Monday, May 2, 2016

Journaling at the Beach

For your summer journaling inspiration I decided to post some of my old beach journal pages.  Most of them were drawn out on the sand within hearing range of the waves. (All but the shrimp head.)  

It's easy!  Take a journal and pen to the beach, gather some goodies, sit down, draw. In hot sun you might want to settle under an umbrella, but in the morning and evening you can go anywhere.  I enjoy wandering away from people and sitting near the dunes.  

You may not have time to finish outside, if not you can finish up and add a bit of watercolor back at home.  

Try it! You'll like it. 


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tulip Poplar Bloom

Yesterday I spent some time sitting beside our little man-made garden pond, trying to locate our five new goldfish that  have been in hiding for over a week.  It was peaceful, but not the quiet kind of peace. Cardinals sang and called and squabbled (two males), squirrels chased each other in the treetops, the wind blew every now and then, rattling leaves, and a small airplane passed overhead.

By far the best sound was the horse-whinny call of a Screech Owl out at the haha.  I remember the first time I heard this sound. What the heck was that??? It took me a while to figure it out.  Go HERE, to the Cornell site, to hear the sound. Click the first example.

The flower I drew had fallen out of a nearby Tulip Poplar and was on the ground at my feet. I'm not sure who might have clipped the flower, but I assume a careless squirrel ran past and broke it.

I've added a couple photos of a bloom growing on a low branch to give you an idea of their beauty when they are in full bloom. It's rare to get to see one on eye level.

Tulip Poplars are very common... go outside and look for one!



Friday, April 29, 2016

Ground Beetle, Painted Lady, Oats, & various grasses

An April afternoon and sunset on Jay's doesn't get any better.

My friend Dee and I walked around the hill on the path my husband keeps mowed for me and admired the yellow ragwort, crimson clover, toadflax, and spotted cat's ear blooming everywhere. Gnats bothered us a little, but once we sat down with our faces into the breeze, the gnats were pushed behind us (a great tidbit to know if you ever find yourself in gnat country). The sound of wind in the trees and birdsong kept us company as we drew. Occasionally we'd get up and wander about to find something else for our journal page. Dee drew some of the flowers, while I decided to draw some of the interesting grasses and insects.  Yes, even the gnats.

We stayed a couple hours and enjoyed the peace of the place and getting lost in observing and drawing.

Keeping a nature journal is so joyful!  My wish for every one of my readers is that you can find time to try it yourself.  Everyone's journal is different, and each journal is personal.  It takes no expensive equipment and offers rewards on many health levels - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  If you want some help getting started, email me. I offer workshops and classes.

Even if you don't journal, I hope you go outside and feel the breezes!


Friday, April 22, 2016

Southern Ragwort & Toadflax

Spring is progressing slowly around here. Just when you think the heat is here for good, Mother Nature sends a blast of rain followed by cool dry air, and azure skies with puffy cotton ball clouds rushing overhead.  

Today I sat to draw with a good friend and student under the Tulip Poplar at the top of Jay's Hill.  It was in the mid-70's and the wind blew steadily which kept the gnats at bay. I don't use the word perfect, but let me say it couldn't have been any more wonderful.  The ragwort is just beginning to bloom, and soon the hill will be completely yellow. Pale lavender Toadflax can't compete, but I have always loved this dainty flower.  Growing up, I used to pick handfuls for my mother.

We drew in peace, with a bit of chitchat and a steady breeze in our faces.  Sweet Daisy sat at her usual respectful distance in front of my friend.  Her radar ear twitched occasionally when a gnat buzzed her, otherwise she gazed out at the hill.  She didn't move.

Duke... well Duke is in training.  He's bad about nudging your elbow over and over to get you to pet him (once never satisfies) and likes to get in your face to remind you he is there and needing love.  Once he stepped his muddy paw on one of my student's journal page. As you can imagine, he disturbs the peace of journaling. The good news is we are making great progress!  Today he was on leash for a short while, and when I let him off he sat quietly nearby and was a very good boy!   

Question to my readers... do any of you keep a nature journal?  Just wondering.  Let me know! 

Happy Spring to all!


 Dukie's leash is attached to an old kudzu vine at the base of the poplar.

Daisy and the beautiful clouds.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ragwort, Dandelion, Honeysuckle, Catbrier, and Violet Leaves

Today I hiked with my classes and drew various leaves that are growing around Middlewood.  The Ragwort that grows all over Jay's Hill is just starting to bud, soon the hilltop will be covered in yellow!. The violets are in bloom other places, but not where I plucked this leaf to draw.  The dandelions along the path to my studio don't get enough sun to bloom, and even though the honeysuckle doesn't bloom until May, I loved the beautiful red stem.

I hate to admit that I cannot identify the grass.  It grows everywhere but I've never identified it, and even though I have tried, I won't be able to until I get a better grass field guide. I'm determined to find it, so stay tuned!

Anyway, all these leaves have interesting shapes and textures, and so I decided to draw them.  The day was overcast, cool, and almost gnat-free, which is wonderful!

I sure hope everyone is enjoying Spring.  If you haven't been outside lately, today is a good day to go on a walk!  


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Climbing Vetch (Vicia augustifolia)

After hiking around and following deer paths through the woods, we were chased away by gnats.  Yes, tee-tiny little black gnats.  There is nothing in nature more irritating than having gnats swarm around your face, their favorite place, naturally. They love to get into your eyes and ears, and did I mention that they bite?  The trick is to get to a place where the breeze (if you're lucky enough to have one) is blowing into your face.  If there isn't a breeze, you may as well go back home.

