Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jack Says.....

"Happy Halloween!"

Don't eat too much candy, I already need a sugar detox and the night's not over!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Handsome Mr. Blue Jay

You might be saying, "She really must like birds, huh?"
Well, truth is I really do like birds, that's why I talk about then all the time. I especially like the birds that don't like me, or shall I say, the birds that don't visit my feeder much.
This is my neighbor's seed feeder. Look, the blue jay likes to visit his feeder. Maybe it's because my seed feeder is on a hook and swings in the wind and his feeder is mounted on a secure, but slanted pole? Whatever the case, handsome Mr. Blue Jay NEVER visits my feeder.
That's OK, I still love him. Look, he's just as handsome from the front as his is from the back...

He will become one of my paintings one day, I'm sure.

Let's Learn About the Blue Jay:

Large bird, about 12"
Year round in Chicago area
Mid blue to dark blue with white face and black "necklace"
Very aggressive to other birds, bully actually
Eats insects, fruit, nuts, seeds, will visit your neighbor's feeder
Will alarm other birds of intruders, like hawks or owls

Interesting note, This is what God says about birds:

"I know every bird of the mountains, and every thing that moves in the field is Mine."
Ps 50:11

Wow. Every bird. I couldn't learn every bird of the world if I tried, but He made them all.
I write, paint and research about nature because it keeps me awestruck. I think I learn a little more everyday about our Creator and how much He loves us. I hope I never master the subject but am always a student and continue to be dazzled my His works.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stella's Back

Stella's back and today she is showing us a great example of how she uses her tail feathers to support herself when foraging for food. Their stiff tail feathers holds the woodpeckers in place, aiding in balance so they can have enough strength to poke though bark and such. Do you see her black tail feather sticking straight up, resting on the corner of the suet cage? What balance!
I was having such a fun time watching her, but then all of a sudden, she flew away along with many other birds because the dookie was going to hit the fan.....

Here comes trouble! Not only did this stray upset Stella, but she made my cat Clover tremble with anxiety! Clover is bird friendly, she loves to sit and watch them everyday and is not allowed to go outside to hurt them, however trouble kitty was looking for a meal. Clover does not like trouble kitty.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Henry Loves Stella

Thank you to Drowsymonkey who came up with the name of Henry's wife, the female downy woodpecker, who's name shall be Stella. Awesome name!

Hackberry Close Up

This is the bark of a mature hackberry tree, isn't it beautiful? Doesn't the close up remind you of canyons and valleys? The ridges are very deep and I just love the pattern it created. Caterpillars have been known to set up shop in these crevices for their transformations. How cool!
Once again, I think this picture would make a great abstract painting, go ahead abstract painters, you can use this picture for inspiration.

Here I tried to show the depth by placing my finger in the crevice of the bark. It's deep. Now, young hackberry trees have smooth grey-brown bark, so if you see these ridges, you know it's a mature tree.

Let's Learn About the Hackberry Tree:

Grows 30-40 feet tall.
Leaves are 2.5-4 inches long, with toothed edges and pointed top.
Dark red to purple fruits ripen in autumn.
Birds love the fruit.
Part of the Elm Family.
Where in the US? North Central to North Eastern states.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's a Boy!

Nobody even knew I was expecting. Let's name him Henry. Isn't he cute!
You can tell a male downy from a female because of the red on his head, which surprisingly, my true blue, trusty Kodak Easy Share got a good picture of at a 3x zoom, through a window! By the way, this picture does not need to be rotated, Henry is striking a horizontal pose for us, what talent!
Henry is very comfortable with humans around. Earlier, I went to fill the seed feeder, which is right next to the suet feeder and with every slow step forward, I was surprised how close he was letting me get. He allowed me to be within 10 feet of him! He then flew just above my head when I filled the feeder and returned as soon as I was done. He's so sweet!

I usually see the female at the suet feeder. That must be his wife. We should give her a name! The first person to give me a name for her, gets to name her, no matter what the name is!!! What will the female downy woodpecker's name be???

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Red Breasted Nuthatch Beauty

Yesterday a red breasted nut hatch landed on my suet feeder. I can't prove it because I didn't have my camera, so I painted his watercolor picture! At the time he landed, a male downy woodpecker was having breakfast, so the little nuthatch hopped around excitedly, but was too impatient to wait it's turn so he flew away. Little Stinker. That's OK, I'm sure he'll be back when I still don't have my camera.

Let's Learn About the Red Breasted Nuthatch:

In Chicago, only around in winter as opposed to white breasted nuthatch (year round).
Tiny bird 4.5 inches.
Black cap on head and black bandit eyes.
Chestnut-Russet colored tummy.
Hops down a tree head first, not up a tree.
Wedges seeds in crevices to hatch with bill.
Eats seeds, insects, & suet.

