Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Perches in Bluebird Habitat

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about creating bluebird habitat is man-made nest boxes. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and destruction of this part of their habitat along with competition from invasive bird species, compounded by some natural climate cycles, caused a major drop in bluebird populations beginning in the 1950's as I previously posted about in detail. Perches are another critical part of bluebird habitat that you can help provide for their success.

Don't think caged bird perches or protected roosting tree perches in this case. Bluebirds are hunters. I have seen estimates that insects make up from 60-80% of a bluebird's diet. To catch insects, bluebirds like to scan the area around a perch and pounce on their prey on the ground or sometimes catch it midair. Because bluebirds hunt in open areas, their perches are often found on the edges of these areas, limiting their ability to hunt a large open area in its entirety. The chain link fence around my backyard is a favorite perch. I have also seen them on swing set beams, branches of shrubs and trees (especially before they leaf out so the birds have a good view of the area) and garden art that is somewhat tall and pole like.

When I was mowing the back pasture this past winter there were a couple of tall, sturdy weeds whose main stalk remained after the first mowing pass. Since they were interior to the open area that bluebirds and a couple of other feathered friends like to hunt in from perches, I decided to leave a few of the sturdier stalks to expand the bird's hunting area. I was rewarded with bluebirds utilizing these perches and was lucky enough to get a few decent pictures of them in use. You can see a male bluebird scanning for prey and then swooping down to catch its prey in the pictures in this post.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring is in the Air

The spring equinox is one of my favorite days of the year. According to the calendar, we can officially say we are through with winter and can welcome in springtime. Unfortunately Mother Nature does not always follow the calendar. In North Texas it feels a bit like we jumped straight from winter to summer with a forecast high today of almost 90 degrees. Signs of spring have been around here for a few weeks already, from spring blooming bulbs to flowering trees and the pretty green of new leaves on trees that don't put out a flush of flowers. I have been watching birds gather nesting material. I saw a crow this past weekend flying with a big twig in its beak and the blue jays have been gathering up fallen bald cypress leaves.

Along with the signs of spring outside, it is almost time for a favorite indoor spring event, Spring Gallery Night. Join the Texas Pottery and Sculpture Guild (TPSG) for their 2017 Spring Gallery Night Sale at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. The sale begins Saturday morning, March 25 at 10 am and runs until 9 pm that evening. The guild has invited a few non-pottery artists to join them and I will be one of them. Many of my photographic art pieces are spring themed. Watching this YouTube video showing examples of artists work will give you an idea of what works you can expect to find.

Typical Gallery Night crowds are fairly large, so if you want to avoid the crush come early to do your shopping. The Fort Worth Community Art Center is located at 1300 Gendy, Fort Worth TX, 76107 across Lancaster from the Amon Carter Museum.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day 2017

Since 1989 math and science geeks have celebrated the all important mathematical constant pi and used the day, along with other folks, as a good excuse to indulge in their sweet tooth while eating some pie. The society of physics students has also turned Pi Day into a celebration of support for undergraduate involvement in the physical sciences. Pi appears in more than just mathematical equations, it is also found in many science formulas. You can help support STEM by helping undergraduate physics students get a piece of the pi(e) through your donation. (If you don't know, I have a Bachelor of Science in Physics so I think this is a great cause.)

The pi in this piece was made from some leftover pie dough from last year's Pi Day project.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Design This - Short Flying Pig Earrings

Last spring I received two convos from a nurse, each with a request for an alteration to one of my flying pig listings to make a short pair of earrings. The earrings needed to be short for wearing at work. One request was to have just the flying pig charms dangling from French ear wires without the heart in between the two and the other was to ask if I could use the image on my flying pig cufflinks to make a short pair of earrings. And she had sensitive ears so she initially asked for sterling silver ear wires.

The first request was easy to fill by making a new pair of earrings with just the flying pig charms. I did want to ask her about ear wire choices for sensitive ears though. Niobium ear wires are a great alternative to expensive pure metals and they come in a variety of colors. Luckily the second request was also fairly easy to fill since I was already doing something similar with my music note bezel earrings. This customer was a joy to discuss her options with. She was very upbeat and excited about having a variety of choices for new earrings with a flying pig theme based on her needs.

