Friday, October 19, 2012

White Oak, Sourwood, and Tulip Poplar Leaves

It's that time of year again... the leaves are beginning to turn.  They aren't plentiful yet, which makes the leaves that have color all the more stunning. When I hike I can't resist picking up jewels I spot that have fallen on the ground, or that are hanging within my reach.  Even when the turning leaves are so abundant that they're in piles and flying through the air around me, I still pick them up because I never tire of admiring the beauty of each leaf.   The color is so short lived I figure they may as well be at my home where I can admire them for a few more hours.  There is now a growing pile on my side porch that by season's end will be nothing but a drift of brown.

The leaves above are a few I found nearby when I sat to draw. We were on the high ridge above the confluence of Meetinghouse Creek and Lawson's Fork, where green is still the dominant color. I saw a sprinkling of yellow, and plenty of pink sourwoods.   The closest sourwood was just down the hill a bit so I wandered down and picked up a leaf.  While drawing, a Daddy Longlegs came to visit, crawling up my leg, across the page, and onto my hand.

The weather was clear and about 68 degrees, and a nice breeze rattled through the trees and through Daisy's long hair. 

Spotted this maple in our woods...

 taken from the log I was sitting on...

The handful of goodies I brought home with me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mushrooms Under a Pine

The morning of the 19th was overcast, cool and windy, and the dogs and I hiked all around enjoying the change of weather.  The tops of the pines swayed and soughed, yellow leaves would occasionally let go and fly through the still summery-looking woods. This drawing started with the beautiful little (unknown) mushrooms I found growing in the litter in some piney woods.  They looked silky, almost shiny. I immediately fell in love with them. 

I sat and started drawing.  As I worked on the quarter-sized mushroom, all the other bits of debris showed themselves: another smaller mushroom nearby, the tiny pale yellow puffball, the sparkleberry leaf and two sparkleberries, two scales of a pine cone, silvery pine bark and twigs, and the big red ant exploring the neighborhood.  Naturally, I had to include them all on the page.

Cicadas would start trilling but then stop a few minutes later, as if they couldn't decide if it was quite warm enough to sing. Duke and Daisy were good dogs while I drew and settled beside me for a nap.

Fast forward to today!  The temperatures around here are still cool, the mornings lovely and a bit dewy.  My shoes got wet from walking in the high grass on the shady side of the pipeline.  Since I knew I had last week's entry to post today, I decided to take my camera along. Here are few photos from today's hike. Double click photos to enlarge.

Insect holes on a Morning Glory leaf


Crab Spider on Aster

Leaf-footed Seedbug on Sumac berries

Lobelia with spider

A single Blue Curls bloom

Blue Curls plant

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Sneak Peek!

On Monday of last week, when I was about to walk out the door for a hike and some journaling time, my editor at Hub City Press sent me a text with a photo.  Look what just showed up, she wrote. The photo showed two advanced copies of Middlewood Journal: Drawing Inspiration from Nature that had just arrived in the day's mail.

I wrote back, Yay! I'll come into town later today, after journaling.  A minute later I wrote again,  OK, just a short dog walk - no journaling....  By the time I got my shoes on I knew what I had to do.  I texted, On my way now!  Daisy and Duke looked pitiful, even though I promised I would be right back and take them for their walk.

I grabbed my car keys and out the door I rushed, without even brushing my hair.

So, here is your sneak peek photo of one of the entries in the book! It's a beautiful book.  The release date is November 2... but feel free to pre-order from Hub City Press and I will sign it before it goes out.

Better yet, if you live close enough, come to the release party!  It's going to be at Hub Bub Showroom in downtown Spartanburg, Friday, November 2, from 4-6.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two Thoroughworts & Gerardia

I headed out with Daisy and Dukie mid-morning, prepared to stay out for my usual long morning in the field.  The sky was hung heavy with dark clouds and a cool, damp breeze blew from the west, which felt wonderful.  As we passed through the woods I noticed mushrooms. White ones, brown ones, yellow ones, orange ones, gilled and boletes... lots of mushrooms!  They were everywhere, reminding me that I must post my last journal entry from late August that is all about mushrooms, which I'll do soon.  Today though, I wanted to get out to the fresh breezes of the pipeline and let the dogs get some exercise, so we continued on.

