Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Chickens lay eggs, and so do Turtles

For those of you who don't know my husband is park ranger and one of his main jobs is mowing. He has a large deck (72") Toro Zero Turn that gets the job of mowing large areas quickly. And since he's out in the park, he gets to see all sorts of wildlife. The deer, and their off-spring, birds, etc.

Yesterday he came across something unusual. Not that he's never seen turtles before. In fact he has rescued them from precarious places, such as the road, and moved the slow-moving reptile before a car or truck comes along.

Yesterday, his discovery brought him back to the house to get me, excitedly telling me he found a large turtle in a sort of depression in the grass where he was mowing. Spotted it as he went past it. I grabbed my wildlife book and my phone to take a picture.

We got there and I was certain this was a female laying eggs, and in fact, she was. We went and got one of the other park managers and he came out and got a snap of it and sent it to yet another park manager who was the expert in identifying the types of turtles. I thought it was a map turtle. Turns out it's a "red-ear slider", and she was laying eggs in the hole she had dug.  She was laying quite a few of them, too. Below are my pictures of her in action. I somehow snapped one of the egg falling in. How cool is that?

We eventually left her to her business, as I'm sure she's never had an audience before. Dennis later reported that when he went to check things out, you'd never know something had laid eggs there. There's just a dirt patch, and it was packed down pretty good. Hopefully the eggs will remain unmolested. Raccoons are some of the culprits which might dig them up. And when they hatch the little guys have to go through the gauntlet of attack by birds, etc, before they find refuge in the tall prairie grass about twenty feet away.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Envasion of the Toads

It was sometime last week, possibly Thursday, but maybe Friday, when we noticed baby toads hopping around outside in the grass, around my garden paths--just everywhere! I don't mean a few, either. It was an army. An invasion. Everywhere you looked there were several hopping along, going wherever. So small, they can be kept in a tea cup. Here you see I've caught one in picture below. Since they don't sit still very long and you can't really get a good picture of them in their environment. Thus I captured this one for a short time.

It happens every year that the baby toads emerge from their tadpole stage, and begin their determined migration that only they know the destination. I figure somewhere deep in the woods where there's mud and deep shade--and BUGS.

Anyway, this continued for at least 4 days, non-stop. When you went out, you tiptoed to avoid stepping on them, and they hopped one or two inches away, often falling through cracks, and over rocks and such, but you just tried to avoid squishing them.

It was one evening my husband noticed as he watched their march across the sidewalk below the window. "They're heading north. All of them."

I looked and indeed, all were definitely heading north.

True toads Bufo, have a thick hide which reduce water loss, thus they don't need to live in water, and can carry on just fine without being near water, until they are ready to mate.

To which we come back to the baby toads we've seen last several days after a heavy rain about two weeks ago. There must have been quite the baby toad boom in the residue ponding we had from that two inches or so of rain, because I've never seen so many baby toads in all the while I've lived here in Afton Forest Preserve.

While writing this blog post, I was interrupted by my husband (park manager of Afton), who came back up and I went to see what he needed (this time). He said, "Get your shoes on and that book you have (with everything from birds, flowers, animals to amphibians). As I got myself ready he explained he found a large turtle in a depression where he was mowing. What it was doing there was the curious thing.

I'll have the story about the turtle in my next blog of one of nature's events rarely seen in progress, and I got pictures! Please stop by again!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer and keeping cool

Living in the country has its advantages. You don't have close-by neighbors, and we get to see nature, like deer, raccoons, chipmunks. weasels, and so forth, do their thing. Right now the mother deer have dropped their babies, and they are loping after the mother when she darts across the yard, or park or field.

Each week something new comes to pass. The catalpas finally blossomed, nearly a month late, but boy are they fragrant!

The flowers are quite pretty, and very large. When they fall, it looks like snow on the ground. We have 4 trees, and the smallest one has been flowering for 5 years, I think.

This morning we discovered tiny toads hopping through the grass, or on gravel etc. They're smaller than a thumbnail, so they hatched over night. Not sure how they come about, but when you see them you may think the grass is alive.

