapes and colors of birds. Next sketch will be the hummingbird feeder activity….that will be a challenge!
The bird in the tree is nondescript. There were several Evening Gros-beaks, Oregon Juncos, a variety of House Finches and Chickadees, and others at the feeder that day of the sketch.
The sketch was done using wet on wet with Paine’s Gray watercolor onto the heavy textured handcrafted w.c. paper.
I love late spring while the open fields and shoulders on the roads throughout the rural areas on the island are covered in colors of sparkling spring green mixed with large clumps of stark white flowers dotted with yellow centers. The fields are covered with the white ox-eyed (Leucanthemum vulgare) daisies that are sometimes called dog daisy and considered a weed. Their origin is Europe and Asia and now habitat North America. The roots and leaves are edible either raw or cooked according to my research about the flower. I have not attempted to include these in my diet.
There is a large open field near my house covered with these daisies. I walk passed it on the road and a driveway dividing the field just to enjoy observing the beauty of the spring colors, plus wild birds flying above or darting into the tall grass and flowers. Yesterday after my walk I recorded the scene onto the heavy weight handcrafted paper using watercolor gouache. The gouache is a perfect medium for this type of paper that otherwise soaks up the transparent watercolor paints making the images too light.
The skies were covered with a mix of patchy white, and steel gray clouds this morning; the type that look like a storm was moving in our area from the south. The air was heavy and cool. All was quiet except for the loud brassy, “caw, caw, caw”, coming from the direction of the nearby evergreen branches hanging overhead. Moments later the raven received a reply from its mate in the distance. These loud cries went on for several minutes while I was walking back home from my morning stroll.
As I passed by where the large raven was perched on the tree branch, I could hear a clap of thunder from the sky and getting louder with each rumbling, like an angry dragon. There was still a distance to go before reaching home, so I sped up my pace in time to step through the doorway as the intensity of the storm increased. Finally secure in my home, my husband handed me a cup of hot coffee and then we headed back outside to sit on the porch, with a covered roof, to watch the storm from our comfortable chairs.
The storm has now passed and the skies are brighter. The small birds are singing to each other again and there has not been any other warning calls from the raven. Nature gives many gifts and surprises that amaze me each time I pay attention to what surrounds me.
Columbine Aquilegia formosa
Another day at the Pacific rim Institute on Whidbey Island to do some sketching and photographing of the wild native flowers in full bloom on the grounds. I spotted the Aquilegia formosa columbine with its long graceful reddish stems holding up brilliant red and yellow blossoms looking like crowns that would fit on a royalty’s head. When the soft breezes flow through the flowers the blossoms gracefully dance and sway with the breeze attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. The blossoms are short lived so I felt fortunate to have seen them at their peak color.
This painting is to honor Earth Day using mostly natural products from earth: Water, watercolor paints, 100% cotton handcrafted watercolor paper; plus, this scene is of my favorite nearby grass field with the morning sun just peaking over the tall evergreens on the hill to the left. I tried to capture a demarcation of the rays casted on the tops of the forward evergreens. In front of the evergreens is a large row of the wild Nootka Rose bushes with their deep red vines that last through the winter. Celebrate our beautiful earth!
Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap! I raised my eyes to the dying tree in the field near me to locate the woodpecker searching for insects in the trunk of the decaying Hawthorne tree. And, there was the Sap Sucker with its beak deep into the lichen reaching for its favorite meal.
When Bill has to bring his disabled riding lawn mower to his favorite dependable small engine repair person, I hurriedly hop into the cab of his truck for the ride plus I bring along my camera. This large and scenic property looks like a former historic family farm with worn weathered gray buildings that several years ago had transformed in to a recycle and repair lawn mower business.