Thank you little red breasted nuthatch for your visit, please come again soon and stay much longer!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Power of Pine

This picture is from the beginning of a trail at Swallow Cliff South in Palos Heights, IL. At this very spot there was an overwhelming scent of pine and it stopped me in my tracks. When my senses regained normalcy, I took a deep, deep whiff, real slow like, to enjoy every second. I love the smell of pine.
Right now, before I started this post, I lit a candle from Yankee Candle Company called Balsam & Cedar, it is one of my favorite candle scents. It reminds me of the strong aroma I experienced at Swallow Cliff even though these trees have nothing to do with balsam or cedar, these trees are white pines.
Do you see the ground in this picture, how brown it is? It's not dead grass but a sea of dried up pine needles!

A whole great big sea! Here is a close up of the beautiful pine needles. White pine needles are in bundles of 5 and are 4-8 inches long in length. I wonder how big the pile would be if I swept them all together?

What other pine smells rock? Why Pine Sol of course! I have a big economy size bottle myself.
Why do we love the smell of pine so much? Is it because we associate it with being clean? Or maybe we dream of being in the forest, alone and at peace? Perhaps it is like the spikenard and gives a calming effect. I don't analyze, I just enjoy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ooooo Spikenard

This is spikenard. It was spotted by my trail guides when I went on the canyon hike at Camp Sagawau, to which they became very excited. When your trail guide gets real excited, you get real excited, even though you have no clue why you're getting excited. That's what happened here. I took this picture because I heard the words, "On the rare scale, this one is a 10." Oooooo a "10".

Look at how it is growing, in between some sediment of limestone! What a challenge! I love it's autumnal color.

Let's Learn About American Spikenard:

A perennial herb with large spicy smelling roots
Part of the Ginseng family
Prefers cool shady forests
Sensitive to frost
In Chicagoland area rare, but can grow anywhere from Canada to Georgia
Roots harvested in autumn for medicinal and commercial purposes:
Medical - used to treat asthma, rheumatism, eczema, also a cough syrup
Commercial - made into oils, incense, and perfume (I love perfume!)

Spikenard has been used to calm nerves and even treat hysteria!

Some of you may be saying, "Where have I heard of Spikenard before?" Hint: Think biblical times.
Mary Magdalen used spikenard perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus and she did it with her hair!

I'm so fortunate to have been with knowledgeable trail guides who knew how to spot this beautiful spikenard, because they studied their plants, we are able to enjoy it's story today. I think I'll stop at the health food/nutrition store and see if they have any of this oil or herbs!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Be Green Like Liverwort

Today is Blog Day for the Environment. The subject is supposed to be "green". I made a commitment to do this and sign up, because, he, he, he, every time I post it's in some way about the environment, so I couldn't screw it up!
Look my subject is literally green!

This is liverwort. I found it growing on a rock in the canyon at Camp Sagawau.

If you are like a scientist, here is your definition:
1 : any of a class (Hepaticae) of bryophytic plants characterized by a thalloid gametophyte or sometimes an upright leafy gametophyte that resembles a moss.

If you are a normal person like myself, here is your definition:

1: Beautiful moss looking plant that need much moisture to grow. Can grow on the ground, or on rocks, or on decaying trees. It is non-vascular, meaning it has no veins to carry water and food. It's enemy is the sun or heat, which will kill it quickly. We just love it because it's beautiful.

Here is an up close, little blurry pic of it's beautiful green "leaves". Can you see the lighter green spots? I believe these are pores? Maybe, maybe not. Somebody need to do an abstract painting of this liverwort close up! That would look great!

Moral of today's post: If we are not careful we will lose such awesome creations with our careless lifestyles. If we take the time now and learn how to be more "green", we can preserve plants like this for the next generation to blog about, or paint, or sing about. (Is there a liverwort song out there???)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Canyon Field Trip

Today I went to visit the ONLY canyon in Cook County, which is located in Lemont, IL at Camp Sagawau.

Camp Sagawau is not a camp, but a nature education center where they have guided hikes, classes, and skiing in the winter. Here, we begin our trip as we are greeted by Ralph, the welcoming mascot. Ralph was hand carved by a talented artist, who loves Camp Sagawau and gave him as a gift.

After being "approved" by Ralph, you may walk up to the beautiful Camp Sagawau house which was built in the 1850's by an Irish immigrant who worked on the Cal Sag River. He established a dairy farm here but couldn't grow crops because the ground was unable to be tilled. We will see why later.