And the disadvantages of living in the country is bugs. This is the season when your cologne is spelled "OFF", because you'll be eaten alive by deer flies, mosquitoes and other things that want to take a chunk out of you.

Every summer we hope to have cooler weather, but looks like we aren't going to get our wish. We've had 90's already and are expecting more this weekend. No cooking out. My husband, who works out doors all day doesn't relish the thought of standing in the heat swatting annoying flies. So, it will be the indoor sort of things you can eat.

I'm about to have some ice cream with strawberries on top. Anyone with me??

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Rose by Any Other Name...

We're lucky to live on Afton Forest Preserve. It's a replanted prairie. Flowers that you will never see anywhere else are grown here on purpose. Even the waterlilies have been planted by hand. Back-breaking work.

Above is the prairie rose. There are "shooting stars" and "spiderwart" two plants I hadn't seen since I lived in the small town of Cortland and walked the railroad tracks (something I don't advise), until we moved here. 

I take walks when I have the chance and my normal route takes me on a paved path, which, to-and-back gives me a good mile.

I get up the last hill, and go up to the observation deck (seen below).

This was a strangely beautiful morning, with the sun poking out of the clouds.

I try and go early to miss most of the dog walkers. When I go later, I just stay on the drive. Twice around gives me a mile also.
This is the view of wetlands (which some mistakenly call a "lake"), from the observation tower.

The trail doesn't end there, and if the grass is dry I hike on in the general direction of those distant trees you see in background, then there's another bridge and I'm almost home. This also gives me a good mile walk, perhaps more. I haven't done that walk in a while. I like to go mid-day, but only when the weather isn't hot & muggy, and there's less people in the park. All the dog-walkers have been and gone around lunch time. There's times when I get the park to myself (and Dennis who mows).

Here are a few more pictures of the prairie rose. When you get within range, the aroma is wonderful!

My summer break is going well. I just need to stop working so damned hard.
More later on.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Contentment Like a cat sleeping in a sunny window

Now that I'm into my days off this summer, and I've chosen to do something entirely different (not writing), I'm  happier than I've ever been.

I'm not checking to see how my books are doing--selling, or not selling--every day. I barely check now. It seems no matter how much promotion I did, it just didn't make any difference.  So, I'm not going to beat myself on the head any more. If they sell, fine. My publisher takes the lion's share anyway. And it seemed no mater what I did or he did, they don't sell any more than they've ever sold. In other words, I'm not getting rich enough to retire from my bus driving job.

It's not that I've quit writing. But I'm on a big hiatus from it. Need to be for my own mental and emotional well-being. So, if anyone asks, you can tell them I'm taking a looooong break. I may not do much more than finish the Sabrina Strong series. I just don't want to even look at a manuscript right now.

Instead, I'm gardening, and seeing the fruits of last year's hard, hard work, come to fruition, and I'm glad I did what I did last summer. The lupines I dug up from park (shhhh!), which the resource guy claimed was seeds that were not indigenous to our area, I thought, well, if he doesn't like lupines, I effing do, and so I dug up several plants. This required me to go about a half mile on a trail, with a pail and shovel and I dug up some plants and transplanted them all into my gardens. This year the largest one looks wonderful! Has several flower spikes that came up and is blossoming now. Our spring is very late. I don't think the catalpa trees will even blossom, or if they do, it won't be much. We had 3 snowfalls in April. We are now getting the rain we should have had in April. This weather is very screwed up. Not sure if it has anything to do with the volcano in Hawaii, but it's not helping, I'm sure, even though it's half a world away.

And then there's my newest interest: watercolor painting. The above is one of my most recent pieces I did. I'm getting better every time I work on one. When I began painting in watercolors, I didn't know what I was doing, or how to do it until I found someone on line that gave free lessons. It's still a challenge for me to get it just right. But, with the money I am getting for my paintings, I've invested in better paints and I think, eventually they'll look even better than they do now.

