Category Archives: nature

Two More Watercolor Sketches

Tuesday’s sketch was of a flower through a magnifying loupe. I don’t know what kind of flower it is; it’s the sort that would be in the background of an arrangement, just a nondescript spray of yellow, nothing much…until you look at it closely. Then it’s a world of tiny yellow petals, sticky sap, delicate stems.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

Wednesday’s sketch is of black-eyed Susans rescued from a local meadow–which is supposed to be open space managed by the town–right before it was mowed right to the ground. I’m so sad about this, and curious–it’s the wrong time of year for meadow mowing for management, so what are they doing? Town hall referred me to the head of the conservation commission, who hasn’t returned my message yet.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

These flowers look very different from the ones I bought Sunday, so either I mis-identified those, or they’re a cultivated version as opposed to the wild ones. At any rate, I like these, with their protruding center and drooping petals, better. I loved drawing them.

I didn’t manage a sketch on Thursday. We spent six hours at the beach, some of that time with friends (yay!), and after dinner I went to the market, because it’s much easier to do it with just my 12yo than with all three children. But I have a picture of a feisty blue crab to share with you, found by my 10yo at the salt pond.

blue crab at amyhoodarts.com

I hope your week is ending on a good note! Enjoy the weekend!

Odds + Ends

I wanted to share some neat things we’ve found in the yard lately. This is one wing from, I’m pretty sure, an io moth.

io moth wing

That’s all I found. I don’t know what happened to the rest of it. Eaten?

This luna moth was hanging out on the screen of our slider one night. I’d never gotten a good look at the underneath bits of a luna moth before. Its legs and body are so…leggy, and fat!

luna moth

I was hoping it would still be there in the morning so the kids could see more than just this underexposed picture, but it was gone.

This is a super cool plant, and it’s growing in our backyard! What a treat.

monotropa uniflora

It’s Monotropa uniflora, and it’s a plant, not a fungus. It has no chlorophyll, however, so lives in conditions in which it can absorb nutrients right from rotting things in the soil. We have rich soil! My 10yo was impressed that I knew what this was, but it’s the sort of thing, once you learn this, you don’t forget it.

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I’ve slowly worked up to being able to run between 3 and 5 miles, no more often than every other day. My mantra since I was cleared to begin running again after the whole shin splint thing has been, Not too far, not too fast, not too often. So I’m not running every day like I was last summer, but it’s okay. I don’t need it every day like I did last summer. I want to make sure it’s there when I do need it, though, which is why I’m not pushing it. Ok, this isn’t totally true. I’m not dogging it, either. I’m incapable of not trying to get faster. I’m not as fast as I was right before I got shin splints, but I’m faster than I was at the same time last summer. I like running. I like what my body can do. I like the feeling of working hard. And I like the head-clearing. I’m too mindful of the benefits of running, though, to push it to the point where I can’t do it again.

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I’m keeping up, so far, with my goal of one watercolor sketch per day this week. By yesterday I was looking forward to drawing time the way I usually look forward to coffee–in other words, a strong yearning with a bit of desperation thrown in. I’ll show you more sketches in a bit. We’re having a busy week–busy doing, seeing, going; meeting with friends; playing and making art. Not so much time for blogging.

Watercolor Sketches

I quietly–well, not so quietly anymore, since I’m saying so here–set myself the challenge of making a watercolor sketch every day this week. I’m not sure I’ll make it, as we have a couple of long out-of-the-house days this week, including today, Tuesday. But I’ve completed two in a row, and that’s Something. Here’s the one I did Sunday, of a flower bought from the on-your-honor stand down the road, which I went to in the pouring rain because I wanted some flowers to draw. While I drew and painted, Ghostbusters was on in the background–the rest of the family was watching it. It was a nice way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

5×7 watercolor sketch of a black-eyed Susan.

And this is the one I did Monday morning, while more or less leaving my kids to their own devices. My daughter drew and painted the flowers Monday morning as well, but she was almost done by the time I began. This flower wasn’t purchased; I found Turk’s-cap Lilies growing on the side of road next to the freshwater wetland, on the property that nobody wants to buy because it would be so hard to build on it. I love that wetland! And I was delighted to find these flowers. I snipped just two to take home with me.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

5×7 watercolor sketch of Turk’s-cap Lilies.

These were difficult to draw, and I don’t think my hesitancy did me any favors. I may try this one again.

I am really enjoying my watercolors.

Summering

We got back to the beach last week.

At the salt pond behind the barrier beach.

At the salt pond behind the barrier beach.

