The rising tide today

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The early fall came in like a sea hawk with a few days of rain and wind the previous week.  The early strong winds always bring a change in weather.  So today it was clear sunny and crisp cool weather causing people to clothe themselves with warmer garments.  I challenged the weather by walking the beach on the eastern shores on Whidbey where the steep bulkheads are covered with wild brush, sturdy evergreen and alder trees, a small waterfall and lots of beach erioson.   Some of these tree roots had given up holding on to the bank crashing down on the beach from the stormy winter weather beating against the steep bulkheads.

When I started on my 1 1/2 mile hike along the shoreline, I was able to pass between the fallen trees and the tide line.  Being aware of the rising tide I didn’t walk further around the point concerned that I might be caught and unable to get by the fallen trees.   I turned around just in time because the tide had risen 12 inches and I could no longer walk around the large log since it was now in the water.   So I had to do a crab crawl under several fallen alder and evergreen trees and crawl over a large log to get through a difficult area on the beach.

It was a great walk with some small challenges along the way….loved it.

 

 

Scenes on Whidbey Island compacted into a mini journal

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Creating journals, sketchbooks, notes, cards or any creative attempt using paper is one of my favorite art projects.  This mini journal is an compilation of my watercolor painted scenes that still exist on my island.   And, since there are still many lovely spots that have not been ruined by the increase of population, I’ll be painting and creating my own journals until I can no longer paint.  This journal is in the accordion fold or Japanese fold so it can stand on its own for display.   I just completed this project but it still needs  front/back covers which is the most difficult part of these projects since they need to be the introduction and relate to the inside contents.

The last days of summer

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We love to take an afternoon respite on our covered front porch, where we are out of the  hot sun rays, watching the wildlife scene before us with a glass of wine in our hands.   During the sunny days of summer the dragonflies will perform their dances….zigging through the warm air catching bugs or just playing and doing aerobatics across the lawn.

We so enjoy the summer dragonflies but it’s always sad when they die away at the end of their short lived season.  Next spring they will arrive young, strong and colorful for more dances across our lawn while we sip our cool summer wine.

The dragonfly in the above sketch was found on the road during my early morning walk one warm August day.  It was a large insect three inches in length, fully intact and not making any movement.   So, I picked it up and brought it home to sketch with pen and a few added colors of yellow on its body.

 

A Green Tree Frog in the String Beans

ScanI love bright green tree frogs!  They display a brilliant shade of green with a light touch of yellow,  brown spots and creamy white on the its belly.   I will find them during the summer hiding in the shade in very unusual well secluded spots in the garden, under the table on the patio, in metal pipes, in flower pot containers holding water in the bottom…and, sitting on a large string bean leaf hidden in the shade.   This frog in the sketch surprised me when I stuck my hand deeper into the string beans to find a clump of hanging beans on a vine….There it was! sitting quietly and shinning its beautiful green color!   Fortunately, I was able to get a quick sketch before it decided its privacy had been invaded.   Thank you, little frog,  for visiting my garden…..I hope you also enjoyed a great meal of invasive bugs.

Fin Whale breaching in Puget Sound

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During the first week of August several of my family members boarded the “Champagne Lady” Argosy boat for a private cruise from Lake Union through the Government Locks then into Puget Sound to celebrate the passing of my niece.   It was a beautiful warm sunny afternoon and the waters were calm like a mirror.  My niece’s ashes came on board with us and were carried by her sister to be placed in the water as we cruised further into the Sound.  The pilot stopped the engines so the boat would float with the current and give us some quiet time for meditation while my niece poured her siblings ashes into the water; then we all said our good byes.

Before the captain restarted the engines, she announced a fin whale in the distance.   We all watched the whale breach several times and then it dove deep into the water  (the depth in P.S. can be up to 600 feet) and didn’t resurface again for sometime.   And, then, we spotted it and this time the whale was quickly heading in our direction.  Yikes, several of us were a little nervous; it got so close, we could see its foot print on the surface of the water heading for the front of the boat.   Next thing we knew, the whale breached about 20 feet from the boat which startled all of us.  The whale was huge!  (Fin whales are the second largest living mammal on earth.   They will average 75 feet and are seldom seen in Puget Sound.)  Several of the relatives were able to get video and camera shots of it.

The day was special and we will all remember that Elaine’s spirit sent us her blessings:  She was safely home.  Thanks to Mike and Jody for such a special memorial ever!

