Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Artist Spotlight - Susan Ashley No. 2

I'm a little behind in sharing some pieces of art I have acquired over the past couple of years. One of them is another piece of gourd art. It is my second piece from Susan Ashley. I was set up next to her at a show a year or two ago and one piece caught my attention early on. While she sold several pieces of her work that day, this piece was still there shortly before closing so it had to come home with me. This gourd has cording woven on the top of it like my first purchase from this artist, however it has more of a Native American inspired style than the classic look of the first one. From the outside, this gourd is very natural looking with the subtle earth tone shades of the gourd, feathers, leather, stones and woven portions. The inside holds a surprise, a beautiful, shiny dark green interior.

You will be able to view eight pieces of Susan's work, including antler and pine needle baskets and some gourd art, at the Inspired by Nature exhibit coming up in Mansfield in May. Her work, along with some of mine and four additional local artists will be on display at the Mansfield Performing Arts Center from May 7-22, with a reception from 6-8pm on Saturday, May 12. Viewing hours during the remainder of the exhibit are 8am - 4:30pm, Monday through Friday. Come out and be inspired.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Design This - More Heart Earrings

This custom request came from a vendor I met at the first Olde Town Christmas Craft Show that I set up at. We were across the aisle from each other for a couple of years and struck up a friendship. Almost four years ago I made her some custom earrings, predominantly hearts. This past year when I ran into her at a show again, she said she was interested in some more earrings. We had the chance to discuss what she was interested in when she visited me at the Happy Holidays Pop-Up Market this past December. I showed her my selection of heart beads made from a variety of materials.

My friend chose hearts made from opalite, millefiori glass, turquoise colored howlite, cloisonne and some crystal stars. We discussed what type of ear wires she could wear and we decided that I should send her some mock ups of the beads she chose as earrings paired with complementary beads and ear wires after the first of the year. After completing the mock ups, I took pictures of them to send to her for approval. She liked the designs and chose the small yellow glass stars to go with the crystal ones. I took a picture of the completed earrings before we met and I delivered her new earrings to her.

If you are interested in a custom pair of earrings, necklace, bracelet or other piece of jewelry, please contact me to see if I have what is needed to create what you are looking for.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Oak Pollen Season in Full Swing in North Texas

Whether deciduous or evergreen, oak trees all over North Texas are helping create a yellow dusting on surfaces outside. Clusters of catkins appear as the new leaf buds begin to break. As the male oak flowers mature, they send out pollen to ride the wind and hopefully reach a female flower. The female flowers are inconspicuous and do not enjoy a beneficial relationship with pollinators such as bees and butterflies. Because wind pollination is a rather haphazard method, a LOT of pollen is produced by the male flowers. Park you car under an oak tree while the catkins are shedding pollen and it will develop a thin yellow coating on it.

The images in this post are of a live oak. You can click on them to make them larger. The pulled back view gives you an idea of just how prolific the male oak flowers are. You can also see a handful of last year's leaves still on the tree as the new growth has gotten a good start. Live oaks don't lose their leaves in the fall like other oaks. They stay green all winter and are thus labeled as an evergreen tree. Come spring however, last year's leaves begin to shed and the new ones begin to grow.

I labeled the close up image of the new growth on the tree so you can spot a female flower surrounded by a profusion of male flowers. Obviously I did not label all of the male flowers in the picture. The close up of the carpet of leaves under the tree shows fresh spots of pollen on the leaf surfaces about two days after a two day, almost three inch rain event. That rain definitely helped clean off surfaces like my solar panels. Good thing, I had noticed just before the rain that they had a thin yellow film on them. Now they should be much more efficient at turning the sun's rays into electricity.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

First Day of Spring 2018

A couple of hours ago, it officially became spring here in North Texas. Except for the brisk north wind, it is easy to concur that spring has arrived. Today we have sunny blue skies. My early spring blooming bulbs are done blooming and now my azaleas, "Candy Stripe" creeping phlox and redbuds are in full bloom. My bluebonnets and wisteria are beginning to show some color too on this First Day of Spring for 2018.