Last summer I didn’t take my kids to the beach at all. If you know me you know how strange this is; I was working on some other things last summer, mainly, getting myself back on track from PTSD. (This post has more information if you’re new here and curious.) It’s now been about 13 months since I began a low daily dose of Zoloft and, to be succinct, I am grateful a medicine choice exists that I can take and that works for me without side-effects. Zoloft doesn’t change who I am; it allows me to be who I am. Part of that is the mom who packs up the kids and a lunch and towels and sunscreen and toys and books and heads to the beach for six hours. Last summer, even though I knew I’d done that for years, I couldn’t quite fathom how. It all sounded exhausting and too much, just too much.

It’s nice to be back.

Spider crab

Spider crab

The pond was full of spider crabs last week. We never know what we might see there, but it’s always interesting. The pond is shallow (no more than about 4.5 feet throughout) and calm and warmer than the ocean, especially at this time of year. The kids can paddle, and we can get close up with the critters that live there. It’s a different experience from the beach-beach, and we like to mix it up and do some of both each summer.

Last weekend we headed to Beavertail State Park for some tidepooling.

Tidepooling

Tidepooling

We mostly saw very tiny invasive crabs–Asian Shore Crabs–and periwinkles. Beavertail is a beautiful place, with lots of rocks for scampering over.

Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, RI.

Beavertail State Park, Jamestown, RI.

Being near and in salt water is a very happy thing for me. Spending much of last summer sitting on my deck with a book while my kids happily played in the yard (they didn’t have a bad summer, trust me) was the right thing to do. But I’m glad we’re back to spending more time in the sea and sun.

Fairy House Festival

You may recall that 5yo G has an interest in fairies. Yesterday we visited the Botanical Gardens at Roger Williams Park in Providence, on the last day of their “fairy house garden days.” This was something that came across my computer screen via a local homeschool email group, so it’s not a field trip planned by G (which is really how PBL field trips should go). I’m the one who heard about it, but G was in charge of the experience. We left the boys at home and went for a mama-daughter date with fairy gardens.

I didn’t tell G that the website invited visitors to dress as fairies–who needs to tell a 5yo to wear wings? She independently chose her outfit. Obviously one visits a fairy house garden wearing wings, a flower barrette, a poufy skirt, and sparkly shoes. Once there, she asked if she could take photos of her favorite houses. YES. I handed over the camera, and she took more than 70 pictures.

documenting fairy houses (PBL) at amyhoodarts.com

We weren’t just viewing, you see. This is also research, because she plans to continue building her own fairy houses (more on that in a minute). All the photos of fairy houses in this post were taken by G. This was one of her favorites, a seaside getaway for fairies who need a vacation.

seaside fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

fairy house at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

She wanted to take a photo of this twisty ladder because it “looks like DNA, Mama!!”

fairy house ladder at amyhoodarts.com

Part of a fairy house at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

A scavenger hunt had been set up, and while usually I’m not a fan of those at museums because they tend to cause visitors to focus just on the items on the list, that wasn’t the outcome here. It was quite well done–some fairy house displays had explanatory signs, which were clever or interesting, along with an item to look for in the display. G was looking very closely at all the displays anyway, whether it was a scavenger hunt stop or not. So this particular activity added to the experience. She took this photo at the display of hanging fairy house spheres because she was asked to find a bench and she did! (I didn’t spot it at all.)

hanging fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

Part of a fairy house display at Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens, Providence, RI.

Part of the special activities for Sunday was making a fairy house. She picked up a bag of collected nature items and some dirt.

fairy house-making supplies at amyhoodarts.com

However, she was having a hard time figuring out how to construct walls, so I asked if she’d like to bring the items home and use them to build a house in the yard–where we have trees and rocks and shells to add to the materials. She said yes. On the way out, we were asked if we’d like to take another bag (they must have had extras), so she picked out more supplies. There are wonderful things in there, things we wouldn’t necessarily be able to easily collect on their own. The URI Master Gardeners were a big part of this event, and the Master Gardeners themselves all collected items (legally and carefully, I’ve no doubt, as the back of the scavenger hunt list had cautions on being careful collectors). I suspect that most of the effort to create this event was by volunteers.

A couple of days before Easter, G decided it was time to build a fairy house in the yard. She’d been waiting patiently all winter for spring. Easter was in two days; we were into the second part of April. Surely it was time, never mind that the temperature was in the 30s. Spring may be wavery about committing, but G was not.

5yo's fairy house at amyhoodarts.com

5yo’s G first fairy house in our backyard.

The table! Set with acorn cap bowls! With her 70-odd photos of inspiration, and her memories of all we looked at and talked about, G has lots of ideas for building more fairy houses. (She also has a new fairy wand. It goes fetchingly with the wings and sparkly shoes.)

Ready to Mail: Nature Exchange

We were pretty excited to sign up for the Mudpuddles to Meteors Nature Exchange. All three kids wanted to participate, so getting everything wrapped and ready to go had to wait until my schooled boy was home to join in. It’s all ready to get into the mail today, the deadline day.

