Friday, July 27, 2018

Muscat, Muscadine, Mustang

Until recently I thought muscat, muscadine and mustang all referred to the same type of wild grape. It turns out I was sorely mistaken. I helped a fellow resident pick wild grapes from my vines so she could make some ice cream from them for our city's ice cream social earlier this month. While she was was researching recipes she asked me if muscadine and mustang grapes were the same thing. At the time I thought so but based on the resources she found, I began to question if that was correct. While not part of our discussion, I thought I remembered muscat being used as a short version of muscadine and I decided I should look into that too.

Mustang versus Muscadine: Both grapes are native to the Southern United States with quite a bit of overlap in their native ranges. Mustang grapes are purple as well as some varieties of muscadine. Both grapes mature into large vines that climb trees or any other object near them and are drought tolerant and have low chilling requirements. There are noticeable differences between them however. Mustang grapes mature earlier. They are much more acidic. When I eat fresh mustang grapes off the vine, I squirt the gelatinous inner flesh into my mouth and discard the skins because of the reaction I had from eating the whole grape. The skins have a complex flavor when cooked however and contain a lot of pectin. The ice cream my friend made from the cooked skins was yummy. And beware, neither type is seedless. Compared to mustang grapes, muscadine grapes are sweet. They are used to make wine, jams and jellies. Mustang grapes can also be used in the same way, however the flavor profiles are very different. You can also tell the two grapes apart from their leaves. Mustang leaves are fuzzy on both sides and the bottom of their leaves are whitish. Muscadine leaves have little or no fuzziness. The first photo in this post is of a young section of mustang vine when the leaves are fuzziest and often three lobed. As they mature the leaves lose some fuzziness and their lobes as seen in the second photo along with some ripe fruit.

As for muscat grapes. They are an old world family of grapes not to be confused with our native North American muscadine and mustang grapes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pile of Feathers

As I drove past our park today I noticed a large, scattered pile of bird feathers. I recognized I was looking at the aftermath of a recent raptor kill. Several years ago upon turning down our driveway we saw a Cooper's hawk with a fresh kill and watched while it plucked and then flew away with the bird it had dispatched.

I drove home and got my camera so I could document my discovery. There are several birds that came to mind when I saw the gray feathers tipped in white. My first thought was mockingbird. However, upon looking up mockingbird feathers, the white and black boundary on the feathers seems too straight for a mockingbird. My next thought was dove. We have three types of dove commonly in our area, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove and white-winged dove. After looking up feather images of
all three, I feel confident that the bird feathers are from a white-winged dove.

As for the raptor, there are four hawks that I have seen in Dalworthington Gardens who prey on birds. The largest, the red-tailed hawk, is known for catching rodents and other small mammals more than birds so I think this one is not the most likely hunter. The other three hawks are red-shouldered hawk, sharp-shinned hawk and Cooper's hawk. I have seen a dove explode out of a hedge row with a small hawk on its tail. They were moving so fast and I am not quick to ID the smaller hawks so I do not know which of the three that was but I am guessing one of them was responsible for the pile of feathers I spied today. The Audubon distribution maps put sharp-shinned hawks further north for breeding season and birds seem to be a smaller part of a red-shouldered hawk's diet than the other two, so I am going to guess the hunter was a Cooper's hawk like I saw in my driveway several years ago.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Design This - Exhibit Related Jewelry

For a few years now I have provided the Arlington Museum of Art with some small batch, true wholesale products when I can produce something in the way of jewelry, accessories, note cards or home decor that compliments one of their major exhibits. Their current exhibit, Cut! Costume and the Cinema showcases five centuries of period costumes designed for movies. While the timeline of the costumes is long, the costumes that inspired my designs based on materials I had on hand were the Victorian dresses.


I have a small charm of a lady in a dress resembling those of the Victorian era. I made some earrings and necklaces out of these. I also had some larger fan charms that I used to craft an artistic interpretation of the dresses of this period and turned them into earrings and necklaces too. Just before the show opened, I was at a trade show and found just a few larger pirate themed charms that went wonderfully with the Pirates of the Caribbean costume that Johnny Depp wore. I made necklaces out of these.

