Thursday, December 21, 2017

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

To be clear, I am not happy that today has the least amount of sunlight of any day of the year. What I am celebrating is that today marks the worst of the dwindling sunlight. After today, the daylight hours will lengthen once more. So let me wish you a Happy Winter Solstice and share an uplifting picture of sunbeams breaking through to mark the occasion.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

State of Texas Nature Designations

I have heard it said that Texas is a state of mind. If your mind likes to linger on the nature around you, you might be interested in what critters and plants Texas has designated as the state bird, tree, etc.. I snapped the following images in my yard or DWG's Pappy Elkins Park and turned them into photographic art to celebrate the beauty of these state designated critters and plants.

State native shrub: Cenizo

State bird: Mockingbird

State plant: Prickly Pear

State insect: Monarch butterfly

State tree: Pecan

State flower: Bluebonnet

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Eclectic Design Choices to be at Event Dec. 9-23, 2017

Hand crafted creations representative of both my EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic Etsy shops are included in the Happy Holidays Pop-Up Market being held at The Sleepy Cottage in Downtown Arlington. I am one of thirteen artisans whose handmade wares are on display and waiting to brighten someone's day on your holiday gift list. The pop-up market opened last Saturday and many items of mine and the other artisans have found new homes already. Quite a few of the items on display are one of a kind, so come out and shop before that fabulous find is gone or before the market closes on December. 23.

I took the images in this post as the market was beginning to be stocked. My flying pig note cards share a display with note cards from the artist Kristy Jarvis. While my photographic art print is of a wine bottle, I love the juxtaposition with the sleep mask that reads, "Wake me for Champagne".

There is much more than cards, art and sleep masks to be found at The Happy Holidays Pop-Up Market. You will find pottery, soap, jewelry, crochet, tile and glass mosaics, candles, ornaments and more. Thanks in advance for those of you who stop by to browse.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Eclectic Design Choices Events Dec. 1-2, 2017

With some family support, I, or rather Eclectic Design Choices, will be able to be at two events at the same time on Friday, December 1.

The event beginning first on Friday is the annual Olde Town Christmas craft show at the Dottie Lynn Recreation Center. We set up in the morning and the show opens to the public at noon. I will have a good selection of my jewelry and photographic art prints, note cards and bookmarks, along with a small selection of my ready to hang artwork. Olde Town Christmas remains open to the public until 7 pm on Friday and resumes on Saturday at 9 am and runs through 3 pm.

The second event on Friday is a ribbon cutting, which begins at 4 pm, hence my need to be in two places at once. My supportive family member allowed me to twist his arm to hold down the fort at my Olde Town Christmas booth so that I can attend.

What does a ribbon cutting have to do with my creations? It is a ribbon cutting and grand opening for both CenterSpace and a business that offices in their expanded location, Cadmus Dental. You have read about my involvement with both of them. As 817ArtsAlliance, I have partnered with CenterSpace to give artisans who do not have a brick and mortar presence, a way to display some of their work where people can come and view it in person during work hours. They can even purchase it and take home a piece of art if one speaks to them. I wrote recently about the dental art challenge presented to me by Cadmus Dental. I definitely wanted to be there to show my support for these companies and their founders. After the ribbon cutting, there will be a grand opening party.
Three of the artisans on display in CenterSpace will be there with more of their work and to talk about their creative process. I will stay until I have to head back and help close down my booth at Dottie Lynn.

I hope to get a chance to see you this weekend. If not, my Happy Holidays Pop-Up Market will open for a two week run on December 9 in Downtown Arlington so you will have another chance to see my creations and those of other local artisans. More on that next week.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Seasonal Awareness

I took both of these photos two days ago.

Which plant is confused about what season it is?

If I had not told you both pictures were shot on the same day, when would you have guessed each image was taken?

Add you answers in the comments.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dental Art

Those of you who follow my blog realize that I am inspired by nature and that is the theme of most of my photographic art. I am always up for a challenge however, so when the founder of Cadmus Dental asked if I could create some dental art, I told him I would think on it. Unfortunately, try as I might, I was stumped. I finally asked to see some examples of pieces of dental art that he liked. It gave me a better understanding, however now I had the problem of trying to figure out how to come up with something that put my own spin on new or different imagery.