After nailing down the details I was able to get started on this custom order after finishing up another project I had in the works. The bezel earrings take a couple of days to complete. Once they were finished I took a picture for review by my customer. She was very pleased so I got them boxed up and shipped out so they could wing their way to their new home.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Butterfly Weed Named Perennial Plant of the Year

Asclepias tuberosa or Butterfly Weed is capable of being at home in gardens across much of the country. It grows in zones 4-9, likes full sun, is deer resistant and attracts plenty of pollinators, including a large variety of butterflies. In my North Texas garden it is very drought resistant. Once established, I don't supplement its water. In fact it is rated to need as little as 10 inches of rain annually and will tolerate as much as 40 inches of rain if it has good drainage. No wonder it has been named 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.

Butterflies pictured in this post perched on butterfly weed blooms are a monarch butterfly (top) and a variegated fritillary butterfly (bottom). Because butterfly weed is a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, if you are lucky enough to have monarch eggs laid on your plant(s) and witness the growth and transformation of the caterpillars, your plants may temporarily look a little worse for wear, but they will bounce back and you will have helped a generation of monarchs get off to a good start. Your local honey bees will also thank you for planting butterfly weed.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Now for Something a Bit Different

I love living in my small city of Dalworthington Gardens. I have served it in various capacities over the years. The past several years I took on smaller roles as I focused more on my creative passions. In addition, the couple of years prior to last May's elections saw a lot of turmoil that spilled over into council meetings that made them draining to go to and caused me to pull back my attendance in the audience even more. The atmosphere has been more pleasant this past year and I have been attending meetings that I am an audience member at much more frequently. (I have a great attendance record to the meetings I need to attend based on appointments.) I have also had several people urge me to run for city council.

All of this led me to decide to file for Alderman, Place 3 in Dalworthington Gardens when I found out that the incumbent was planning not to seek re-election. Another resident filed too, so we have a contested election for Place 3. It is a small city and I do not know how many of you out there that are reading this actually live in DWG and can vote for me. To any of you that can or can encourage a friend or relative to vote for me, please do. You can join in the discussion on my campaign facebook page or learn more about me on my campaign website and blog which includes important dates for the May 6, 2017 election.

I took a series of photos of some ducks in our park that seemed to be having a conversation. I added a caption to the one below.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Design This - Rework Three Sentimental Necklaces

My customer had an aha moment one day regarding three necklaces that her sons had made for her. While wearing the necklaces could be emotionally uplifting, the closures the boys came up with were not very elegant and could be downright scratchy. She realized that I should be able to help her solve the negative aspects of the necklaces while preserving the heart and soul her sons had poured into the making of them. Two of the necklaces simply needed to be restrung and have appropriate findings added to finish them off. A third necklace also needed more beads added so that the length would fit with my customer's current necklace length preference.

It is a privilege to be entrusted with reworking jewelry that is imbued with sentimental value. I wanted to make sure I got these three necklaces right for my customer. They still needed to remind her of her sons while providing a more comfortable wearing experience. I made sure when I disassembled the two necklaces that only needed restringing and new findings, to keep all of the beads in their original order in order to preserve the designs the boys had created. For the short, magenta necklace my customer had suggested that perhaps some gold beads spaced every so often in order to lengthen it would be a good idea. I told her I would look at my supplies and make some suggestions of beads for her to choose from.

When I started to go through my supplies to find beads that I thought would complement the magenta stone chips, I came across some lightweight, possibly coated paper, magenta and gold beads that I had acquired only a couple of weeks earlier. The magenta in these beads, shaped like 24 sided dice (tetrakis hexahedron) was a perfect match for the chips and they had gold in them like my customer had suggested. I thought these would be so perfect that I stopped looking for additional options and showed them to my customer. She agreed with me. Now I needed to figure out a design to include just the right amount of the new beads to achieve the desired new length. One other challenge that I noticed when disassembling the magenta chip strand was that there were actually two shades of magenta chips. They were very similar but also very distinct. I needed to make sure that I paired similar colored and shaped chips across from each other in the design. Once I finished this process I strung the beads on a wire and placed bead stoppers on each end so I could take a photo for concept approval before adding findings. I received an ok, finished off the ends and took a photo of that necklace with one of the other ones I had restrung.

If you have any jewelry that needs repair or reimagining please contact me and I'd be happy to see if I can be of service. (Click on the images to enlarge.)