The exhibit at the Arlington Museum of Art runs through August 12, 2018. If you are a movie buff, a seamstress or costume designer, you will especially enjoy this exhibit. Tip: Don't wait until the last weekend to view this exhibit. That weekend usually is pretty crowded.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Grape Harvest Interrupted When a Nest is Found

A couple of nights ago I was helping a friend pick some of my muscadine grapes when all of a sudden I realized that what I thought was a tangle of vines and branches was actually a bird's nest and it was occupied by an intact egg. I had been clipping grape clusters below the tangle but stopped as soon as I discovered the nest. I did not want to through off the balance of the nest by lightening the vines by removing grapes. They were also offering important cloaking for the nest. I did get a couple of pictures before moving my ladder to another section of the wild grape vines to continue harvesting.

Even if I was not all that interested in protecting what I hope is a viable egg in the bird nest, I would have had to leave it be until the egg hatched and baby bird fledged or until enough time had passed to be able to
determine that the nest was abandoned and the egg was not viable. With the exception of a few officially designated pest bird species, all bird nests and eggs are protected by federal law in the form of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In addition some states, counties and communities have additional protections on the books.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has some good information about what to do if you encounter what you think might be abandoned wildlife. Numbers seven and ten in this link have some additional good suggestions regarding discovered nests.

I am not well versed in egg identification.
If by chance these pictures give you a hint as to what type of bird laid this egg, please let me know in comments. Clicking on the images will bring up larger versions.

Update 7/11/18: It's a cardinal nest! I snapped this picture last night. I went to get the mail last night, looked up and saw the female's tail feathers showing so I got my camera and took some photos from the driveway. I did not want to drag out a ladder and scare mama off. I did not notice I had more than tail feathers in the shot until looking at them on my monitor.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

I have a piece of property whose back line fence seems to have evolved over the years. It appeared to have a wire farm fence with t-posts at one time and when the house was built a chain link fence was put in just inside the farm fence that was never taken out. Over time three large trees and some much smaller ones made it difficult to remove the fencing so that I could extend my TREX fence around the rest of my backyard. I have been wanting to do this for about a year and it is finally about to happen due to a house being built behind mine. The neighbor to be is nice, we both agreed that replacing the two old fences with TREX made sense.

Since the soon to be neighbors are hiring and overseeing many contractors they offered to coordinate the removal of the trees. Two out of the three big trees proved not to be a problem for the tree company that was hired. The third one was a large double trunked tree that proved to be most difficult, it had a couple of nasty surprises waiting for the stump grinder. It appeared that a t-post from the farm fence was growing through one of the trunks of the tree. The tree company ground down the stump from the neighbor's side as close as they could get to the stump. In addition a cemented in post for the chain link fence was partially surrounded by the tree. The tree company workers had to stop so as not to damage their equipment.

Since the tree company only cut out the section of chain link fencing they needed to get out of the way for access, my husband and I disassembled the rest, except for the fence posts, now that the trees were out of the way. At this time we did not attempt to do anything with the remaining portion of the tree and t-post since nothing seemed to want to budge.

The company who will be installing the new TREX fence gave it a try next. They had a bobcat that assisted in easily plucking the cemented in fence posts, that had not been cut off, out of the ground. Unfortunately the one at the remains of the double trunked tree did not have any fence post sticking up. The bobcat was no match for the stump and inclusions, so the fence company left after smoothing the grade where the fence would go, except for where the double trunked tree remains were.

The new neighbors did not have any luck finding a contractor who would remove the stump with the concrete and t-post seemingly embedded in it so almost a week ago, my husband and I decided to see what we could do ourselves. We loaded up our small chain saw, shovels, axes, pry bars and an assortment of other tools. Since we have not had any rain for so long, the first order of business was to wet down the ground to help with digging. I did some hand work removing soil around the t-post and eventually was able to ascertain that it was actually in a pocket of dirt with tree on all sides. My husband worked on removing portions of the stump with a small electric chainsaw. I used some hand tools and a shovel as appropriate to clear away newly exposed dirt. While doing this is actually when we discovered that in addition to trying to remove the t-post, we also had the remains of the base of a fence post to remove too.

I won't go into much more blow by blow descriptions of each step in the removal process. Suffice it to say that it took most of the day but in the end we were victorious. Now the tree company will be able to come back out and properly finish grinding the remaining tree stump that we did not need to take out to get to the t-post and concrete post base. (The first photo was taken after we had removed a portion of the trunk and cleared some dirt. The second photo was taken just after we got t-post out. The concrete came out before that.) We were wiped by the end of the day but pleased that our hard work had paid off. After the concrete was out, we took a break while soaking the ground again and visited our local snow cone stand.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Name That Job!