When we signed up, I figured it would be fun to share part of our world. We really love where we live. (Ahem: I could do without winter and snow, but what can you do?) But of course, this project involved much more than just sharing. We spread out all the possibilities for packaging and agreed on at least twelve items to send. Then we needed to write up tags (writing!), which also involved precise identification so we could include the Latin names. We generally know what we’re looking at, but we wanted to be sure we got it right for our Alaskan recipients.

identifying our finds at amyhoodarts.com

I gathered our relevant field guides, in this caseĀ Peterson Field Guides: Atlantic Seashore, Peterson First Guides: Shells, and Save the Bay’s Uncommon Guide to Common Life of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Coastal Waters, and we set off identifying. We counted the teeth on the crab shell. We compared the descriptions of blue mussels and ridged mussels, bay scallops and sea scallops. We copied down correct spellings. We wrapped them carefully and taped on the tags:

boxed up nature exchange at amyhoodarts.com

Very few of our items were small enough to fit into an egg carton, as suggested, so we used a larger box, and later I cushioned everything with newspaper as well. It will soon be off to the post office, and we’ll wait for our package and a chance to learn about the local nature of someplace far away.

What a great idea by Dawn and Annie of Mudpuddles to Meteors–thanks so much for hosting!

Snapshots

gold

October has been a beauty, with mild days for most of the month and gorgeous colors. When I saw these leaves one morning this past week while waiting for the bus with my oldest, I was immediately reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Unfortunately, just a few days later, we were waiting in weather more like this:

frost

Also pretty in its own way, but much colder. I’ve been feeling the effects of the decreasing amount of daylight, I think, because most evenings find me dozing on the couch. Frustrating, because evenings are my work and blogging time, and I feel behind in just about all of my projects at the moment. Hence this catch-up post of snapshots of our days.

running shoes

My sanctuary + my lifeline.

On Mondays Amanda posts writing prompts on the Kindred site, and on Thursday, she shared my photo and words in response to the idea of “sanctuary.” I am terrible at sitting meditation, but I’ve found that running helps bring me out of my mind and into my body in a way that is sanctuary indeed. Another thing that has helped me this past year is the writing of Pema Chodron. I’m currently slowly reading Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion. I read one or two teachings at a time, every now and then, and let the words sit.

at the beach

On one of the last milder days last week, we headed to the beach to collect items for Mudpuddles to Meteors‘ nature exchange. We just heard our match partners live in Alaska. Fun!

making cheese

Checking the temperature of milk that will become ricotta cheese.

My 9yo wanted to know how cheese was made, so we looked it up at the library and he placed a book of recipes on hold. This past week, he made ricotta cheese–twice, actually, because the first time (using the book’s recipe) didn’t yield much cheese. Perfect! More opportunity for learning, as he Googled recipes to see how they were different from the one in the book. We used his ricotta cheese in baked pasta, but he wasn’t impressed with it. (I was! I thought it was yummy.) He would like to make Monterrey Jack next–“an orderly cheese,” in his words. I think the gloppiness of ricotta displeased him. I’m not sure he’s seen it in its natural state before; he’s always just eaten things made with it. However, he also said, “I love math–when it’s used for cheese-making!” This is self-directed learning, folks, and it’s a wonderful thing.

goat note

We are a little later with wrapping up her goat project than I’d hoped, but G’s enthusiasm for printing goat cards waned a bit, and then I waned a bit, but we’re back on track now. We changed in all her coins for dollars, and we’re heading to the bank on Monday to deposit it all so I can write a check. I interviewed her and typed up a letter to Heifer International explaining her project, and she is including this note–on one of her note cards, of course. I can barely stand it. Biased mama, yes, but I think she’s pretty amazing and awfully sweet. I am also extremely thankful for the family and friends, both near and far, who supported her project and helped her raise $120. She never thought it wasn’t possible, and so many of you helped make sure she was right.

I’m hoping to get my evening energy back so I can get back to making progress with Issue Two of Art Together, and a tutorial I’ve agreed to create, and more embroidery, and that sweater I’m knitting… I’ve no time for hibernation! I hope you’re enjoying nature’s “hardest hue to hold” before we slip thoroughly into the starker colors of winter.

An Early Autumn Nature Walk

Last week my 9yo, 4yo, and I went to Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge–a favorite spot of ours, and close to home–for an early Autumn nature walk. Our visit is highlighted today at Mud Puddles to Meteors as part of their Hitting the Trail series. It was fun for me to walk around with camera in hand, looking for things to share with the wider world. We really love where we live and it’s always a treat to talk about a favorite local spot. Go check out the post, and stay a bit to explore everything else this new nature site has to offer! You can also find all the photos in my Trustom Pond Flickr set.