After some thought, I decided to do a proof of concept piece using the one dental tool I could easily put my hands on and a couple of my jewelry tools as stand ins for dental tools. I arranged a still life using the tools and took some digital photos of them. I then worked with the photos to see what type of photographic art they wanted to be. The first image in this post is one of the images I came up with from that session. I met with Scott to find out his likes and dislikes with regards to the concept images. He liked several of the treatments so we discussed what he had on hand that might serve as input for some proper dental art. I also found out about an event that Cadmus Dental was going to be holding soon that might be a good place to show others in the business any new pieces I could come up with by then.

I set another appointment a couple of days later when the light would be good to do a photo shoot of some demonstration pieces and samples. We also went to one of his facilities to shoot some images of a piece of equipment in use. Those last photos were interesting but not conducive to quickly working up some new artwork. In fact I now have a better idea of how to try to get better input images and will try taking more photos later. Several of the demo and sample piece images turned out to be good starting points for dental photographic art. I sent some jpegs over for Scott to review and provide feedback about them. I took that feedback and came up with five finished pieces that I framed for the Cadmus Dental event. The second photo in this post is those pieces displayed at the event. (Click to enlarge.)

Where do we go from here with the dental art? Scott said he received good feedback from attendees at his event. I need to get a page together with images and pricing. Scott wants to be able to point people from his company's website to the dental art that is available for sale. In the meantime, the five framed images I brought to the event are hanging outside and inside of Cadmus Dental's main office at CenterSpace in Downtown Arlington if you want to see them in person. These pieces will soon have tags with prices and be for sale on the 817ArtsAlliance Art for Sale - CenterSpace page. In addition to what I am creating, I have contacted two other artists and thrown ideas to them that should be in their wheelhouse of creative talent. I am looking forward to what they are able to come up with. Hopefully I will be able to expand the art offerings through their creations too.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Texas Arbor Day, November 3, 2017

Arbor Day in November? The official Texas Arbor Day is celebrated on the first Friday of November, compared to National Arbor Day, which is celebrated on the last Friday of April. You will find plenty of Arbor Day celebrations in Texas in April too, so why did Texas feel the need to establish an official Texas celebration of trees in November instead?

The answer lies in Texas' weather outlook. Hot and dry weather is just around the corner in Texas by the time late April comes around. Newly planted trees benefit from weather conditions that allow their roots to get established before hot and dry weather hits. Even deciduous trees' roots grow when the trees are bare, as long as the soil temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This describes the soil temperatures across most of Texas for most of the winter. Therefore trees planted in November will have a decided head start getting established over trees not planted until late April or early May. Trees that are better established will be less stressed by their first Texas summer in their new location, meaning a healthier and better growing tree.

The official Texas Arbor Day celebration moves around. This year Grand Prairie will host the official state event. The event will kick off at 10am, Friday, November 3 in Grand Central Park with a ceremony featuring keynote speaker Dave Lambe, president of the National Arbor Day Foundation, along with other local representatives. After the ceremony, guests can browse about 25 informational and kid-friendly booths that cover outdoor-related topics like tree planting and maintenance. Attendees can take home one of 1,300 Texas red oak seedlings being giving away with planting instructions.

If you are near Austin, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will host their own Arbor Day celebration from 9am - 5pm on Saturday, November 4. Their event will include tree climbing (adults too!) walks and talks, a historical tree sale, and a special presentation on Comanche marker trees of Texas.

I hope you find a Texas Arbor Day celebration near you. If not, get out and see if you can find some fall color and appreciate the trees around you on a walk around your local park or neighborhood.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monarch Migration in North Texas 2017

The fall monarch butterfly migration is still going on in my part of North Texas for this year. I noted my first Monarch moving south in a facebook post on August 28 of this year. Several made their way through my yard today, stopping to refuel on my blue mistflower and lantana plantings. (Yes, I took these pics today.) The most I saw at one time today was four. I have been watching on and off since just before lunch.

