Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nature Journal: Plein Air Painting

Over the past two weeks I've done several "plein air" painting outings down to my Secret Beach. Plein air is the fancy term for outdoor painting. It was popularized by Claude Monet and his Impressionist friends in the 19th century. We have our own hero of plein air painting here in Indiana -T. C. Steele (whose home can be visited in Brown County). 


When out in nature, it's hard to narrow down a subject from everything that is in our eyesight. In class we talked about choosing what we feel inspired by or emotionally connected to. We also practiced using view finders and the Rule of Thirds.


I loved taking the classes out of the classroom and into nature to sit and compose their drawings!


One class was even blessed to discover a newt!


It's so nice and peaceful at the Secret Beach. However, there are a number of hickory and black walnut trees around so every now and then one thinks a group of boys is throwing things our way!


James decided on a grouping of autumn leaves.


I chose the river bank to paint today.


One of my favorite nature writers is Gladys Taber and this week I finished reading her autobiography:

 (Harvest of Yesterdaysby Gladys Taber)
In this book Taber tells the story of her life from her birth in the late 19th century to her growing up years in the midwest and her eventual settling in Connecticut and Massachusetts. She tells of her college years during World War I and how she survived the flu epidemic that followed. We learn about her marriage and eventually her purchase of the Connecticut farm that would become so prominent in her writings. I always enjoy hearing how writers/artists began their careers and what influences in their childhood play a part in their later life.

I've just finished the first session of my Nature Journaling classes and have a two week break before the November session begins! (More information on my classes can be found here: Westside Art Workshop).

One more day of school and then fall break begins! I hope to be able to have a little more time than usual to enjoy the beauty of fall!

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.




Thursday, October 5, 2017

Nature Journal: Seeds

Last week we drew seeds in our nature journaling class. Everyone took a brown paper "lunch bag" and filled it up with any seed they could find while we were on our hike. One child managed a blue Solomon's Seal and two discovered Jack-in-the Pulpit -- quite hard to find in our woods. We even found a seed head none of use had ever seen before (see bottom of post).

I loved drawing the seed outlines with a sharpie. Such great results from such a small amount of effort.


It took a lot more effort (i.e. patience) to draw the Osage Orange as it has such an intricate pattern. I love these huge, brightly colored and strongly scented seeds.

The children's pages were wonderful! I love seeing how each one chooses to illustrate our theme.

Look at these fantastic line drawings!


I think all of us were drawn to the brightly colored berries.


The table was a huge mess of seeds and papers!


Black walnuts were also very popular. By the time the class ended we were all standing around with a nut cracker cracking hickory nuts and sampling the insides!


One day we chanced upon a tiny hill covered in these seed pods sticking straight out of the ground. Thanks to someone on Instagram we later identified this to be the seed head of Wild Leeks, also known as Ramps. I'll be returning there in the spring!

The seeds were just gorgeous -- so blue they were almost black and perfectly round, just like  exquisite pearls. In fact, I wouldn't have minded a brooch made to look like this.


 Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane
This book is one that I just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed. The author goes around Britain to the "flatlands," "uplands," "waterlands," "coastlands," "underlands," "woodlands," etc. searching out the native word descriptions of each place as well as introducing us to authors who are particularly acquainted with these lands, not to mention describing his experiences in such places.

Each chapter contains a lengthy list of words used to describe the landscape -- words that are becoming rare and even extinct in their usage. Words like "haze-fire" (luminous morning mist through which the dawn sun is shining), "slunk" (muddy or marshy place), and "cockle" (ripple on the water caused by the wind).

MacFarlane impresses upon us the beauty of language and of nature and the importance of preserving the one and experiencing the other. Definitely worth checking out if you are a nature lover!

If you are local, and are interested in signing up for one of my classes, check out my Facebook page: Westside Art Workshop.

And now it's nearly time for our first October weekend! Hope you all enjoy some beauty wherever you are!

