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.

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.

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