Quick preliminary sketch to get to know this bird. What a complicated beak!
I wrote a whole post, added pictures and everything and just before I was gonna hit publish, terrible things happened and I lost it. I can’t bring myself to write it all over again but I will post the pictures. So just pretend you read an informative and witty post while you look at the pictures.
Here are a couple small watercolors I did of crows.
I’ve also been obsessing over Wood Storks. They have this lovely white and black plumage topped by bald, prehistoric faces screaming for moisturizer. They make me want to do a whole series of large, gangly water birds.
Lastly, I’ve done several sculptures but these are the two that are not disappointing.
The Red Fox is finished but the Wolverine is still in progress. The sculpting part is done but he needs to dry thoroughly and will probably not get into the kiln until September.
Just got some new software that works with Lightroom. It’s called ON1 and it’s proving to be rather fun to play with. Just a couple quick little shots of Loki with some ON1 enhancements, presets, and borders.
I’ve just started playing with the software so I have a lot to learn yet. It’s fairly easy to figure out and is highly customizable, so you aren’t stuck with a fixed set of anything.
I love coffee. I love it so much I make a pot of it every morning. But, I’m at war with coffee machines. I hate most electric drip coffee makers because they are big, bulky and expensive. They never get the coffee hot enough and no matter how much money you spend on them, after two years they all either start leaking or stop working all together. Having to replace an appliance, especially an expensive appliance, every two years makes me very angry because I really dislike shopping and spending money. I hate shopping more than I hate being ripped off.
wait. same thing.
a little historical interlude…
Growing up, my family mostly made coffee on the stove with a percolator-type coffee pot. Somehow, my mother, aunts, and grandmothers were able to make really good coffee out of these always boiling over pots and cans of stale ground supermarket coffee. Also, since I’m from an Italian family, we all had those little stovetop espresso pots that made tiny amounts of espresso, but that’s a different story and anyway, we only made espresso when important company came over.
Since we’ve lived in this house, I’ve gone through three or four coffee machines. The first expensive one was a Cuisinart, which after two years just stopped working for no reason. Got up, ground the coffee, filled the machine, turned it on and nada. Just sat there, staring at me as if I were invisible and not in great need. I cursed the machine, broke out mom’s old percolator, made coffee no where near as good as my mom’s, drank it, cursed some more, and went out and bought another coffee maker of the same brand but better (we’re talking around $200). Since the reviews for this machine were good, and it did make a good tasting cup of joe, I figured the first machine was a lemon.
Two years, almost to the day, with no warning that things were not going well, the 200 dollar machine turned it’s back on me and quit making coffee. This time I break out the french press and say, “Fuck you machine, I will not buy you again.” But then my sister came to live with us and brought her even bigger, better, and more expensive coffee machine, which was not yet two years old. Shortly afterwards, her bigger, better, more expensive, now definitely two year old machine started leaking. A lot. My sister hates french press coffee, so I went to K-Mart and bought a cheapo Mr. Coffee drip coffeemaker. Not the most cheapo one, but the middish cheapo one for just under $50. It’s been about three or four years (cheaper lives longer) of drinking not so great coffee out of a leaky pot, but I’m too cheap to buy a better pot every two years.
But, the leakage is now so bad that I spend half the morning mopping up after the damned thing. So, that’s it — I’m done with these stupid machines that just want to suck the money and life out of me. Instead, I have decided to resurrect my mother’s old “dripolator” style coffee pot that is actually kinda retro-cool looking. I think she got it when I was about 3 or 4 years old (hardly ever used it because, well, the percolator) so that definitely qualifies as retro. Maybe even antique. Anyway, here’s a pic:
The pot has two chambers. The top has a compartment to hold the grounds. It has a fine mesh screen and also an inner lid to keep the grounds in the chamber. You pour the water in the top which then slowly drips through the ground’s chamber and into the bottom. Because it’s all steel, it can be set on a burner set to low to keep the coffee hot.
Pictures of the innards:
This pot makes the best tasting coffee I’ve had in quite a while. And the coffee is HOT. I forgot how good HOT coffee is since the stupid drip machines can never get the coffee hot enough. The only down side to this pot is that it only can make six cups at a time. Considering the size of mugs (does anyone drink coffee in the old little coffee cups anymore?), that’s not enough for three people who habitually drink 2 mugs each in the morning. So I’m going to need to figure out some way to make more than that without dumping and regrinding more coffee beans. Maybe just topping off the old ones after pouring a couple cups and running a bit more water through? An experiment will commence tomorrow morning.
Right now, I’m drinking tea.
Several months ago, while in that misty, gray space between dreamworld and awakeworld, I felt my body completely at ease with no hint of pain anywhere. The sense of no pain shocked me fully awake bringing back to consciousness the accumulated pain of a 60+ year old body. I tried so very hard to find that place again, arranging my body parts in the exact same way they were when I was between worlds and free.