Squirrels getting ready for winter storage

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It’s late in August when the squirrels start climbing to the top branches on the Douglas fir trees to pick the cones off the branches and drop them to the ground.  As the cones glide toward the ground we can hear the loud clunk, clunk, bang as they hit and bounce off the large branches.   It almost sounds like a bat hitting a baseball.  The ground and road will be scattered with light green cones everywhere.  Then the busy squirrels will scurry down the trunk and if no cars or people are nearby they will sit and remove the nuts from under the scales on the parameter of the cone.   After they have gathered their cache, what is left is a pile of outer scales with the nuts removed and a demolished cone.

One does not select to pick up the green cones since there will be a sticky pitch oozing from under the spiky pointy scales. When the sun is low in the afternoon and shinning on the tall  evergreens, we can see the pitch sparkle in the sunlight like tiny diamonds  on the tips of the higher branches.

Drinking our morning coffee while sitting on the porch, we enjoy listening the chittering of the busy squirrels as they work throughout the morning removing  the cones from the trees.  We realize the reason for all the new evergreen starters on our property is due to the squirrels busy gathering season.   Bill and I tease each other to bring an umbrella or wear a hard hat during our morning walks.   We sure don’t need  a traumatic head injury from a falling cone.

 

A Prayer Quilt

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It won’t be perfect, just a little “crazy quilt”

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This summer, I am taking a break from my usual sketching and painting; I’m warn out from spending several hours daily, this past spring, on several art projects that needed to be completed.  Yes.  They are done.   So a break to do some reading, a little sewing, walking and spending more time on adventures with my spouse and family will be refreshing.

Stored away in my closet are several scraps of fabric that I would like to use  in a project (my sewing quilt days are almost in the past.)    There in the small stack were some 15 – 17 old quilt squares that someone had sewn together by hand.  They must have  been leftover scraps of material that were on hand in someone’s stash of goodies.  Some of the fabric pattern designs might be back in the 40’s?

I was fortunate to find these squares over 10 years ago while browsing through our local thrift store….I bought them at a fantastic price and swore I would put them together in the future.   The squares are three different sizes:  9 inch; 10 inch and 11 inch which really threw me off on how to put them together in a quilt.  So they got pushed under the pile of other stuff in the closet.    Then the other day they were rediscovered; I sewed strips of material I had on hand to each square under 11 inches square so all squares are now 11 inches square.   Now, I’m in the process of sewing, by hand, all the squares together.

In the slow process of sewing each square onto the next it made me reflect on the person who had originally started this quilt and why it was never finished.  What happened in their life that took them away from the quilting?  The process of sewing by hand is very meditative, slow, rhythmic, and makes me appreciate the days when modern tech life was non existent.  I find it a wonderful time to be relaxed and let my mind wander freely with pleasant thoughts.  It’s also a time to be spiritual……so when this quilt is completed I will call it a Prayer quilt:  I will embroider, by hand, onto the face of the quilt some of my favorite Prayers/Bible versus.

Similar to the prayer quilt is an old picnic yellow/white squares design table cloth my mother used at her large table when she entertained several guests.   Over the many years my mother entertained guest in her home, each guest had to sign their name on the table cloth along with the year they were in the home.   Afterward my mother would  hand embroider each of the names…so now I have that table cloth and the tradition continues with my family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk Through Nature; a watercolor journal observing wildlife in Earth Sanctuary

Last spring during the waterfowl mating season within the Earth Sanctuary located on Whidbey, my fellow bird watchers and I volunteered to monitor the Wood ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Gadwalls, Canada Geese, Opsrey, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, and other birds plus a few turtles and river otter on the three ponds in the E.S.  We had a great time recording, documenting and learning about all these animals during our four month period until the birds started to migrate elsewhere.  This info will be used as a baseline in case any disaster should temporary destroy wildlife along the PNW.   So we volunteer each year to record our findings for future use.

I have downloaded the journal into this blog and I hope that you will be able to open the pages into your computer.   The journal is large with about 14 pages set in JPEG.  If you have any problems please inform me through bilomathews@whidbey.com.

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Baling the first cut of the season

The machinery noise kept getting louder and louder as I approached the empty field at the end of the road.  The farmer had already made the first cut of the season a few days ago.   Now, he was baling the tall grass for winter feeding of his cattle.  There is something about the sweet fragrant of newly cut grasses that make me pause and breathe the aroma with pleasure.

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Hiking to Ebey’s Landing Trail to sketch wild flowers

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One of the trails to reach the 3.5 mile trail on the high bluff then ending along the beach at Ebey’s Landing is a one mile hike  across Ebey’s prairie.  Along the trail are a variety of wild flowers, tall grasses, wild roses and spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Olympic Peninsula and Olympic mountain range.   It was a hot day on Tuesday plus I had to carry all the tools to sketch wild flowers growing along the edge of the bluff.   I found a comfortable spot in amongst the tall wild flowers for sketching.

