When Work is Done

Our list was long last weekend: paint the back porch railing, fix windowsills, repair broken glazing, prime bare trim, rake leaves, mow the lawn, mulch the gardens, brush hog the field edge, clean out the gutter, mount the rain diverter…you get the idea. It was a beautiful fall three-day weekend, perfect for a hike or bike ride, or for getting stuff done. That’s why you didn’t see a blog post and I didn’t pick up my sketchbook until the sun was sinking low on Monday afternoon. I went to a local conservation… Read More

On My Desk

I should never have opened the seed pod. My desk was already littered with a growing fall collection, art supplies, field guides, and books I hadn’t put away. But it had been years since I opened a trumpet vine’s bean-like pod and I had forgotten what the seeds looked like. Of course, as soon as I split the case I remembered, just in time for an explosion of paper-thin seeds to scatter everywhere, as nature intended. I can also attest that the tiny round seeds of the yellow foxtail successfully dispersed, and… Read More

Doubly Good

You have to be in the right place at the right time to see a common nighthawk. Even then, you need to be lucky.  Nighthawks are nocturnal birds that fly at dusk over fields, ballparks, cities and towns, hawking insects in the air with quick wingbeats interrupted by soaring, swooping, and gliding. At first glance you might mistake one for a large bat. But then it soars or dives and you think, no, that’s a bird. Unfortunately, common nighthawks are no longer common—they’ve suffered a 60-percent decline in population since the 1960s…. Read More

Enough Already!

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the near daily rain we’d been experiencing in Upstate New York, which had been a boon to mushroom growth but not much else. Since then, it’s been more of the same: rain, humidity, and mushrooms. I want to stop sketching them, I really do. But with more colors and varieties sprouting by the day, I just can’t seem to stop. When opportunity arises, I find myself wandering the grove of oaks on our property, looking for the latest species to emerge, and adding them to my… Read More

New Hampshire Getaway

Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I carried our one-and-a-half-year-old son up a mountain to a clear, quiet lake in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was a blue-sky November day; fall colors lay on the ground; my son wore a blue sweater that his grandmother knit for him. I loved that hike and I remember the details because we took a photo at the water’s edge, mountains tinged by an early frost in the background. And then—life happened. We had a second child, my husband’s family sold their property in the mountains,… Read More

Oh, how beautiful

Rudyard Kipling was so right when he wrote, “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” Except in this particular garden, that’s exactly what I did. With the sun casting a warm golden light at the close of the day, I sat in the shadow of a large maple tree and surveyed a lovely field of grasses and allium. I had no hand in their planting or care. The only finger I lifted was the one that carried lines and watercolor across this page. An unknown… Read More

Fortunate Find

How many mushrooms can claim to have multiple websites, several online forums, numerous books, and various t-shirts dedicated solely to singing their praises? If that isn’t enough, how about an annual festival? The answer: only one, the morel. I didn’t know this until I stumbled upon a sizable patch of morels in our back woods this week. I knew they were morels, but until I went looking for more information on their natural history, I had no idea that they were such a highly prized and elusive delicacy. Because they cannot be… Read More

Spring Gems

When you think of spring, what colors come to mind? Though red is not typically on my list, there are several species that wear shades of ruby and garnet that sing out amidst spring’s palette of greens. I went looking for Jack-in-the-Pulpit in a nearby nature preserve and, though I found a few, it was the display of red trilliums on the forest floor that was in its full glory. The following day, the rose-breasted grosbeak, one of my favorite migratory birds, returned to our yard. The male’s beautiful deep red breast… Read More

New Life for an Old Post

An old and increasingly rotted split-rail fence lines the side of our driveway and, as long as you don’t look closely or lean on it, it adds character. Replacing the whole thing is “a project” which, as any homeowner can appreciate, means money, time, and labor. Alas, it’s staying put for now. This week I was delighted to spy a pair of chickadees excavating a nest cavity in one of the posts that no longer has a rail. They’d slip inside, hammer away at the soft interior, and come out with beak-fulls… Read More

A Welcome Sight

Whether it’s their sweet song, colorful breast, or way of bobbing across the lawn, seeing robins in springtime is a welcome sight. They spend the winter in small flocks feeding on berries and sheltering in nearby woods, where they blend in well with russet-colored oaks leaves and gray bark. But as the grass begins to green, robins are frequenting my yard more often, probing the soft ground for worms and other insects. They are common birds, yes, but no less deserving of attention, gratitude, and a sketch. Tips and Techniques– I enjoy… Read More