The large quonset hut is a treasure full of every tool and other important pieces of equipment for a repairperson’s dream full of handyman’s tools to do a successful job on several vehicles. Not knowing how to repair any large metal objects, I cannot identify most of these interesting old and well used tools or parts. That’s why I take every opportunity to go along with Bill when he discusses his mower with the repair person. It’s a chance for me to observe all the stuff in the hut and surrounding area! It is a large assortment of items great for sketching interesting compositions; plus, it’s beautiful inside on a sunny day with the bright warm rays filtering through the large sliding barn door creating warm highlights and interesting shadows over the objects.
During the late fall when we were there, I asked one of the pleasant and friendly owners if I could photograph some of the stuff hanging out on the property for painting at a later time during the winter. He was more than happy to let me photograph the property plus, letting me do plein air painting in the future. Not having a lot of time to pull out my sketchbook at that moment before Bill was finished talking with the owner, I snapped a few frames of the old office shed that has now developed patina with paint peeling off the siding over the years, stacks of broken branches and leaves from the nearby trees are in heaps on the no-longer porch and against the side of the shack. The heavy old colorless fishing boat that hasn’t seen large waterways for many years lies in the tall grass field and stacked high with previously cut long ochre grass. Next to the boat someone had gathered a pile cut grass and a left a rake.. had someone left their work unfinished?
I used transparent watercolor paints on heavily textured paper handcrafted in India from recycled cotton rags.
A great day with lots of time and fun sketching indoors with my graphite drawing tools! Comfortably settled onto the couch, I sketched the door to the back yard with all the stationary objects nearby it. The corner is darkly shaded but where the outdoor light filters through the large window, it creates highlights and shadows on the surrounding objects and floor.
The red flowering Weigela plant seen through the window is dormant during the winter displaying it’s interesting thick form of branches. In summer it displays deep red blossoms.
It’s the middle of a Northwest winter January with the weather not user friendly for sitting outdoors with my painting tools to sketch the nearby scenery in my neighborhood. It is in the upper 30’s, damp, overcast with dark gray clouds and possible rain; plus, not a great range of values within the landscape for an interesting composition. The marine air from the surrounding salt waters of our island seeps through any type of protective clothing one might wear to prevent the bone chilling effect from our winter weather. So, I selected a warm feeling sketch from a photo I had taken during this last autumn while taking my daily walk through the neighborhood.
I completed the watercolor painting yesterday, and felt it was ready for sharing on my blog to remind those viewers who are tired of the winter blues and looking forward to warmer weather during the forthcoming seasons of 2020.
November is a wet, cold, foggy and very windy stormy month on Whidbey. People dress in their warmest and waterproof clothing and only those adventurous outdoor souls will continue with their daily walks. Even so, the winter months offer some of the most beautiful rich earthy colors as seen expressed in the watercolor painting I did this fall in my sketchbook (the reason for the vertical folds.)
This scene is from Wanamaker Road looking toward Admiralty Head lighthouse on Whidbey State Park near the Keystone ferry landing. The forward water is Crockett Lake, a habitat for birdlife; Whidbey State park; Strait of Juan de Fuca as it leads into the Pacific ocean to the right; Port Townsend; and, the Olympic mountains in the distance. The day was heavy with gray blue clouds and some land fog tucked into the valleys and foothills of the mountains.
It rarely snows on the island but when it does, it can be wet, soggy and miserable but, melts away with a few days of rain afterward. After the first snowfall the dry freezing air is filled with fragrance from nature and snow. It will bite my nose when inhaling. It will be still and muffling quiet with not a creature moving. Even the birds tucked safely to keep warm in the underbrush won’t attempt to venture onto the snow in search of daily food; although, I have noticed other animal tracks belonging to rabbits, coyote, deer and others I cannot identify.
This is a charming old homestead scene located in the area watershed that provides water for our community’s daily water source. The snow and rain caught on the heavily forested trees will seep into the ground and eventually reach our large well. It is important that the water source not be contaminated by cutting the forest for development.
This large acreage of land is the essence of old Whidbey and one of my favorite subjects to paint.