We passed a patch of purple top tridens (grass) and I grabbed a seed head to pull the seeds off, which I often do, tossing the seeds here and there as I walk.  This time though, the seeds weren't ready to fall off, but I did get a handful of the tiniest little insects - smaller than my pinkie fingernail.  I first thought,  baby grasshoppers, but their skinny black legs were the same width (less than a hair's diameter) all the way from body to foot - none of the muscles you find on a grasshopper.  I leaned in to other grass plumes and saw that they were everywhere - 10 - 20 on each.  Further down the hill I checked again and found a few more, although not as many as on top of the hill.  It was fairly quiet as I walked, except for the soft trill of field crickets.  A red bellied woodpecker chirred in the woods, and a lone crow flapped over my head with a single, unenthusiastic caw! 

I settled to draw next to a round-leaved thoroughwort.  It's such a tidy, well behaved plant, I can imagine transplanting one into my garden.  It's cousin, hyssop-leaved thoroughwort, is a different matter.  It grows everywhere across all three pipelines, so I imagine it does a better job getting its seeds out and about - not a good candidate for a garden, but a nice home for tiny crab spiders!  I picked one branch to draw (both plants are much fuller than these on the page) and ended up bring two size X-small spiders back to my seat. After studying them I set the spiders in the grass away from me.   

I drew for an hour or so, until I felt some tiny spits of rain.  I packed quickly, and then realized it had stopped spitting rain for the moment, so even though we still headed home, we went the long way.  I wanted to look for a third thoroughwort I know grows down by the creek, named boneset.  I couldn't find it, but that's ok... the dogs and I all needed the extra exercise.   

I returned home with soggy shoes and pants wet to the knee.  The dogs slurped the ice water I put down for them (yes, I admit, they are spoiled) and then collapsed on the cool floor for naps.


A few photos from the past few weeks around Middlewood: a tiny mushroom,

a dead butterfly's wing,

a handsome Assassin Bug,

a beautiful mushroom with a beautiful name: Lactarius indigo,

a macro photo of a spider web in the sun,

a Fiery Skipper on thistle,

a Pearly Crescentspot.

NEW PHOTOS:  the tiny insects on the grass seed heads... anybody know what they are? 
 Click on images to enlarge.

 Look who I found snacking on a mushroom... yum! yum!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fossil Plastron, Turtle Shell, Armadillo Scute, Feather, and Sea Glass

Here is another journal entry from the beach trip.  This one was drawn on the beach on a hot, but very windy afternoon.  The wind was too strong for an umbrella, so my friend Pat and I sat in the glaring sun to draw in our journals.  I pulled the fossils out of the ziploc bag at my side, some of the morning's finds.  The other bits were picked up from the beach where I sat.  It was a wonderful time!  To be beside the ocean, drawing with a friend was a great way to spend my last daylight hours.

After a while we all headed indoors to get going on dinner, which was a well-known South Carolina specialty: Low Country Boil, made with local shrimp, fresh corn and new potatoes, and sausage, all boiled together with seafood boil seasonings.  Did I mention that pouring a beer in the pot makes it taste better?  Or, that serving it means dumping the drained pot of goodies on a paper bag in the middle of the table?  Oh my.  So good.  Such a wonderful week.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Edisto: shells, fossils, pottery, sea glass, and sinker

Last week while at the beach with a bunch of girls, I was asked to do an impromptu workshop on nature journaling.  We had so much fun!  Here we are, staying out of the midday sun, working on slowing wayyyy down, paying attention to details, listening to the many sounds around us, and drawing what we'd found on the beach earlier in the morning.  Such a peaceful day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Queen Ann's Lace & Daisy Fleabane

Today was so beautiful!  A front came through and dried up the humidity of the weekend and blew a steady breeze through the trees all day. The sky was deep, clear blue. Around midday I headed through the woods to the top of the hill, where Old Thompson Road meets the pipeline.  This spot almost always has more than just a regular breeze, probably because the open field that stretches from east to west is like a highway for the wind. Sure enough, a cool, stead wind blew across this pine-shaded spot.  I spread a beach towel out and settled down to draw. Daisy and Duke stretched out for a nap nearby.  It was heavenly. It's hard to believe the end of the week highs are supposed to be near 105 degrees.  I hope they are wrong.

