Amazing Jewelweed Watercolor

Jewelweed is one amazing plant for many reasons. First, its beauty. Jewelweed flowers look like little trumpets hanging under leaves. The one I found is pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), but you can also find orange jewelweed (I. capensis) which has a deeper, more vibrant color. I painted one in 2011.

The second reason jewelweed is amazing is the way it disperses its seeds. When something (like a pollinator) brushes up against the seed pod which also hangs under the leaves, it explodes, catapulting the seeds into the air! It is sooooooo much fun to find these pods and touch them. They pop right in your hand! The pod opens and the sides coil tightly, sending seeds flying.

The third reason it’s a gem is because this native plant feeds many native pollinators including hummingbirds! You’ll find many bumblebees, bees, flies, and others on the same bush at any one time.

And lastly, jewelweed is a lifesaver if you encounter poison ivy or stinging nettle. Simply crush the stem and rub on effected areas. It may save you until you can get home to wash the area with soap and water and apply calamine lotion. It is believed doing this will lessen your reaction to the plants.

You can find jewelweed in shaded forests with moist soils. You can also plant jewelweed in your garden if you have shaded, moist, well draining soil. This will attract many pollinators to your yard.

I hope you can find some jewelweed on your next hike! Try to touch those pods….they’re ripe now! Happy Hiking!

Summer Insects Watercolor

Summer. A time to slow down…enjoy the weather. A time to place a thin blanket on the ground, sit, and have lunch on the grass not a table. Soak in those rays while you’re at it! Summer is also a time for insects. It’s their time too.

These are a few that I’ve seen within the last week: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), the Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly (Calopteryx maculata), and the tiny, tiny sweat bee (Halictidae). I’ve also seen the Colorado Potato Beetle (not good for the garden), many ants, spiders galore, and a centipede.

What I haven’t seen are many honey bees.

From word of mouth, bee keepers are voicing difficulty with their hives. Honey bees have an uphill battle. Some of their struggles are: loss of habitat, pesticide, insecticide, and fungicide use, GMO crops, monocrops, mites, virus, and bacteria.

Honey bees are pollinators which pollinate our food. There are other pollinators such as: beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and even bats…but none are as efficient as the honey bee. We need to protect out pollinators because our food depends on it.

Disappearing pollinators are such a concern that scientists have developed drone pollinators. Yes, robot pollinators. Flying tiny robots pollinating flowers. Because these drones need to be controlled by a human, they cannot be efficient. Scientists hope to teach AI (Artificial Intelligence) to be able to control the drones on their own and know how to pollinate.

Do you want AI pollinating your food?

Not me. I hope we never get to that point. Let’s help the pollinators. But how?

This year I am converting my front grass lawn into a native habitat. Grass cannot hold much water, does not support a great deal of wildlife, costs a lot of money to fertilize/water, and you must mow it every week. But native plants support a lot of wildlife! You do not need to fertilize it and after the native plants are established, you don’t even need to water them! Yay native plants!

At nurseries there are beautiful blooming plants to purchase, but many don’t do much for pollinators either because they are cultivars or have been artificially bread to be hearty and beautiful. Many native insects cannot stomach those plants. Good for pretty, showy flowers, bad for nature and the ecosystem.

Man’s tampering has unintended consequences.

Leisurely Bike Path Break Watercolor

I took my bike on a nice long ride. When riding, I become a child again. Downhills are my favorite, uphills not so much. The wind races through my hair and I feel rather bird like…soaring effortlessly.

On this particular day, I packed a lunch and my paint supplies in my basket.

The sun felt good on my skin. My body missed vitamin D, so my skin was as happy as my spirits. However, after two hours I needed shade and my sandwich. The tree I painted was of no particular interest, except that it was across from a shady bench. The wildlife around me performed some lunchtime entertainment. Tree swallows swooped, red-winged blackbirds sang, and butterflies danced by.

What a perfect spot for a leisurely break.
I hope you are able to find your leisurely breaks in life.

Handsome Jack Watercolor

There he is…. handsome Jack.

I tell you the truth, no matter how many times I find this spring ephemeral wildflower, it always stops me in my tracks and takes my breath away. Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) seems like an exotic species in my mundane Midwest landscape. So unique….so unlike any other plant.

Short to the ground, it takes patience and being in the moment to notice this creature among the sea of green on the forest floor. If you’re walking while dreading bills, or life’s challenges, you risk missing it! You must calm your mind, go slow, and be in the present moment, enjoying every inch of blessings around you.

It is something as small as Jack, that can pick up my spirits and transform my day. I am so grateful for all God’s creation.

Let’s Paint a Prairie Trillium Spring Wildflower!

Spring ephemeral (lasing a short time) wildflowers are making their appearance on the forest floor as we speak! But you must seek them out now, for soon the leaves on the trees will be fully developed and the shade wont support them.

This video shows how to paint a prairie trillium. I could not include a voice over step by step because my software was glitchy. So, this video is just a visual step by step.

More videos on spring ephemeral wildflowers soon to come.

Enjoy the sights and sounds of spring!

 

Lake Katherine Pine Watercolor

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Even the pine reaches for the light.

When I go to a location with sketching supplies in hand, how do I decide on a subject to sketch? I begin to walk…looking for something to speak to me. Something in nature has to reach out, it has to say something without saying anything at all. It could be a unique feature on an ordinary object. It could be a look, a moment, or a feeling. I could relate to it or I could be in awe of it.

This pine at Lake Katherine spoke to me without words. It said, “I’m doing all I can in my circumstance, then I let go.”

Do you feel this way? Can you come to this conclusion?

Sometimes when the world seems dark and overwhelming, reaching for the light then letting go is all we can do.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

May you find peace and comfort in the light.
Amen

American White Pelican Watercolor

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Was I seeing correctly? Was that a pelican on the water?

A few days ago, on a spur, I drove out to Rock Run Rookery by myself. I’ve been there once before with ornithologists on a bird outing. It’s fun to listen to bird enthusiasts, especially knowledgeable ones who can identify birds by their call alone and not by sight. You want to be with one when trying to identify birds.

Anyway, on to my visit… I’m not a bird expert, however I was seeing a pelican. In the Chicago area. Hmmm…

Sure enough after some research I learned all about the migrating American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). Unlike its cousin the brown pelican who is a coastal bird, the American white pelican migrates over land on its way to the Dakotas or Canada from Mexico. He is a very large bird (30 pounds) and his bill can hold 3 gallons of water. As he feeds, he skims the water collecting fish. He does not dive under water like his cousin, the brown pelican. And that hump on its bill? That means its breeding season. After breeding season is over, it will lose that growth.

To look at him, you would assume he was completely white, but in flight he reveals his stunning black flight feathers.

When I saw this creature, we locked eyes. There was a moment. As a faith based person, it is amazing to connect with wildlife and have a common bond with the One who created us. I can’t exactly put that into words, but some of you know what I’m talking about. Maybe that’s why nature is so important to me. It’s not just random cells on automatic pilot…it’s so much deeper than that.

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After my pelican encounter, I walked to the stream at the beginning of the park. Under the comfortable picnic shelter, I sketched the waters, oh so green.

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I don’t know why the water was vibrant green, turquoise like, but that is no exaggeration. This section of the park was quiet, beautiful, and last year’s dried grasses made a marvelous tone.

If you are ever in the Joliet area, I would advise a visit to Rock Run Rookery.