Monarch butterflies are such fascinating and beautiful creatures. You can follow their progress and/or provide data to track their progress with Journey North.
This is another great citizen scientist opportunity. From the looks of the data, there are quite a few monarchs that are behind schedule in other parts of the country.

You can feed migrating monarchs by planting nectar plants like those seen here. Find out specific suggestions for your part of the country on the Xerces Society website.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Photographic Art from My Visit to Eden's Organic Garden Center and CSA Farm

About three weeks ago I shared my trip to Eden's Organic Garden Center and CSA Farm. I mentioned in that blog post that I had turned a couple of the images I had taken there into new photographic art prints. In this post I will give a bit of a back story on how those images came about and show my photographic art images created from them.

While I was waiting for the tour of the farm to begin, I shopped the organic produce offered for sale from local farms. I selected a couple of different types of squash and placed them on the counter. The purveyor was not there to check me out at that moment. I looked at the squash laying on the counter and thought it had the makings of a still life image. I took the liberty to add some greens and beans to the composition and scoot some of the other items on the counter out of the frame. I took a few shots and returned the items I had moved to their original locations as best I could. The size of the squash dictated a landscape orientation for the image and one whose aspect ratio worked well for a 5x7 print, which is what I developed from one of the images I shot.

At one point in the farm tour, I glimpsed a commotion out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head to see something flying away from a large spider web. I asked if anyone else had seen what had happened and we went to look more closely at the web. No one else had gotten a better look. The spider was a large orb spider, however its web was missing its signature Z pattern. We surmised that a large grasshopper or cicada had likely been what we had seen escaping from the web and it tore up the Z section as it got away. I managed to get a few shots of the orb spider in its disheveled web before the tour resumed. I titled the resulting 8x10 photographic art print "Just Missed".

You can find more information about Eden's Organic Garden Center and CSA Farm on their facebook page. They host small neighborhood farmers' markets on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturdays of a month from 9am to noon (April - Dec.). Look for their sign out front and drive all the way back down the driveway to the big shade tree by the barn.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

New North Texas Botanical Artist Group

I attended the organizational meeting of the Botanical Artists of North Central Texas. It was held at Botanical Research Institute of Texas and organized by Dennis Benjamin, who works at BRIT. There were just over a dozen artists there. Most of the artists' main artistic expression was through painting or drawing, however there was at least one artist who also sculpts and another branching out into photography, in addition to my photographic art.

Dennis shared his reasons for establishing the group. He wants a way for botanical artists in the region to share their joint interests. The group is designed to be informal, inclusive and welcoming of all mediums and styles, but with a botanical focus. The initial plan is to become an Artists’ Circle of the American Society of Botanical Artists, with the long term goal of creating a certificate program in botanical art, possibly in concert with a regional academic art program, such as TCU, SMU or UTA.

The group welcomes additional members. You can find out more information on its Facebook page. Several activities are being planned for the upcoming year.

The poke salad image was taken by me in my backyard and digitally altered. The lilac fibre cap mushrooms (Inocybe lilacina) are a watercolor by Dennis Benjamin.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Eden's Organic Garden Center and CSA Farm in Balch Springs

I had the pleasure of taking a tour of Eden's CSA farm earlier this year. I got there early and prior to the tour I observed as some other visitors were given a cup of scratch and headed off to find and feed the free range chickens. I stopped in at the Garden Center to check out their produce and what a lovely surprise to be serenaded by a harpist when I walked in. (A member of the CSA donates his talent on market days.) I picked out the largest butternut squash I have ever seen and a pattypan squash too.
They looked like the start of a still life when I placed them on the counter so I added some beans and greens to the grouping and took some photos that I hoped I could use for my photographic art. (I have since turned one of them and an image I took of an orb spider in its web into new photo art offerings. I will share them in an future post.) The squash was so large we enjoyed it sauteed, baked and made a big batch of squash soup. It had a wonderful flavor and texture.

The stated mission of Eden's Organic Garden Center and CSA Farm is, "To bring healthy, clean food to the
people of this community in a way that reunites them with the source of that food. To teach people how to grow, harvest, store and prepare great food." If you are interested in learning more about Eden's, in buying some locally grown organic produce, eggs and meat or in becoming a member of Eden's CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, I encourage you to visit when they host a small neighborhood farmers' market each 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturday from 9am to noon (April - Dec.). Look for their sign out front and drive all the way back down the driveway to the big shade tree by the barn.