In another corner of Middlewood, we've had hungry visitors return to my flower garden after a 20 year absence.  When we first moved out here we lost some day lilies for two summers, then it stopped.  Perhaps our other dogs did a better job of keeping wildlife away than our present combination of Daisy and Duke. From the look of my garden, I'd say it's a whole family of white-tailed deer nibbling in the night.

The only deer I've seen in person, during the day, is tiny and delicate.  I call her Bambi, and I no longer care about the flowers.  There are enough blooms left for us to enjoy, and the tiny fawn can have her greens.   I hope to get a photo of her soon.  Stay tuned...

The phlox Bambi forgot to eat.

 The hydrangea Bambi couldn't reach.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Waynesville, NC - Strawberry-Raspberry!!!


This flower cannot be found in any of my field guides.  It grows along a shady path behind our cabin outside of Waynesville, in the Southern Appalachians, opening in June.  It's neighbors are Christmas and Lady Ferns, Hemlock Trees, Jewelweed, Mountain Asters,  Yellow Buckeye Trees, various Maples and Ashes, Virginia Creepers, and a healthy population of Poison Ivy plants. It looks like it would be in the Rose family, but the seed looks not at all like a Rose Hip, and more like a big, red, but very dry raspberry.  The leaves are very angular and stiff, and have thorns along their main stems.  When I tried to pick this branch I got quite tangled in its thorny hold.

Anyone with information on this flower should contact me immediately!  (This is not the first time I've tried to figure out what it is.)

The nice part of the outing was being with my friends and neighbors, Rose and Rachel, who walked down the hill mid morning with their sketch books.   We wandered down the path that runs behind their old farmhouse to find something to draw.  Even though the bugs were out - mosquitoes being the main irritant - we persevered and got a good bit of drawing done.

We were at our cabin in the mountains for a week, with cool and wet weather for the first half, listening to the rain on our tin roof - and cool and dry weather for the latter half of the week.

Here are some photos from our week in the mountains.   As you can imagine, it was hard to come home.

!!! UPDATE !!!!  
I went to a botanist's house for dinner tonight and took my journal with me.  With the help of her 6" thick, Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas, we figured out what the flower is:  Rubus illecebrosus, common name: Strawberry-Raspberry, member of the Blackberry family.  A rare plant, it is a native of Japan.  My friend said it would have been an early garden plant that escaped.  The fruit was stewed or made into preserves.

The plant was first recorded by Wilhelm Olbers Focke (1834 - 1922), a medical doctor and botanist who did much work throughout his life on the taxonomy of Rubus (Rosaceae) and published several studies.

One of several websites where Rubrus illecebrosus can be found:

:-)  I am happy now!  Thanks Gil!

Bunny in our yard

 Rhododendron blooming beside the cabin

 my favorite morning activity: breakfast with the birds

East Fork of the Pigeon River

 Wonderful big rock

 a storm rolling in over the mountain

 storm clouds hover over the mountains

 Fog rolling over Devil's Courthouse - we drove in thick fog for quite a while

 Skinny Dip Falls in Pisgah Nat'l Forest

 Looking Glass Rock as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nature Journaling Classes today!

I was invited to be the guest author at the Spartanburg Junior Writers' Program this summer.  It's an annual summer event located at USC Upstate.  There were two classes, and in the first gathering it was great to see more adult teachers (from another writing program taking place) than kids.  After a 30 minute talk about the hows and whys of journaling, we all went outside to the Arboretum.  The weather was the best imaginable for June in South Carolina - 70/75 degrees, breezy, sunny, with no humidity.  Wow!  Those of you who live down here know what I mean.  There were huge tadpoles in the creek, many little wildflowers, interesting trees casting deep shade, and numerous birds singing around and about: the mockingbirds and blue jays were the loudest.

My visit left me with a big question.... what kind of tree has leaves like the one above?  They were lovely, but I know they're not native, and although we were sitting in the arboretum, there was no name plaque for the large tree.  If any of you tree experts out there know what it is, please let me know. 

On the way back to the classroom, the kids I walked with complained that the day wasn't long enough.  ;-)  Ha! That was good to hear.  

What a fun day!


Here are a few photos I snapped while everyone concentrated on their journals:

The Program Director sent me these photos - here I am watching the geese fly over!