Thank goodness I remembered to bring my hat for protection from the sun but being that it was getting very hot sitting in the sun and the dry air was dehydrating the water from my paint pan, I left for the day.   But the experience was being outdoors painting the fresh flowers in their true colors with bees and butterflies collecting pollen.

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Persistent Little Chestnut Backed Chickadee

This is the nest of the new tenant on our property that I discovered, by my ignorant mistake, while walking among our ancient red cedar trees.   I noticed cedar bark and dry branch and forest debris tucked under a loose strip of cedar still attached to the tree bark.  Not knowing but curious to find out what it was, I stripped out the long branches and other forest debris from under the bark.

There woven and attached to the debris was the form of a very small nest made from fine strands of cedar bark.   The strands were so tightly and finely woven together it was almost thick enough to hold water.

Not knowing it was a newly constructed bird’s nest, I brought it into the house to paint; I have been painting a series of abandoned birds’ nests found on our property.

 

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I finished the painting after several days of meticulously putting in the details.  Observing the painting, you’ll see the fine threads of stripped cedar bark.

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Each morning, I pass the same tree next to the trail for my daily walk.   Then, looking over at the tree, I noticed a new clump of forest debris hanging from under the same large strip of cedar bark.   Going nearer to the spot to check it out, I was surprised to see that the bird was building another new nest!   Peering through a small opening in the nest, I noticed a very small bird moving around inside!! How pleased I was that this determined little bird was not giving up on a chance to give its gift to our earth!

The Chestnut backed Chickadee might look frail and intimidated due to its size….no such thing!   It has determination, courage, strength and hope.

Nature soothes the Soul

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Enjoying the lazy afternoon sunshine on my patio with sketching tools at hand, I had to sketch the soothing feeling of the rhododendron at the edge of the lawn.  Why does this area of deciduous trees, large rhody with its pink blossoms, and dark evergreens give a feeling of peace and pleasure?  Maybe it’s the value range and variety of color in the greens topped with the contrast of the soft pink.   Now, I have captured the feeling in my sketchbook to keep.

I hope that you find time during the day to soothe your soul with just a small part of nature.

My spring herb garden

ScanA warm beautiful morning with the sun rising higher in the horizon.  I sat in my most comfortable outdoor chair and sketched the herbs growing outside of our  veggie garden fence.  The great thing about herbs is the deer won’t snack on them before hitting the heavy stuff so they don’t need to be protected by fencing.   I can quickly run out of the kitchen, grab a handful to enhance the flavor of a meal.  The honey bees and wild bees love them collecting the pollen for their hives plus making the plant healthy.

The herb garden consist of lavender, garlic, chives, two different thymes, oregano and sage.  Oops, almost forgot to mention the small animals enjoying the new spring growth; the black beetle under the sage; the native banana slug underneath the oregano on the lower right; and the domesticated honey bee near the tall stringy thyme.

Peck-peck-peck-peck-peck——–

ScanThe woodpecker is on time every afternoon to check out the tree trunk with his loud raps on the bird house attached to the tree.  Its rapping is so loud even our neighbors over the creek and through the trees can hear it.  Even though the  noise is loud, we are happy that it is gathering the noxious and dangerous bugs  from the tree.

Today while the rapping was going on, two blue swallows were flying around their new home attached to another tree nearby.  I have seen the swallows enter the selected bird house, possibly in the process of getting ready for nesting?.  It won’t be quiet for them while the woodpecker is on its routine food source during the afternoon

Pileated “Woody” is back!

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Wham! wham! wham! Loud rapid jabs echo through the tall trees within a few seconds as the pileated woodpecker  spears his beak against the side of our wood birdhouse attached to the trunk of our large fir tree.   It is so loud we stop what we are doing to look out the window to watch his activity.    When the woodpecker stops taping, it looks vertically up the tree for bugs crawling out from the deep crevasses in the bark to escape the strange noises echoing  in the trunk.  That’s when we see the woodpecker grabbing several of the escaping bugs for the meal it was searching.

Fortunately, no small birds (swallows or chickadees) have made a nest inside the boxes as yet.   Can you imagine!

Thimbleberry (rose family) Rubus parviflorus Nutt (Roseacease) blossoms

ScanTaking a slow walk this morning I stopped to break a branch off the Thimbleberry bush that grows wild everywhere on the island, mostly in wet shady forests.   I took it home and did a sketch of it to add to my native plants for botanical painting during a later day.

The thimbleberry has large stark flowers in clusters and large maple type leaves.  The bright red fruit is soft when ripe cupped shaped like a domestic raspberry easily removable for birds.  It’s a sweet fruit and edible but not desired by locals for canning for cooking.