What a lovely looking house. Here is where the nature classes are held. It remains the same color that it had from historical photos. Interestingly enough, the house had additions build in the 1940's which are not holding up as well as the original section of the house built in 1850! Enough of the house, let's go canyon hiking!

Bad picture, but good illustration of how narrow the stairs are. You really have to suck-it-in when you go down these! The stairs are a few feet East of the house. I though we were going to hike for some time before we reached the canyon, but no, the canyon is right by the house!

Here it is! We are now in the canyon. Beautiful limestone constructed sediment. This particular limestone is called dolomite limestone, a calcium magnesium carbonate rich mineral.

Do you see all of the holes in the limestone? Do you know what was growing in them? Coral. This use to be a coral reef. I am not kidding. Here's how: before the continents split and the plates shifted, this area use to be real close to the equator, where it's tropical like. That explains the fossils found here of species that only survive in tropical climates. This use to be part of a coral reef, there are many around, but they are buried underground. This canyon was carved by glacial ice which pushed through and retreated 4 times. That will conclude our history lesson for today, you can wake up now. :)

Here is the left side of the canyon. Notice the floor, covered in water. It was REAL slippery, especially because the rocks are covered in moss and lichen. When it rains, this stream comes alive and becomes active. When it floods, it actually moves large boulders down stream! This stream leads to the Illinois River, which leads to the Mississippi, which leads to the Gulf! How cool.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Yellow Rumped Warbler in My Yard!

Well, I didn't have my camera and I can't prove it, but a yellow rumped warbler flew right by me in his winter costume in my own back yard! Whooo Hoooo! I was going to the garage this morning where I keep birdseed in a varmint proof container, as I was walking I heard a tiny, "chup, chup, chup", which stopped me dead in my tracks because I didn't recognize it and knew it wasn't a cardinal, downy woodpecker or sparrow. I spotted this tiny little bird getting closer and closer to me. First he was on the top branches, next lower ones, then he flew and landed on my gutter about 6 feet from me. The whole time he's looking at me as if he wanted me to give him something! Getting even closer, he flew to my fence, facing me, looking at me in the eyes, then he flew away! I completely saw his yellow rump and yellow on his flank (tip of wing by his "shoulder"). I really don't know if it was a he or she because in winter, the males molt (change feather color) to a dull color, similar to the female.

Ohhh, if I only had a bug on me or berries or something!

Let's learn about the Yellow Rumped Warbler:

Small bird about 5-6"
Both male & female have distinctive yellow on head, flank, and rump
Winters south, also in southern Illinois, mine was probably on his way
Eats insects & berries
Will migrate in large flocks
Calls with a "chip" or "chup" sound

BTW: Happy Birthday Spaz!!! Also a Happy Birthday to Tom aka Monarch!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Beauty of Silence

This picture reminds me of silence. I took it last Friday evening. Looking at such beauty makes me go silent every time. Perhaps it is because I can not match it or explain exactly how it became, stop it in it's tracks or extend it's time to remain. Silence is truly good for us and in a world as chaotic as the one we live in, it is fleeting fast. I believe God whispers to us like this sunset, soft, quietly, but if you don't pay attention, gone in a hurry.

Today I sat in my car during lunch to get away from noise. I closed my eyes and just became still. At first, I heard ringing in my head. It was probably my brain in shock from lack of phones, machines, voices and the such. Shortly after, my senses awoke and I saw the boughs of a pine bounce because of the gentle wind. When it blew harder, I heard it whip in between the cars and felt a tiny little shake. It was subtle and if I wasn't silent, I would have missed it. I love the little details. I need to take my vitamin of silence everyday.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Do We Walk Amongst the Dead?

YOU BET WE DO! And we didn't even realize it! This tiny cemetery is located within the Tinley Creek Trail system, about one half block east of Harlem on 135th St. It is were the trail crosses over 135th Street. I have never seen this before. It just goes to show, you can live here for years, but if you don't personally inspect every inch of land yourself, you can miss out on a "big one". Notice the green moss growing on the bottom of the stones. I just love it.

The sign tells of the Saurbier Family, Friedrich and Louisa (nee Burkhardt), from Langensalse Saxony, currently Germany, who chose this spot to settle on a farm. Louisa's parents (Burkhardt's) also settled here too. According to the sign, Friedrich and Louisa had a total of 12 children! I had to laugh when I read the names of their children because Child #8 was named Augusta and child #9 was August, were they male and female twins or did they run out of names?

The sign also tells us that 9 other family members possibly are buried at this sight. Possibly? Nine others?!? I only see 2 large stones and maybe something in the middle. Where are the rest? You bet we walk amongst the dead. Can you guess who the grave keeper may be? Why it's.........