Friday, September 15, 2017

EDC to be at New Urban Traders Market Location 9/16/17

I first heard about Urban Traders Market from a fellow artist shortly after they organized last year. She had a favorable experience with them so I was interested but was too scheduled at the time to check them out. I finally had a chance to visit one of their markets at their summer 2017 location and was pleased to see that their stated mission was evident from the look of the market and from visiting with vendors.

About that time they announced the new location they would be moving to after taking August off and I decided to submit my application to become an approved Urban Traders Market vendor. Urban Traders juries their vendors to ensure variety and quality. They already had as many jewelry artisans as they felt they could handle so they offered me space on the approved list for a few of my accessories, my night lights, and the full range of my photographic art creations sans jewelry items. I am excited to
be part of their inaugural market at O B Mac this Saturday, September 16.

I have been following Urban Traders Market's Facebook event postings and it looks like there will be a fabulous variety of vendors and a popular food truck too. I hope you get a chance to check out their new location on Saturday. I think this group is very serious about creating a space where artisans can thrive, in addition to a fun space for the public to visit and develop a sense of community. Stop in and say hi when you come by.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

2017 Fall Gallery Night Show and Sale

There are many great locations, where you can view local art, that are participating in the 2017 FWADA Fall Galler Night this Saturday, September 9. Check out the guide to map out your day (most locations open by noon and continue into the night). I recommend you include The Fort Worth Community Arts Center on your list. Not only because I will be there with my photographic art but also because I find they always have a great assortment of art to look at. They also usually have adult beverages, beginning in the evening, to sip while you stroll past the art.

My work will be in the back gallery along with creations from members of the Texas Pottery and Sculpture Guild. The show and sale at the Community Arts Center will be open from 10am - 9pm.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

2017 Grand Prairie Arts Council Juried Show and Sale

The reception and awards presentation for the Grand Prairie Arts Council Juried Show will be from 2-4 pm on Sunday, September 17, 2017. Click on the images at the bottom of the page linked here to see some pictures of last year's reception and presentation. I was impressed with the venue and the spread at the reception last year. I thought it was a very nice thing to do for the artists.

I will be there again this year. I always enjoy seeing my work hanging among that of other artists. It is fun to hunt around the room to find where my art wound up. If you come to the reception or later while the show is hung and open to the public, you can hunt for three of my photographic art pieces that were selected to hang in the 2017 show. Look for "Aliens Have Landed", "Aspen Trunks Against Fir & Spruce", and "Profile".

The show opens with the reception on September 17 and can be viewed for free in the lobby of the Uptown Theater in Grand Prairie until 10am on Saturday, October 21.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Low Tech Eclipse 2017 Images

I made it home with my eclipse safety glasses just before the moon's shadow started to eat away at the sun. I had in my mind to try a couple of different low tech ways of watching the solar eclipse as well. My colander's holes seemed to be too big. (However, from what I have learned since, don't give up on something until at least 60% coverage. The holes were big enough that you did not see any difference using them as a pinhole camera at the early stages of the eclipse but then neither did the tree leaves. The pattern from the colander might have been pretty cool at our 75% maximum coverage like the tree leaf solar crescents we got later during the eclipse.) The two sheets of cardboard, one with a pinhole were cumbersome. The best quick pinhole camera that I threw together was made from a shoe box.

I cut out a quadrilateral a couple of inches across, from one end of a shoe box with a hinged lid. I stretched and taped a piece of aluminum foil over the opening. I used a safety pin to poke a hole in the aluminum foil. I pointed the hole at the eclipse and the image was projected on the inside of the other end of the shoe box. I propped the shoe box up on the patio so that the long axis of the box was aligned with the incoming sun rays and took a picture of the projection with my camera. As you can see we were already pretty well into the eclipse by the time I took my first picture of the image produced by my pinhole camera. I had been watching the progress of the moon's shadow with my eclipse glasses while experimenting with the projection methods. The first bite out of the sun was at about 12 o'clock and the shadow progressed pretty much towards 6 o'clock until our maximum coverage.