At this point in time, I've now sold 3 paintings (one was commissioned and I really didn't like painting Sponge Bob, but it was money in my hand). I don't have to share it with anyone, and I use it for materials I need.

On getting into a gallery. Tried, but no go. They said they couldn't "show" my paintings "at this time". That's a rejection if I've ever heard one. Oh well, it's not as though my work (writing) has never been rejected before. So, I said, never mind. I'll go my own way. I may take my paintings to a farmer's market. I just don't know how well that will work. I've done craft shows before, and it's boring, but I did make money on my crafts. Once I get a few more things I need in order to show them w/o having them ruined by rain or whatever, I'll look into it.

That's all for now.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

There was no Spring...

This was the view out our door on Thursday morning. 
We're talking APRIL 19th, 
Not March or February.

We should be getting warm temps in the 60's & 70's.
We had temps as low as 26 on the above date.
And then, that day it warmed up...
to 53
Here are my miniature daffodils boldly showing they don't care what happens, damn it!

It was only last Wednesday and Thursday we saw a 60+ and 71 degree day. I remember raking and getting some sun, thinking about getting a hammock (if only I had one), and lying out in the calm, warm air.

Well, yesterday we did see 62 degrees, and I got into my flower beds and pulled out dead stuff, preparing it for the eventual Spring.
But it probably will go from this to  80's in a matter of days, once Mr. Deadbeat (Winter) wakes up and moves along.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Art uses a different part of the brain

Hi, everyone. I hope that those of you who follow me are enjoying my posts about my painting journey. I find that it is a very different type of expression than writing. I feel that art--any sort, no matter if it's a craft or serious art work--uses a different part of the brain. And it's relaaaaaxing!

As I've mentioned, I'm taking a break from writing. It might last a year. I don't know. I'm really into learning watercolor techniques. Watercolor isn't like any other medium (oil, acrylics), but it has it's own limitations, but you can do so much with it, or techniques you can use to make your water color more interesting. 

For instance, using salt in the painting, I'm finding different ways of working with that.

Below is an experiment using salt water as my base. I found that salt water sits on the paper longer, thus I had plenty of time to add my colors to the paper before the wetness dried. 

You may not see the effect salt has on the watercolor ion this sample, but it makes colors feather or seep into the closest colors in fantastic ways I just can't do with regular water. (check out the sky and then below where the yellow seeped into the turquoise.)

Below is another study I did really quickly, you might be able to see more of the odd blending that salt water does with the colors.

There are lots of other things water colorists use, like rubbing alcohol, or adding salt onto the painting itself (I've an example, below at the end, but I don't think it came out as well as I wanted)

Using a sponge to add some sort of texture is also a way to make your painting more interesting. For this painting below I used a Q Tip for the inside (brown/black, gray etc) of the flower and for the sky, I used a sponge. I sort of had problems making the clouds, and had to cheat and use white paint. For some water colorists, using white is a big no-no. But, if you don't know me, I tend to break rules. Who cares if I use white? They make white watercolor, so what the heck is it for? (:
Original watercolor by Lorelei: "Glorious Sun" 9"x12"

In fact they also tell you there's no such thing as black in watercolor.
Well, same applies. I use it in my silhouettes paintings. 

And below, this painting would not come out so stark and interesting if I'd used a blend of greens and reds and such. Don't you agree?

Original watercolor by Lorelei "Phantom" 9"x12"

actual photograph: close up shot of
an orchid taken from Pinterest.
As you can see I didn't make the above painting up. Orchids tend to have interesting parts. This particular orchid caught my eye, the way photographer put a black background behind the flower, then took a super close-up. I find most of these sort of pictures on Pinterest, and don't claim any ownership of them. But the paintings I do!

Hope you enjoyed this. Today, I'm not sure what I'll work on, but I'll find something to paint!

Chickens lay eggs, and so do Turtles

For those of you who don't know my husband is park ranger and one of his main jobs is mowing. He has a large deck (72") Toro Zero T...