Black and Yellow Argiope Watercolor

sketch of a black and yellow argiope spider

I’m sorry to some that may be squeamish about spiders, but hold on…give her a chance! She has her best dress on. And look at those long black gloves on her hands…so classy!

My place of employment is hosting field trips for grade school students throughout the month of September. My station is the prairie. I explain to the children the importance of a prairie. I talk about how it prevents erosion, filters rainwater, contains fertile soil, is home to thousands of different types of organisms that work together. But the most exciting part is walking through the prairie!

The prairie does not have a path. The children literally have to trample through grasses and plants that are about as tall and sometimes taller than themselves. This is my favorite moment…when the squeals and shrieks begin. Some run head first, some are afraid, but they all want to participate because they’ve never had the opportunity to learn in this manner.

One student found this female black and yellow argiope. AKA: the yellow garden spider, the golden spider, the writing spider, the zigzag spider etc. She was large and beautiful. She only lives about one year and will probably die before the end of autumn. Her job right now is to lay an egg sack. If it is too cold after they develop, the spiderlings will hatch next spring.

female black and yellow argiope

The zigzag pattern she wove in her web is called a stabilimentum. Some believe it is created to attract species to the web and some believe it is used to warn about the web. (Illinois Natural History Survey)

We also found deer bones in the prairie. To which massive loud shrieks and screams commenced.
Ha ha ha! They were amazed!

Hopefully we will find more interesting things in the prairie this month.

The Nest that wasn’t a Nest – Watercolor

bird’s nest fungus watercolor

I’ve heard about the elusive bird’s nest fungus (Cyathus stercoreus) but I have never seen them until recently. And it is no wonder…I was looking for something much, much larger. Think tiny if you want to find this organism. REALLY tiny.

bird’s nest fungus photo

And behold, on the north side of a large bolder, sat tiny bird’s nest fungi in the midst of wood mulch. The open nests are about 1/4-1/2″ (0.635-1.27cm) wide. The “egg” is also not an egg, but a peridiole, container of spores. When it rains, a drop of rain dislodges the peridiole and sends it flying. When it lands, hopefully it takes root in the ground where the hyphae grows, multiplying into a mycelium network (“roots”) underground. Whenever you see a fungus, you’re actually looking at a fruiting body. A fruiting body’s mission is to distribute its spores to multiply. Most of the “important” work is underground and out of sight.

But those fruiting bodies…they’re so gorgeous!

I hope you look low and see tiny things this week!

Flying Drop of Sunshine Harvesting – Watercolor

the flying drop of sunshine harvests seeds

He harvests.
When needed, nourishment.
He has no currency…
Nor concern to buy and sell.
Provided for
ministered by
and loved.
Just like you.

ripe purple coneflower

Friends, take courage. Do not lose hope. Things in the world may be troubling, but be of good cheer.
The Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world. He came to suffer, to pay for the sins of every being born…no matter what background, race, gender, so that we can be pure before God if we accept our debt paid, free of charge, by Him who overcame the grave.

And guess what? Shhhhhh…At the end of time, when everything shall come to pass, Jesus wins in the end. Revelations 19:11-21.

Be of good cheer.

This male American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), taught me this lesson when I saw him feast on my purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). He flitted from flower to flower confiscating seeds, sometimes with a tiny shake of the head. Without words, he reminded me to lay my worries down. And just like that, they evaporated with the wind.

He Hides in Flowers – Watercolor

deer hides in summer flowers

Don’t you wish you could too?

Last week I ran a nature summer camp for children that focused on wetlands and the animals that live in and around them. As we hiked to the river, one young camper spotted this gorgeous male, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), hiding amongst the summer flowers. I had walked right passed him, less than a few feet away. Oblivious… So focused on presenting material…missing life right in front of me.

Thank you to the student observant enough and in the moment.

Thank you Mr. Deer…your secret place is safe with us. We wish you well.

deer, bee balm, and black-eyed susans

Each Tree for a Comfort

When I am melancholy, I paint a tree. When I am sad, I paint a tree. And when I’m longing, I paint a tree. I find myself painting them even when happy and content. They always seem to give me comfort. They’re my go to subject.

Perhaps it’s the fact that each has its own personality in the form of character, and completely changes season to season. They’re not loud, but calm. They shade you in the heat of summer and in winter uncover themselves bare. They can’t run away from you, they’re always present.

So after three days of silly arguing with my significant other, it was time to visit a tree. The latest one being in the bottom right-hand corner…an eastern redbud wearing its summer attire as it gracefully stands in the rain. Lovely.

I’m reminded of this quote:
“I will restore your health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord.

Could it be that for some He uses trees?

Yes, I think so.