I kept thinking about what a shame it was that my colander, with its pattern of holes, had not shown the early stages of the eclipse so I decided to add more holes to my shoe box camera and experimented with the size of the holes too. The middle hole of the middle row of the rest of my pinhole camera projection pictures was my original hole. The most crisp images were formed with the smallest holes that I made with a needle. The closer to maximum coverage, the crisper the images became. The bigger holes blurred out more as the moon's shadow retreated and eventually disappeared off the left edge of the sun as seen from my vantage point.

We were lucky not to have had a cloud in the sky. As the solar eclipse progressed you could sense the light being a bit dimmer outside. At maximum coverage from inside the house it was quite a bit darker than normal. It was so dark that it seemed like a big storm should be about to hit. It was a strange sensation for it to be that dark inside with a completely clear sky outside at one in the afternoon.

I hope you had the opportunity to safely view the eclipse. I am looking forward to the total eclipse in 2024. We will be in the path of totality for that one. We will also be in the path of an annular eclipse the previous October with 80% of the sun obscured.

Click on the image of the sun crescents to enlarge.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Design This - Volunteer of the Year Swag

Many years ago, the Tarrant County United Way had an annual volunteer dinner at which it recognized a range of volunteerism, including a recipient from each city in Tarrant County who nominated a Volunteer of the Year. Dalworthington Gardens participated in that program from the time I was aware of it in the 90's until it was discontinued. Last year the Dalworthington Gardens Historical Committee decided to bring back awarding an annual Volunteer of the Year recipient locally.

Nominations were called for and the Historical Committee voted to award the 2016 Volunteer of the Year to James Harris for his years of facilitating a movie in Gardens Park during the summer. Former Alderwoman, Velma Bogart introduced James at a City Council meeting and Mayor Kimberly Fitzpatrick read the proclamation.

Initially the committee was considering giving the Volunteer of the Year recipients a plaque in addition to the signed proclamation, however several members wanted to give a more useful item commemorating their volunteerism to the recipients. Several ideas were bounced around and finally the idea of a keychain or necklace was chosen. I came up with a simple design (a one inch bezel does not give a lot of room for something complex) and mocked up a sample for the committee to see. They liked it, I made one up for James and the chair of the committee took it to him recently. Even though the remainder of his award was delayed, it was well received and I have secured supplies for several years going forward so that future recipients can be recognized and receive all their swag at the same time.

Nominations for the 2017 Dalworthington Gardens Volunteer of the Year will be available at the Neighborhood Night Out on October 3 in Gardens Park.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Heavy Lifting - Raising a Large Landscape Rock

I wish I had thought of taking before and during pictures, you will just have to use your imagination as I describe the project my husband and I tackled this morning. The pictures in this post were taken later in the evening after it rained.

We have a large landscape rock in a garden bed at the intersection of our driveway and sidewalk. We had built a bit of a mound before we had the rock yard deliver and place the rock in the garden because of the slope down from the concrete. Sometime after the rock was placed, we used a similar technique as we did today to add a little more fill under it. Possibly in part from the fill settling or just because the garden wall we had built would cause the base of the bed to be higher, I figured out last week that the rock would need to be raised another 3 - 4 inches, in place preferably because I liked its location and orientation. Did I mention it was a big rock?

This was much more than a "Honey would you move the couch over a couple of inches?" request but my husband was game to help me. I had a plan and set out to get everything in place. My car would need to be the anchor for the come along and a nylon strap ratchet wrapped around the rock. I strategically placed the car in the yard and attached the come along to my trailer hitch bumper. I then wrapped the nylon strap around the rock twice and adjusted it so that both hooks would bear the same tension when attached to the other end of the come along. Now it was time to see if I had lined everything up correctly so that the base of the rock nearest the sidewalk would lift instead of the rock being dragged forward. Hopefully when lifted the rock would be stable enough for my husband to add some encouragement if the rock tried to rotate or tip to the side. I cranked on the come along, the attachments tightened and a very small indication of movement appeared. We paused. The rock was still stable. We got out the large pry bars to help ensure that the far side of the base would lift instead of having the whole rock slide forward. With my husband on the pry bar and myself on the come along we achieved the movement we wanted. After lifting the end of the rock up a bit higher than I would eventually need it, I placed and packed a mixture of paver sand and decomposed granite under the raised base of the rock. Thankfully I had managed to nail the direction of forces through the center of mass so that the rock was very stable and no encouragement was needed to keep it from tilting side to side under tension. After packing the material for the raised pad we released the tension on the come along and still had a stable rock. So far so good.