There was a breeze today, so off we went to higher ground which in Middlewood is the top of Jay's Hill where my favorite Tulip Poplar grows.  I've been watching this tree grow for 25 years.  Daisy loves the tree and the delightful shade it provides. Even on days that I don't consider hot, if we are on the hill Daisy can be found in the shade keeping an eye on the whole hilltop.  Maybe it's the herding instinct, and she is keeping an eye out for the wolves that might come get her sheep, me!  

On the way up the hill I stopped to pick this little vine, one of the Vetches.  It is in the legume family, which you would know if you looked at the tiny flowers.  They are "pea-like" flowers.  This is always your first clue that it's a legume.

An unknown vine I just found growing at the edge of the woods.

The view from under the Tulip Poplar.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wild Grape Vine, Eyed Click Beetle, Sixth Graders

This entry was drawn yesterday during my class with two sixth grade boys.  They are such fun, and both seem eager to draw... except on beautiful sunny day just before spring break!  They were hilariously hyper yesterday, but still I taught them a few important things, such as how to identify our Official State Wildflower, Carolina Jessamine, and how to identify a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (we saw them everywhere!) and their main host plant, Tulip Poplars.  We also found an Eyed Click Beetle, which look scary because of their huge false eyes. We all held him to feel his CLICK!

After a lot of playing around, we sat at the edge of the woods to draw a wild grape vine and any other little thing we might see nearby.  Rufous-sided Towhees and Cardinals and Crows made appearances while we drew.

Here are a few sketches from the boys.

 Wild Grape Vine

 Close up of DNA of a gnat. Ha!

Wild Grapevine

Daisy helping to carry home one of our sitting rugs. For the record, I didn't realize how completely miserable she was until I looked closely at this photo. Poor old girl. She carried it pretty far (for her). I won't let it happen again. 

Heading back

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mysteries of Migration

The article above can be found in this month's issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine.  Every month the magazine includes a four-page section called "Wild Notebook" which is written for families with children, and for teachers to print and hand out in their classrooms.  I've been writing and illustrating for Wild Notebook for many years, and continue to feel thankful for the opportunity to share with children my love for and fascination with all aspects of our natural world.

The Hummingbird paper sculpture project is by Anne Runyon, one of the most creative and brilliant artists I know! She designs a new project for each article.



Friday, March 11, 2016

Riverbank: Dog Hobble, Dwarf-Flowered Heartleaf, Asian Clams

The dogs and I spent a couple hours by the river this morning, me drawing, Daisy and Duke playing in the water for a while, then napping. By noon it was 78 degrees, warm for mid-March, and sitting beside a rushing river is a wonderful way to enjoy it.

We wandered around a bit first and found a pile of small clam shells near the water where, a while back, raccoons had eaten a feast.  There were tracks nearby that were new, (the shells were not) but they are not raccoon.  I'll look them up in my tracks field guide.

I discovered a natural chair at a spot where an old wild grapevine rests on the ground. (see photo below) Sand had washed down and filled in behind the vine to make a soft, flat seat, and from there I could see the long arching stems of Dog Hobble (Leucothoe axillaris) as well as the small leaves of the Dwarf-flowered Heartleaf (Hexastylis naniflora), two typical north-facing riverbank species. Daisy found a spot just below where I sat, while Duke climbed and settled above me on the steep bank.  The rushing water kept us all company.

Another thing I'll look up tonight are the cute, tomato-red bugs that were out in force on that sandy bank.  Everywhere I looked I saw one running around.  It occurred to me that I should be careful since the bugs were RED, and supposedly announcing that they are poisonous, or at least would make me itch. But then again, they may just be faking it.  I was not particularly careful, but I never got a bite! Because of this I assume they are harmless... If I'm wrong (and just lucky not to get bitten), I'll update! 


Bug and Tracks UPDATE: Sunday, March 13

Clover Mites (Bryobia praetiosa) are bright red when young.  Perhaps the ones I saw had just hatched out.  Older ones are reddish brown, and probably difficult to see.  

This is one of several field guides to animal tracks. The tracks I saw were not clear enough to identify, and I can't remember exactly how big they were. I remember thinking they were too big to be a squirrel. I will probably go back later today to see if I see any new ones.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Daffodils, Violets & Clematis vine

We are enjoying a taste of Spring weather this week, with temps in the mid-70's yesterday and today, and it looks to be nice all the way until Saturday. Spring surprises are popping out every day. It's time for the ephemerals (wildflowers that bloom before the trees leaf out), and while hiking with my sons Sunday I found both Rue Anemone and Round-lobed Hepatica just beginning to bloom.

I planted the little miniature daffodils (above) in a big green pot a few years ago, along with the clematis. The violets in there are wild and self-sowed all around, in and out of the pot. While drawing I noticed that down near the bottom, the pot has cracked completely around. Ah, well. Nothing to do about that. Instead I closed my eyes to listen to the birds and smell the warming earth.  It was heavenly. A bird fluttered just behind my head, and I assume it was the Tufted Titmouse that had been singing just seconds before.  A female Cardinal chip chip chipped to her mate from the Forsythia, which is just beginning to open. A Question Mark butterfly flittered above the warm gravel in the driveway.  I'm so glad Spring is on its way!

Yesterday's drawing spot

Rue Anemone

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Last Beach Day

Ahhh, well, no drawings today, it being our last day, plus we went out to dinner, which changes the whole afternoon.  Here are some pics from the day, though.  Enjoy.

 man-made oyster shell tower

 tiny sea urchin

 yellow & purple sea whip

 Channeled Whelk

 four-armed starfish