The local Native Americans made use of this plant and fruit.  The Kwakiutl and Haida Nations used the long straight woody shoots for spears in throwing games; The Squamish used the hollow stems in their tools for fishing and hunting; the Comox used the hollow tube to poor water into a steam cooking pit; the Makah on the most northwestern  corner of Washington coast made pipe stems from the hollow stems; the Quileute used them to make plugs for air seal skin floats.  The coastal natives dried the berries for winter fruit.  There is a documented  history of  uses by this plant that offers so much diversity for food and utilities; most history has been handed down through Native American ancestry.

A Spring Honeysuckle poem from Shakespeare

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The wild growing honeysuckle is in bloom in the neighborhood.   The bees and hummingbirds have found it way before I spotted it the other morning while on my walk.  I cut a small vine entwined around the dead tree branch covered with lichen then brought both back to the house to sketch.  The bees and hummingbirds will not notice the few sweet blooming flowers missing from their cache.

The script on the sketch turned out blurry after being scanned; it reads as follows:

“The pleached bower where honeysuckles, ripened by the sun, forbid the sun to enter.”   wm. Shakespeare

Golden Crown Sparrow spotted on my morning walk

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It was warm and pleasant this morning making the early morning walk really enjoyable.   Along the way a Golden Crown Sparrow landed for several seconds on the old fence post nearby me.  It didn’t have time to sing it’s cheery notes since it was more concerned about my movements.  But I was able to study its details for a while before it was in flight again for its busy activity of attracting a spring mate.

I loved the whole scene of the fence post where the sparrow landed upon; it was covered with fresh long vines of stark white blackberry blossoms and new spring leaves…just a mass of berry vines among tall  shoots of dry grass from last years crop in the field.  By June, if the berries have been pollenated, the vines will be covered with those wild tasting delicately small blackberries.  Oh, yum!

Monitoring Wood ducks and other fresh water ducks

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Every spring when fresh water ducks return during mating season to our island,  a few of us also return to the same three ponds located in the Earth Sanctuary to monitor and document the count of our observations for each day until they leave for better feeding territory mid summer.  The purpose of the monitoring is to establish a constant  base of wildlife in case an environmental disaster should occur.  Researchers can than establish whether or not the disaster effected the wildlife.

Friday afternoon we observers strolled through the trails in the sanctuary stopping frequently to pull out our binoculars for close identification of the duck activity on each of these ponds.  We were amazed to find six male wood ducks and about four female males moving swiftly across the pond; three pairs of hooded mergansers and one pair of green winged teals.  They were very active, not shy or concerned about us being near the pond.  Later when they have the ducklings to care for they are well hidden and it’s difficult to sight them.

Other wildlife we saw that day was a very large fresh water turtle (18+ inches across its shell) resting on an old moss covered log with one end in the pond; it rested there during the full three hours we spent observing the wildlife; Osprey flying above Middle pond; Canada geese; mallard pair and beautiful pink flowering plants growing on the 15,000 year old floating bog in the center of fin pond.

I had to refer to my bird guide book for the details on the male/female wood ducks, merganser and green winged teal; my binoculars are not high powered to pick out the fine details.  In the distance of the sketch is the turtle on the log.   The ponds have ancient stumps, logs,  natural plants and debris thriving in them.

Spring grasses and blooming wild flowers

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It’s spring, no snow, less rain, more sun, warmer days, lots of birds and growing plants springing from the earth adding fresh aromas to my nose as I enjoy my morning walk.   New changes occurred on my usual a.m. walking route while I was on Maui for the last two weeks.  It didn’t take long for new shoots of wild flowers with colorful blossoms, new grasses in the yards and fields, along with tall weeds to start sprouting with a fast start!  I was amazed how fast they grew during a week of warm weather our island experienced while we were taking a respite on Maui during a time we thought our island would still be in the cold early spring mode.

Now on my early morning walks, I can enjoy the spring aromas in the air from the grasses, wild flowers and warm earth.  This morning I picked some of the wild field grass and a wild flowers that bloom near the field edge to sketch.  The name given for the wild flower in my sketch is Deadnettle, Purple Archangel from the mint family.  This interesting flower changes color on the leaves as they grow closer to the end of the stem.   Starting with a light green on the first leaf then a touch of lavender is added to each leaf on the one above until the intensity of lavender gets richer and darker at the top of the stem.   Very small light lavender flowers protrude from the under the leaves at the top.   These plants can proliferate thickly in one area covering the ground with purple and green; it’s lovely to see.

No walking tomorrow as I plan to work in the garden weeding and arranging a trellis for the spring peas I planted just before we left for Hawaii.  The new shoots are about two inches high….so I better get to them!  I might sketch them if any spare time and energy left.