Only by kayak

only by kayak

Only by kayak is how to see this view
So few will observe it
Except maybe for the great blue heron…the one I accidentally flushed away
It saw me a mile away
I didn’t fool anybody
I only grasped its presence when the graceful wings gave beat
Then it was too late
The speed boats, they race by
Too fast to savor life when they fly

by way of the kayak

The only sound comes from the water beating on the rocks. Shhhhhh, shhhhhh, shhhhh. Every wave having a voice. Some louder than others.

bailey’s point

I camped at Bailey’s Point Campground in Scottsville, Kentucky. It’s on a peninsula which jets out over Barren River Lake. This is one of the west facing rock walls. It’s such a gorgeous location.

so thankful

Happy summer everyone!
Make it last before the cold sets in!!

Rose plume moth watercolor

watercolor of rose plume moth

Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that make your day.
I just happened to notice this tiny moth as I was walking in my front door. Its thin bat like wings caught my eye. What a delicate and handsome insect.

From what I gather, July is a popular time to see them. However, all of my native flowers are blooming just a bit early. It is probably due to a very mild spring we had in the Chicago area. As the name implies, this moth feeds on rose leaves and buds. I do not have any roses growing in my yard, so perhaps this moth was just passing through.

photo of rose plume moth

More details on the rose plume moth can be found on iNaturalist.

It is so much fun to find organisms in nature and sketch them. I’ve learned a lot from practicing my art this way while documenting them in my sketchbook. And it really doesn’t matter how the art turns out…It’s the process that counts!

Native Haven Oasis – Watercolor

native plants for insects

Fake vs Real.
Modified vs Natural
Beautiful vs Functional

I started to think about these things.
I’ve spoken about my native garden on this blog several times. Every morning that I do not have to work, I sit on the front porch with a cup of coffee or tea and watch the activity in the native garden.

Now, native gardens can look messy. I’ve tried to incorporate plants that will bloom in each season for color, attractiveness, and food for native insects. Sometimes the flowers are inconspicuous and barely noticeable, so I also planted some non-native flowers in containers. The flowers I chose were the Wave Petunias in yellow and pink.

Then I sat back and watched.

While the Wave Petunias are showy and demand your attention, they offer little to insects in my area. No insects visit the genetically modified flowers when I’m sitting outside. But the native flowers are teaming with action. You can watch at any time of the day and in a few minutes I can guarantee you’ll see a pollinator visit a native plant.

Some may think….Well, good. I don’t want insects around. I’ll stick to my non-natives.

But insects are near the base of our food chain. They pollinate plants, feed animals, etc. And they’re rapidly dwindling in numbers over the last few decades. Right now drones are being produced to help pollinate plants because humans could not possibly hand pollinate as quickly and efficiently as insects.

I’m not against Wave Petunias, I bought them myself. But the native plants are so important. I wish they had the same popularity as the GMO plants. Maybe consider planting a native alongside a non-native? Even if it’s in a container! It can help so many native insects!

Winsome Weevil – Watercolor

weevil watercolor sketch

I know weevils can be troublesome. They eat plants and can even infest homes…but that snout…it’s so darn cute!

Side view rhubarb weevil
Top view rhubarb weevil

This rhubarb weevil (Lixus concavus) appears to be yellow, however that’s just a powdery coat which can be rubbed off. Underneath is a brown beetle. From the picture, it seems as if it has bored a hole into the stem where it will lay an egg.

I encountered this one on a nearby bike trail. I just love that snout!

That Pine Smell Though – watercolor

Scrub Pine watercolor sketch

The air was so.
Soaked with a thick and glorious pine aroma.
I swam in it.

Soft was the carpet of pine needles.
I settled on it.

Serene was the light filtering through…
Shadows dancing.
I was swooned by it.

Scrub pine.

Potable Painter watercolor field kit fits on leg

I was very excited to try my new toy, the Portable Painter (this is not sponsored, btw). It’s a compact mini watercolor field kit that fits on your leg. It has two water containers that slide on the sides of the kit. The water containers fit perfectly on your thigh. This is great because one of the challenges when painting in the field is trying to hold everything in one hand while painting with the other hand. I was laying on the ground with it on my leg, but you can also sit on a camping chair with it. Convenient!

The kit does not come with watercolors, so you’ll need to fill the pans from your own watercolor tube paints and allow them to harden for 24 hours at least.

Portable Painter stands on its own

It also stands on its own quite well.

Scrub Pine photo

This scub pine (Pinus virginiana), is amongst many other pine species, which contributed to that wonderful prominent pine scent.

Pine cone ink close up

I found one of its cones still attached to a branch and decided to make an ink detail. I like its spiky tips. I’m spiky, but only in the morning.

Get outside my friends, and explore nature. The time is perfect.