Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sprouting Acorns

Brrr... It was clear and cold with a brisk wind today, but the sun felt warm in-between wind gusts so Radu and I decided to go for our Sunday hike anyway.  In order to stay out of the wind as much as possible I headed down to the valley and Meetinghouse Creek. There I figured we could walk along the creek's banks, or hop rocks down the middle if possible, and let the wind blow over our heads.  

We hiked downhill on the sunny side of the pipeline, stepping high over stubble and small stumps from the last mowing, with only occasional briers catching at my fleece pants. Overhead a crowd of crows flapped and cawed. The hawk they harassed seemed totally unconcerned with the situation.  Once they flew beyond the pipeline the only sound was wind in the trees until we got to the creek and were treated to the splash and rippling music of water. 

Along the creek were tracks galore - raccoon, deer, squirrel, and opossum, as well as crawfish lines in the fine mud.  A tiny track that looked somewhat like that of a tiny ghost crab came up from the water's edge for about fifteen inches, made a loop and disappeared back into the water.  Don't know what that could be. Also along the creek were lines of acorns left by high water of our last gullywasher. They were cracked and sprouting.  Fat green and/or deep red roots circled out of the acorns and disappeared into the sand. The outer shell of the acorns had opened and displayed the thick, bright green "leaves" hiding inside.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Carolina Wren

It's in the mid-40's and misty this afternoon - not a day to go walk in the woods or hike on the pipeline.  Instead it's workday in the studio.  I'm almost ready to start painting a Great Blue Heron for a designer showhouse. To get in the mood, and to test my "equipment"  I decided to do a quick painting of another smaller bird, which is today's entry.  I'm glad I did the test because my watercolor brushes did not come out with high marks.  Under magnification, a couple of the brushes had  a serious "split end" look.  No wonder I had trouble getting a good point on them.  This morning I went straight out and spent mucho money on new sable brushes so I can finish this painting and move on to the big, important, financially "positive" one.  Stay posted... I'll put the finished Wren here soon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Early Spring in the Garden

A sunny and cool day in the morning, but partly cloudy by the time I headed out to hike with Radu. Well... I was in a very slow mood, so perhaps I should say we headed out to wander around. We ended up down on Old Thompson Road, an old road (never paved) that is now just an old washed out roadbed leading to a rusting iron bridge over Lawson's Fork.  The bridge has no floor so you can't actually use it.  There's an old house site in the woods beside the road, and there I found a few interesting old bottles small enough to slip into my fleece jacket pockets.  Then we continued to wander up the hill to the high, rocky ridge that continues on the west side of Meetinghouse Creek.  White oak, Red maple, and gnarled Sparkleberry trees grow on top of the ridge, rising from between the huge, lichen-covered rocks. Just over edge of the rocks, facing north, the steep slope to Lawson's Fork is a Mountain Laurel thicket.  No way I would head down there, but Radu enjoyed his country-dog freedom and investigated all corners of the north slope.  I could follow his path by listening to the leaves rattle and crunch in the silent afternoon.

Wandered back to Middlewood to draw the flowers in the garden.  Such a beautiful and magical time of year.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


What a day!  And a Sunday too, with time and freedom to enjoy the outdoors.  The temp has risen to the mid 70's, and a steady westerly breeze is swirling spring-like scents around Middlewood. The twang of our piney woods reminds me of my childhood in N. Florida, and all the twitters, cheeps, and birdsong could make you think this is a morning in May.  Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers are tap-tap-tapping high in the trees... and how I love the whistle of Mourning Doves' wings when they fly up from the ground. 

Hiked around a bit with Radu, then wandered back along the pipeline to our front woods. Found the Hellebores in full bloom, as well as Chickweed.  Forsythia buds are fattening, and the Clematis beside the back door has sprouted tiny new leaves. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


This was drawn last Saturday, which was another cold winter's day in the piedmont.  Radu and I had hiked back to the rocky ridge overlooking Lawson's Fork, hoping to find the ziplock bag of special doggy treats I accidentally left there two days before.  Alas, the treats had been discovered by some lucky critter.  Luckily Radu didn't miss them one bit.  He was too busy sniffing, exploring and running around like a... well... like a dog!  While I was up there I decided it was time to attempt a "quick sketch" of some of the rocks that run the whole length of this long ridge.  The hill below (to the left, in the sketch) the rocks drops steeply for several hundred feet, and sports large boulders that have at some point rolled down from the top.  Growing on the hill are White Oaks, Red Oaks, Maples, Dogwoods, as well as Ironwoods, Sourwoods, Beech, and many thickets of Mountain Laurel.  The outcrop is much weathered and covered in various lichen and Resurrection Fern.   The hill in the far background of the sketch is on the other side of the river.  This is one of my favorite places within hiking distance of Middlewood.

But brrrr.... it was so cold!  My fingers were numb by the time we headed home.  

Mountain Laurel

Here is a drawing from last week when I found time to head up to the rocky ridge above Lawson's Fork.  It was cold and windy, but I was warmed by the uphill hike.  I stopped drawing as soon as my body heat disappeared.  Brr.....