Now we had to move the car onto the driveway and repeat the process from the other side. Luckily the pack job was sufficient that when we winched up the opposite end of the base of the rock, the closest end of the base did not dig in and crush the newly created mound. I did not nail the center of mass and force application quite as perfectly as the first time but it was good enough that my husband was able to apply enough encouragement to keep it from rotating around a vertical axis like it started to. Once I packed more material under the raised end, the rock became stable under tension and still was when we released it.

Physics is fabulous. By using a few simple machines to help us multiply our force several times we were able to safely accomplish our goal of lifting our very large rock in place by 3 - 4 inches so we could install more fill to maintain it at that height. After completing this part of the task I spread chips to level out the surface of the garden bed around the rock.

What led me to wanting to raise my rock? Earlier this week I realized that my silver ironweed I had planted near the newly reset Pavestone wall would need to be raised because I needed to add a full paver height of mulch on that side of the garden and that would be too much for this drought tolerant plant. (It is the gray plant to the left in the second picture and the right in the third one in this post. Click on the images to enlarge.) After lifting my plant I realized I should raise the current edge of my planting bed next to the walkway on the black plastic (second picture) so that the chips were level from the Pavestone wall to the driveway. It became apparent that I would have to bury part of the rock in chips if I leveled out the rest of the bed in that location so the rock had to be raised.

I am so glad that we tackled this portion of the project this morning. With the rain we received today I would not have been able to drive my car through the yard and the bed would probably have been too wet as well. I still have four or five plants seen in the last photo that I will need to lift up before adding more chips. However, that will wait until late fall or winter because those plants have been in place longer than the silver ironweed had been. Transplanting will be easier on the plants in cooler weather.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Blue Jays Mob and Imitate Hawks

I'm guessing an experienced birder can probably tell the difference between a blue jay's imitation of a hawk call and an actual hawk call. I'm not sure I'm there yet but I have observed a blue jay imitating a hawk and have gotten pretty accurate, based on where a call is originating from, deciding if the hawk call I am hearing is real or imitation. I used to go in search of the hawk I was hearing and wonder why I could not find such a big bird in the direction of the call. One day I finally saw a blue jay making the call when I zeroed in on the sound. I knew blue jays were one of the birds that would pester, or mob hawks, but until then I did not realize they also impersonated them.

I have read a few thoughts as to why they do this, such as alerting other birds to an actual hawk danger or scaring off other birds. I have not been able to tell exactly what my blue jay impersonators are trying to accomplish. I have heard several of them go into extreme blue jay alarm call, but not a hawk imitation, when there has been a small hawk around. I found this example of a clever blue jay doing a hawk call to scare off other birds, thus reducing competition at the bird feeder.

While I have seen a half a dozen or more blue jays sounding the alarm and mobbing a hawk perched in a tree in my pasture, I have also noted a single blue jay making an alarm call and mobbing a hawk as seen in my photographic art images of this post (click to enlarge). The hawk seems mighty calm or even unimpressed at the antics of the blue jay. These images were taken in early May so it is possible that the red-shouldered hawk perched on the light pole was too close to the blue jay's nest for comfort. Or perhaps some blue jays just enjoy picking on the raptors and getting away with it.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pasture Perches Round 2

I previously wrote about leaving some perches in my pasture for bluebirds to hunt from. Today I learned that dragonflies also use perches, albeit shorter ones, to hunt from as well.