What do all of these critters have in common with regards to an important function they perform? If you know or have an educated guess, please answer in comments below. (Hint: The senate passed resolution 580 in 2006 creating the first National ______________ Week in June of 2007.)








Friday, June 15, 2018

Milkweed on the Move

The milkweed pods on the green milkweed, Asclepias virids, in my pasture are splitting open to allow the seeds inside a chance to catch a puff of wind and ride to a new location in hopes of establishing a new plant. This past weekend I watched as the silky puffball of threads attached to each seed were pushed this way and that by the wind. Occasionally one would let loose and a seed would begin its journey from the mother plant to a bit of earth to nestle into.

Another common name for this green milkweed is green antelopehorn. The problem with common names becomes clear when you try to figure out what type of milkweed a given plant is. There are several with common names of green milkweed or antelope horns. What they all have in common is that Monarch butterflies search them out as the host plant for their progeny. When Monarch larvae eat milkweed they
sequester toxic cardenolides in their bodies. This makes monarch larvae and the adult butterflies they turn into taste bitter and develop a level of toxicity for potential predators. Monarchs' bright orange coloration is thought to warn off predators from eating them and taking on the ill effects of this toxicity. It is thought that other species of butterflies mimic this coloration to trick predators into thinking they are toxic too.

However, there is a delicate balance that must be met in order to survive growing up on such a toxic diet. The toxins are produced by the plant as a defense and the Monarch larvae must avoid the sticky latex sap containing the toxins that is exuded when a milkweed plant is chomped on as well as not ingesting too much cardenolide. I came across a very interesting article describing this delicate balance that you might want to read too.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Two Photographic Art Prints Selected for Exhibit

Last year I told you about a new botanical art group formed in North Texas that I joined. They have formalized the name of the group to the Botanical Art Collective of North Central Texas and are about to open their first juried 2D art exhibit at BRIT. Members could submit up to four pieces for consideration to be included in the exhibit. Two of mine were accepted, a Mother's Day rose and a close up of a branch covered in a variety of lichens.

The opening reception will be held this coming Thursday, June 14, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Unfortunately, I have a City budget meeting that begins at 6 pm that night so I will have to view the exhibit at another time and miss getting to talk with everyone at the reception. If you are also unable to attend the reception, the exhibit will hang from June 14 - August 9 and BRIT is open to the public Tuesday - Friday 10 am - 4 pm and the first Saturday of
the month from 9 am - noon.

Having seen some of the other member's works, I am expecting this to be a fabulous exhibit. The name of the exhibit is Botanical Art - Flowers, Fruit and Fungi. This exhibit is a celebration of the world of botany and will feature depictions of flowers, fruits, seeds, vegetables, fungi, and grasses executed in a variety of mediums by local artists. Come view the exhibit and explore the joyful intersection of two distinct yet closely related disciplines - botanical art and science.

Update: My bluebonnet print was selected to hang out with the other bluebonnets in the welcome center for the duration of the show.

I have now had the opportunity to view the exhibit. As I expected, the artwork is fabulous and most of them are for sale if you find one that wants to go home with you. A portion of the proceeds helps support BRIT. The artwork must remain at BRIT until the end of the show.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Design This - 26 Music Note Keychains

Sometimes everything falls in place for an unusual request to be able to be fulfilled. Earlier this year, I just happened to look at my emails much earlier than normal on a Friday morning and found a rush request. Someone had seen my music note keychains in my EclecticSkeptic Etsy shop and wanted to know if I by chance had 26 of them ready to ship so she could receive them the next day. I did have two keychains shown in the listing to choose from, however those were the only completed ones I had. I do generally have extra stock to make up more of many of my items so I checked to see what I had
on hand. Luckily, I had just enough of the easy open flexible keychains but I did not have quite enough of the eighth note charms. I did however have some sixteenth note charms that my potential customer was happy to have me use. I looked at my schedule and figured that if I could start on the keychains after my morning meeting, I would be able to complete them in order to get them packed up and to the post office in time to get next day delivery to my customer's location. Luckily my customer was watching for my response and after a couple of convos to tie down details I was able to put together a custom listing for her and send her the link. I told her if it was paid by the time I made it home from my meeting I was about to head out to, that I would be able to fulfill her request in time. (Click to enlarge the photo.)