This male whitetail deer! Don't worry Mr. Whitetail, I visit with respect. In awe and respect.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

My Weather Field Trip

OH BOY! Today, the National Weather Service Office in Romeoville, IL had an open house! I LOVE, love, love weather. I love rain storms, snow storms, wind storms, cloudy days, drizzly days, and an occasional nice day. Most of all, I love the radar. I don't know why. There's something about that lit up screen of oncoming storms that makes me skip a beat. Call me a nerd, go ahead I don't mind! So, when I heard that the National Weather Center of Chicago was having an open house, I was all over it!

This center services 10 million people, that's right I said million, and 23 counties of the Chicago Land area! It is located in Romeoville which is about 45 minutes southwest of downtown Chicago. Today, they had us in groups of about 20 and gave us an hour tour of the inside and outside.

Holy Shmoly! There it is. This meteorologist is reading radar from 4 screens at one time. Can you see Lake Michigan on 2 of the screens? This is the very point at which he determines whether or not to issue a warning that interrupts our TV program with that loud, "beeep, beeeep, beeeep..." He does so with the touch of an enter key on the computer, such power! I love the fact that they can dress casual here, with such stress, they need to be in comfort.

Beautiful RADAR. Radar on all three screens! Radar!
Strangely enough, I wasn't allowed to bring my purse in here for security purposes but I can take whatever pictures I want. Huh? I was sooo glad cameras were allowed. And where do they get all of this wonderful radar information?

Here it is, the mother radar. It looks like a big soccer ball in the sky. If you look close, you can see it is pieced in sections. I wouldn't want to be the guy that has to climb those stairs everyday! It is constantly pulling information down and the delay time to what actually is happening is only 5 minutes.

In front, they had some information signs on notable weather we have had in the past. This one describes the Chicago Heatwave of 1995. In July, the temperature reached 106 degrees at Midway Airport. They don't have to remind me, I was 8 months pregnant and in misery! I know I just gained sympathy from all the Mamas out there! We had scorching temperatures for many weeks. Sadly, many people lost their lives.

Here we will conclude with a show stopper. This really cool demo model is showing us how they control too much rain water from flooding the town. The right side is controlled by the computer and a trained professional, the left side it controlled by children in three stages: first rain water from the clouds, second water collecting by the dam, lastly, the levy before the town gets it. Needless to say, whenever the children took over the controls, the town was wiped out and a national disaster was declared! It was too cute.

When I was in high school I had two interests, science and art. As an adult I have two interests, art and science. For some reason, I always thought something like this was out of my reach. I was forever intimidated by science and math thinking I would never be smart enough to go further, so don't waist my energy. Boy what a mistake! We need to throw out all our negative thinking before it hold you down!

Hope you enjoyed the field trip!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Kurt's Alternative to Burning Fossil Fuels

Kurt started a movement! Everyone in Chicago is riding deer instead of cars! Go Green!
Kurt is my friend Sharon's brother-in-law. He is such a card, always playing little pranks on her, it's really funny! He also is a self-taught photoshop whiz and a great photographer. He created this picture but we can't give his secret away, so I won't tell how he did it!
Thank you Kurt, for allowing me to use your photo, you really need to start your own blog with all your wonderful photographs!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More Arrowhead Lake

This is on the opposite end of the lake along the paved trail. Lovely birch trees with their bright bark making nice contrast in the background! These trees edge the forest and in front grows a quiet meadow where I witnessed a hawk swoop over and disappear into darkness. So many painting ideas, so little time. What a peaceful autumn evening.

Here is another view looking towards the lake opposite of the meadow. The setting sun really brings out the purple colors.

Oh lookie here! This young deer was way too brave to be eating this close to me. I stood still and he just kept getting closer. Mom was about 50 feet away constantly staring at me! Do you see this little trail he is about to cross? That trail leads you through some trees to a residential block. Those lucky ducky people can just wake up in the morning and hop on this trail whenever they want!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Arrowhead Lake Tinley Trails

This is beautiful Arrowhead Lake, tucked away in the middle of the fast paced Palos area and part of the Tinley Creek Trail system. I love the fact that I can get a Walgreen, McDonald's, and Speedway Gas on every one block then turn to the next block and be in another world, in deep forest or lush meadows, even this lakeside retreat. Many people fish in this lake and it is surrounded by paved trails, perfect for bikers, joggers, and nature lovers.

On this particular day I heard many frogs trilling in the distance and a very persistent cardinal chirping fast and loud! What's the matter crazy cardinal?

This picture is really beautiful and would make for a great abstract painting. At the very edge of the lake grows water plants while multi-colored autumn leaves float by. I love the deep purple, orange, yellow and burgundy hues. So much fun!