I woke up this morning around 3am with a loud brain thinking disjointed thoughts, rapidly and in no particular order. Sleep was gone gone gone. Around 5am I considered getting up to make coffee. Instead, I remembered that place of ease from months before and gave it a second try. Arranging my body just like it had been before, I drifted away. My success was disrupted by the rudest, most gruesome nightmare — full of blood, pain, terror, and shit — that I think I’ve ever had.
next time, i’ll just go make coffee.
For the past few years, we’ve had an influx of ants taking up residence in and around our house. There are teeny, tiny, little ants that run the perimeter of our house, back and forth, all around the foundation. It’s a little like being under siege. Truthfully, it’s a little creepy.
We also have great big carpenter ants that drop down from the trees and make their way over, under and inside. They move slower, are big enough to recognize individuals and stay long enough that we give them names. Until this year, we’ve managed to keep things under control (sort of) by keeping things clean, never leaving food out, and using non-toxic stuff like diatomaceous earth (DE), borax, peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, etc. But this spring, the scales tipped out of our favor and the ants took over.
First the teeny, tiny, little ants made a big rush for everything in the kitchen and sunroom. I spread DE all around the house, inside the trash, all along the windowsills, across the threshold, virtually everywhere I could think of. I finally broke down and bought ant traps. That seemed to help a little.
One evening, my sister walked into the kitchen, stopped, backed out and yelled for me. Covering every inch of the kitchen floor, the sunroom floor and the counters, walls, stove and fridge were the big ol’ carpenter ants. It looked like something out of a Hitchcock film.
I tore through everything, wiping, moping, scrubbing, sweeping and laying down DE, more ant traps, scattering cotton balls and paper towel wads soaking in ammonia in the trash and recycle bins. After hours of effort more ants poured in, covering everything.
I spent the next day trying to scout out where they were coming from and became convinced that they were nesting inside the walls in the sunroom. Short of ripping all the walls out, I admitted defeat and called a pest control company. Actually, I called a few and settled on one local firm that seemed responsible and was willing to work in such a way as to not contaminate my yard and keep my animals safe. Things have been okay since then.
Until recently. I’ve noticed the teeny, tiny ants are making a comeback and have begun circling the wagons again. Two weeks ago we had the storm door replaced and when the contractor removed the old storm door, big old carpenter ants came pouring out of the door. They had actually set up house inside the wood core of the door, complete with a nursery with lots of eggs. I have a sneaking suspicion that come this spring, I will have to rip out the walls in the sunroom.
But, today — today when I turned on my iMac to do some work, I saw a teeny, tiny, little ant on the monitor. I went to knock it off but nothing happened. It wasn’t on the screen, it is IN the screen. It is running all over, inside my monitor between the glass and the LCD. I don’t know how it got in there and there’s no way to get it out. I keep trying to hit it with the cursor. Sometimes, when I move the cursor over it, the ant falls down. After a couple virtual whacks with the cursor, the ant clues in that there’s no real threat and digs all its little heels in, daring me to try to kill it.
It knows I can’t touch it and it’s flaunting its new found invincibility by parading across my screen as I try to work. But how can I work with the damned ant taunting me?
I just hope it doesn’t invite the rest of its family over for a party.
I have a tiny backyard that is mostly wild and out of control by design. We do minimal maintenance, almost no weed pulling since I tend to encourage weeds for their beauty, free food and medicinal uses. I tried early on to set aside space for vegetables but the yard is too shady and the deer, squirrels and chipmunks too plentiful.
I also like to take pictures of the things that grow in our tiny, wildish space. One of the plants I’ve been fascinated by this year is the massive Devil’s Walking Stick that moved in two or three years ago. It’s grown to be quite tall–at least 15 ft or so and it’s produced a whole crop of babies that are blocking the path down to the gully.
Devil’s Walking Stick, or more formally, Aralia spinosa is indigenous to the Eastern United States and is quite formidable in that it has very sharp thorns that grow all along the woody trunk and along it’s umbrella-like compound, pinnate leaves. It is a serious plant – no fooling around with this one. It’s flowers are tiny, delicate things that grow in huge creamy white clusters at the very top of the plant. I hear they smell like lemons, but they are too far away for me to sniff. From the frenzied activity of the bees and other pollinators, I suspect they smell heavenly. In the fall, it produces berries that are an important source of food for birds.
Here are some of the photos I’ve managed to take, despite the distance and my inability to hold my largest lens steady. This first one is the largest plant sending out it’s first leaves of spring. If you look closely, you can see the start of all the extremely sharp thorns that adorn this plant.
The next shot shows the budding flowers already attracting pollinators.
Devil’s Walking Stick in full flower. If you bring up the large picture (just click on it), note the round disk like things…those are the berries forming. They will turn purple when ripe. This is the second largest plant, but you can see the leaves of the grandmother plant in front of it.
I wish I could manage a picture of the entire plant from the ground up, but my small Poke forest (Phytolacca americana) is in the way, obscuring the first several feet of the trunk.
One of the not so good closeup shots of the bees flying around the flowers came out a little surprising. I do think this might be something other than an insect. Possibly a fairy?