Just before my meeting ended, my Etsy app made that lovely cha-ching sound to let me know my listing had been purchased. I got home and got to work in an assembly line fashion to create 26 new keychains to fulfill the order. As I got started, I remembered the 16th note charms were actually connectors so I had to find gemstones with a larger and smaller size to make those work. It was a bit
of a free upgrade but since I did not have 26 eighth note charms, I was happy to do this. Even with a couple of small things I had to attend to during the day, I was able to complete, pack and ship this order in time, not with lots of time to spare but I got it done. Now, I held my breath in hopes that USPS would fulfill its next day shipping. Happily the package was delivered prior to noon on Saturday.

If you ever need multiples of any of the items I have created, please contact me to see if I can help out. It would be a good idea to give me more lead time than I had on this request however. There really seemed to be an aligning of the stars so that I could turn around this order in such a short time frame.

As I looked for replacement eighth note charms, I found a supplier who carried golden ones in addition to the silver tone ones I originally stocked so now I can offer my music note keychains in two colors, silver or gold. I made my first golden music note keychains using picture jasper and a tan and black dalmatian jasper.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Artist Spotlight - Frontier Gallery 2

I first shared a piece of rustic home decor from this artisan after buying one of her wonderful gourd art pieces several years ago. At the time I mentioned that it had been difficult to decide between Dee's gourd art, pine needle baskets or pine cone duck, but I finally chose a gourd creation. When I was at Art on the Greene a couple of year's ago, this time one of her pine needle baskets spoke to me loudest and I brought it home to add to my collection of fabulously crafted objects.

If you are looking for your own Frontier Gallery creation, you may need to do some detective work
these days. Dee's rustic home decor seems to have taken a back seat to her polymer clay Texas wildflower and naughty Christmas ornaments in her Etsy store. However if you are lucky enough to trip across her at a local arts festival, I know you will enjoy seeing all of the different materials she combines into the variety of shapes and sizes of objects she creates. You could also try contacting her through her Etsy store to see what she has ready made in this category of decor or see if you can commission a custom piece.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Herb Festival at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens Sat. May 19


I will have most of my photographic art and a limited selection of my jewelry with me this Saturday. I won't have as many of my ready to hang pieces with me this year because I have several of them hanging in the Inspired by Nature art exhibit in Mansfield. You can see those weekdays through May 22 from 8:30-4:30pm at the MISD Center for the Performing Arts. I will have a good selection of my matted prints, note cards, bookmarks and more at the Herb Festival at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Inspired By Nature Art Exhibit to Feature My Photographic Art


All six featured artists plan to attend the reception on Saturday, May 12 for the Inspired by Nature Residency at the Center art exhibit from 6-8 pm. You will be treated to high fire ceramics, photographs, basket and gourd weavings, paintings, mixed media pieces featuring polymer clay and photographic art images. Browse over 70 pieces of art, all inspired by the natural world around us. If one speaks to you, you will be able to purchase it, however it must remain in the exhibit through May 22.

In addition to the reception from 6-8 pm this Saturday, the exhibit is open to the public at the Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts from May 7-22, Monday through Friday from 8 am - 4:30 pm.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

EclecticDesignChoices at East Main Street Arts Festival May 5


Saturday, May 5 from noon until 8 pm you will find me and some of my creations at the East Main Street Arts Festival in Downtown Arlington.

My 817ArtsAlliance self has partnered with CenterSpace to bring a make and take craft opportunity to the festival. CenterSpace is a cool co-working space next to Maverick's Bar and Grill towards the east end of East Main Street. Pop in and try your hand at some paper tulips or yarn flowers. While you are inside, browse the creations by the artists whose work resides at CenterSpace on a regular basis.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Mother's Day Online Ordering Countdown

With Mother's Day just under two weeks away, it is time to get your online gift orders placed so that they will arrive in time to surprise that special mom on her day. This year Mother's Day is Sunday, May 13. Whether you know a brand new mom, empty nest mom or grandmother, it is nice to make them smile on this recognized day of celebration of mothers.

All items listed in my EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic Etsy shops are ready to ship. If you see something you like, don't wait. I will be taking most of those items to a festival this Saturday, May 5. Pick out your favorite before someone in person does and give USPS the best chance of getting your order to you in a timely fashion.

You will find a wide range of potential gifts, from jewelry and accessories to photographic art in many forms.

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.