This morning I was out doing some work in my pasture when I spied, what I affectionately call, a pink lemonade dragonfly far from a water source. It was perching on about a foot high piece of stubble left after we recently mowed the pasture. I watched the dragonfly for a bit and it looked like it was contentedly hanging out so I took off for the house to grab my camera. Happily it was still there when I got back. Occasionally it would fly off but returned fairly quickly to the same perch. One time when the dragonfly flew off, it was replaced immediately by a grasshopper like there was a game of king of the hill in progress. The grasshopper decided not to hang out so quickly though that I only got one shot of it.

While I took my first series of images of the dragonfly, from essentially a rear, side view, I noticed it was chewing and grooming every now and then. I have observed the grooming behavior before but don't remember noticing chewing. After taking several images I went back to work. Once I finished what I was working on, I approached the perch from the other direction and decided to take more pictures from the side and a somewhat front view.

I was surprised by what happened next. After one trip flying off the perch and landing again I was able to capture the dragonfly chowing down on a small flying insect. That explained the chewing motions I noticed previously. I got lucky enough to capture it eating a different small flying insect too. The second insect was a tad larger and I suspect a bit tougher as it took the dragonfly longer to finish its second catch.

I take a lot of pictures of dragonflies and sometimes I wonder if I really need any more dragonfly images. However I really enjoy the challenge of trying to capture a great image and today I was reminded that you never know what surprises you will see when observing nature, so dragonflies are still on my list of subjects to be photographed.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New Visitor - Can You ID This Frog?

A couple of times this year I have scared up a frog that I did not recognize while mowing. It always disappeared too quickly for me to get a good look and be able to tell for sure. Finally about a week ago I got lucky and one stopped in an open area when I paused the riding mower to try to get a good look at it. It was quit a bit bigger than the cricket frogs and definitely a frog and not one of the Gulf Coast toads that hang around. I have never seen a bullfrog with stripes down the sides so I ruled out it possibly being a very small bullfrog.

Luckily my other half was home and I was able to phone inside and ask him to bring out my camera. I got lucky and the frog hung around during this process. It got skittish when my camera was handed to me, but I did manage to get one shot of it after it hopped through the chainlink fence.

This brings me to another curious thing about this new visitor. I had only seen this frog while mowing various areas of my property but never very close to water. I don't know if I have seen one well travelled frog or if I have several of them hanging around.

A couple of days ago I finally spotted one in my pond. I would love to know what species this frog is. I've not had a chance to look it up since I got pictures. Please leave a comment if you think you know who my new visitor is.

Edited 7/30/17: Thanks to those of you who contacted me off blog and let me know you thought this was a leopard frog. I looked it up and agree that it looks like the Southern leopard frog or possibly the Plains leopard frog. Mystery pretty much solved but if you have a thought as to which type of leopard frog it is, please let me know.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Decorated Agate Night Lights

While I have talked about my agate slice and nature charm night lights online in other places, I was surprised to see I have never devoted a blog post to them. They have been seen on my blog but only as part of my retired "Thanks for the Treasuries" feature, when they were included in an Etsy treasury. I first tested this product by providing nature charm night lights wholesale to the Arlington Museum of Art's gift shop in the summer of 2014 when they featured an Ansel Adams photography exhibit. The agate night lights were well received and because they sold well, I decided to add some to my EDCCollective Etsy shop after the Ansel Adams exhibit closed.

It is fun to pick an agate slice and figure out what type of scene can be created on it with the various nature charms I have acquired. Some slices have what looks like a horizon line and are fun to add trees and shrubs or critters running across the landscape. Others are less specific and work well with a variety of critters flying across their face. Once I've made the charms suitable for mounting, I fix them on their slice. The agate is then attached to a bracket that then is fixed to a switchable night light base.

These night lights add a decorative touch to any room by day and a welcome low light to navigate by at night when switched on. Keep one in a guest bath or bedroom to make it easy for guests to navigate when they come to visit. I use one in my house whose light can be seen from my front door so that I can leave a small, low energy using light on when I know I will be home after dark. It is nice to have that bit of light to welcome me home without making the electric meter spin as much as a larger light left on would.

Since I started making my nature charm night lights, I have found some more wonderful silhouettes to attach and have added these to both of my Etsy shops. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you have already seen them. If not, you can check out my night light listings at EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic. I will tell their stories in a later blog post.