It is time to put tomato and pepper plants out in your vegetable garden and you can still plant some annuals for spring color. The warm season annuals are likely a few weeks away from being in your local nursery. Pull out any winter weeds in your garden beds before they reseed and replenish mulch as needed. I little maintenance gardening now will provide a great backdrop for the continued unfolding of blooms throughout the year.

Happy gardening. Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pi Day and Albert Einstein's Birthday

I wonder what type of pie Albert Einstein liked best? I think it is pretty cool that such an important scientist was born on a date that translates to the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi.

For those of you that enjoy a bit of math humor or want to indulge in some math or science geekery, check out my EclecticSkeptic shop on Etsy. In celebration of Pi Day, 2018 all orders received before midnight on 3/14/18 CDT will receive a 10% rebate, excluding shipping, from EclecticSkeptic.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mark Your Calendar for the Return of Daylight Savings Time

It is almost time to spring forward again, even though it is not yet quite officially spring. Daylight Savings Time starts again on Sunday, March 11, 2018. I will enjoy the later light, although IMO, April was a much better time to do this because the daylight portion of the day is longer by then so as not to plunge us into darkness as bad in the am. Unfortunately the powers that be changed the dates for both time changes a few years back. Try to get to bed at a decent hour Saturday
night to make the change a bit less taxing. Make sure you get all of your clocks and watches updated this coming Sunday that don't automatically spring forward an hour, so you will be on time to go back to work or school on Monday.

All of the clocks pictured are creations of Eclectic Design Choices and run off AA batteries in a USA made quartz clock movement.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Season of Blooms from Beautiful Bulbs

While a single bulb will not give you a season of blooms, clusters of several types of bulbs with staggered bloom times will. This year may be a bit of an exception as many of my bulbs are beginning to color up this week. However, in a normal year my spring bulb succession goes something like this:

Sometimes as early as January, my paperwhites (narcissus) begin blooming. I have two varieties. One is the standard flower form with white petals and a pale yellow cup. The other is called "Texas Star" and has longer and narrower petals and a slightly smaller cup.

The next bulbs to flower are usually my single jonquils, February Gold daffodils and summer snowflakes (don't let the name fool you).

I have a variety of other daffodils and jonquils that bloom at various times, ending up with Pheasant's Eye daffodil which can bloom as late as April. Before that last daffodil variety blooms, I also get color from bulbs of English Wood Hyacinths and the only reliably repeating tulip in my area, Clusiana tulips. Hardy and regular amaryllis have also done well, along with a native Texas pink blooming alliums I initially collected with permission from a pasture.

There are plenty of other plants such as corms, rhizomes and woody perennials who wake up and put on a show of spring color. The earliest of all of these types of perennials in my yard are the bulbs. They put a smile on my face to see them break dormancy and break bud to let you know that Spring is just around the corner.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Happy Darwin Day

Science types around the globe, raise a glass of your favorite beverage today to honor the 209th anniversary of the birth of the famous English naturalist Charles Darwin. Beginning near the end of 1831 after getting his college degree, Darwin set off as a member of the expedition on
the HMS Beagle. He spent much of his time on various landings while the ship surveyed the coast of South America. One of Darwin's most famous points of landfall was the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.

In celebration of this day, I have included a couple of my photographic art pieces that I created from photos I took on my trip to the Galapagos islands a few years ago. One is a floating Galapagos pelican, mounted on acrylic and the other is a gallery wrapped canvas of a group of marine iguanas lounging in the sun. Both images are also available as matted 8x10 prints.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Cedar Waxwing Invasion

This makes three weeks in a row that I have posted about birds. I will get back to other topics, however the invasion of cedar waxwings I witnessed this morning was something I just had to share right away. I have previously had small flocks of around 25 or less land on my bald cypress by my pond and stream. Sometimes they will drop down and get a drink as you saw in my last post.

Today's flock outdid anything I have seen before. The flock on the tree at any
one time was around 80 - 100 birds. The photo above is just a portion of the flock. Click to enlarge it and see how many you can count. Let me know in the comments below. The cedar waxwings dropped into the stream in shifts of up to about 25 at any one time to get a drink. This went on for several minutes. Fewer clouds would have been nice so I could have used more depth of field and a quicker shutter speed. I did get better images than I expected though, while I was shooting.
Cedar waxwings are one of the bird species that have a good chance of being
seen during the Dalworthington Gardens' Great Backyard Bird Count event on Saturday, February 17 in Gardens Park. If you are in the area, grab your binoculars, camera and/or iOS or Android device with a bird identification app such as Merlin and join us in the community room at 10 am for a presentation before we break into small groups to count birds. After birding, come back to the community room to swap stories of what birds you sighted and make some origami birds to take home with you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Frozen Morning - Birds Flock to Open Water

The official thermometer at the airport read 11 degrees Fahrenheit for this morning's low. Closer to home, Arlington registered 6 degrees. These are not wind chill temps but actual air temperatures. At these temperatures many still bodies of water that birds would make there way to for a drink would have been frozen over like the pond portion of my water feature as seen in the photo of the mourning dove walking across the ice. The waterfall and stream flowed fast enough to stay open and became a mecca for birds looking for a drink. I saw some year round bird species as well as some of the visitors that
come through this time of year. The photos were all taken this morning and captured many of the species that stopped for some water. Click on the images to enlarge them. With the Great Backyard Bird Count just one month away, get to know these bird species because you are likely to find some or all of them if you join the DWG Backyard Bird Count event on February 17, 2018.

Male and female House finch and Cedar waxwing

Yellow-rumped warblers with ice in the background

Male Bluebird (Do you see his reflection in the waterfall?)

Goldfinch and Chipping sparrow

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018 Great Backyard Bird Count Event in DWG

I have participated as an individual contributor to the Great Backyard Bird Count for several years now and promoted it on this blog. This year I am pleased to also be able to promote a GBBC event that my city of DWG will be hosting. Our Park Board agreed that an event like this would be a good fit in a city whose tag line on its website is "A Rural Oasis in the Heart of the Metro-plex". Our Gardens Park has walking trails, a fair number of trees and a small lake. The photo above was taken during a GBBC about 10 years ago and it contains four bird species likely to be found this year.

The Dalworthington Gardens GBBC event will start at 10 am on Saturday, February 17 in the community room next to the fire bays. For approximately the first hour, we will meet inside to talk about bird identification, what the goal of the worldwide GBBC is and how to participate. We will then break into groups with a guide to do some bird counting in the park. Depending on the weather, we will regroup to sip some water or hot chocolate in the community room while we share what birds the different groups found. If you are in the area, I hope you can join us for this fun citizen scientist opportunity. Suggested items to bring; clipboard with paper and pencil, binoculars, mobile device loaded with the Merlin bird app, camera, walking shoes and inquisitive nature.

Your participation in the Great Backyard Bird Count is not limited to this event. The GBBC runs for four days and you can count birds on your own as well as in groups and report your sightings to provide data for scientists to use in their research. You can also submit photos you take to their annual photo contest. Check out some winners from last year's photo contest.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Catching Up and Starting Out

I came here to put up my first blog post for 2018 and I was surprised to see that between family being in town for the holidays, finishing up the last few days of my pop-up shop, hosting Christmas dinner and then freeze proofing everything just before New Year's Day, I missed posting so let me catch up a bit and bring this blog into the New Year.

First, a belated Merry Christmas. I hope you got to spend some time with family and friends.

Much of the country was bitter cold for New Year's Eve. I hope you and yours managed to
stay warm and safely ring in the New Year. The New Year's graphic color was inspired by 2018's Pantone Color of the Year, Ultra Violet. (Science types, please note the name of the purple is two words and not the word for the part of the electromagnetic spectrum just past what humans' eyes can see as I mistakenly thought when I skimmed an article about this year's color of the year.) Perhaps I need to add more purple to my shops. I have some nice amethyst in various bead sizes, shapes and slices.

While I was writing this, I heard that lovely cha-ching sound, the notification from my Etsy app that I just had a sale. Woo hoo! That is my first one of 2018 so I am starting out the New Year in a good way. I hope your New Year has started out on a positive note for you and may positivity flow through your entire year.