PS: PomPom is hosting a Nature Journal link-up so you can check out her blog for more nature posts.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Collecting Seeds



It's the time of year for seeds and there are so many different kinds gracing the garden or dotting the paths through the woods. At this time of year I get a sort of anxiety to get out in the garden and collect my flower seeds before it's too late. Year after year I keep my cosmos, zinnias, and marigolds going this way.

Out in the woods the ground is covered with black walnut and hickory nuts. If you failed to notice them underfoot you might hear the "thump, thump" of them falling nearby. Dark brown seed pods are hanging from all the redbud trees and the first acorns are dropping beneath the oaks.

We are distracted by the hot weather (90F) but if it were cooler we'd see the squirrels running to catch the falling nuts and store them away for winter. If we were children we could collect all these native seeds and pretend to have a "shop" where we sold them: nature's free toys. (This year we are all stuck inside with the air conditioning.)

Maybe next week when the temperature falls again it will seem more like fall and we can go out and collect our treasures and have that squirrel-ish feeling of getting ready for winter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Consider the Monarchs


We are studying monarch butterflies in our nature journaling classes this week. Their incredible life cycle and migration story are captivating and awe-inspiring. These delicate creatures of beauty, seemingly so vulnerable, will soon make a 2,500 mile migration journey to spend the winter in Mexico. It might take them almost 2 months to get to Mexico, traveling 50-100 miles a day and as high up as 11,000 feet. But they will find their way to the very same tree their great-great-grandparents roosted in last year!

Understanding the monarch generations opens up a whole new appreciation for what is happening right now. There are four generations of monarch butterflies that hatch each summer. The first generation, the children of the Mexican migration, hatch in April/May on the first shoots of milkweed that appear in spring. Those butterflies will live only 2-6 weeks and lay their eggs for the second generation. The generations continue over the course of the summer until September and October (right now!!).


The butterflies that are hatching right now won't die after 2-6 weeks. They are going to live 6-8 months! It will be this fourth generation that takes flight sometime soon and heads south for the winter.

I have two chrysalises hanging in my kitchen right now -- I watched their mother lay them, as eggs, on the milkweed out front. She was probably from the third generation and will never see Mexico. Her life may not be as full of adventure but her life is crucial to the unbroken link of generations. Her eggs hatched, the caterpillars grew (2,700 times their original size) and now the fourth generation is preparing to hatch and fulfill its destiny.


 Did you know it's easy to tell a male and female monarch apart? Google a picture -- the male has prominent black spots on it's hind wings. I can't wait to see if we have males or females in our chrysalises.

It's taken four years of waiting to find these first monarch caterpillars on my milkweed plants. Next year I plan to add butterfly weed and swamp milkweed to my garden in hopes of attracting more monarchs. The presence, and proliferation, of monarchs is a good indication of how other pollinators in the area are doing -- low numbers of monarchs doesn't bode well for pollination in general.



The life of the monarch brings the great theological topic of God's providence right down into practical gardening terms -- God's providence is his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions. Think about every variable in the monarch yearly cycle and how vulnerable the butterflies are. Yet God provides for this cycle to continue year after year, putting that instinct into the 4th generation to fly to Mexico. If God cares for the seemingly insignificant butterflies how much more is he caring for you and me?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mondays are for Grace


“God is not a deceiver, 
that He should offer to support us, 
and then, when we lean upon Him, 
should slip away from us.” 

-- Augustine

Friday, September 8, 2017

August Review

Our school year started the last day of July so August was our month to get back to school. Of course it was still summer! So we had to fit in all the normal summer stuff too like the pool, the State Fair, and visits from friends.

Here we have our 8th, 6th, and 2nd graders:


August is the busiest month for high school golf. This is Rachel's last year to play before she heads off to college. I'm going to miss this sport! I've promised myself that within ten years I'm going to find a way to learn to play. Andrew is playing soccer again for Covenant this year (no picture yet).


I think this might have been our fifth year at the  Zionsville Plein Air Paint Out! YAY!


Grandma was there too and we all had a wonderful day! The boys even won prizes!


The State Fair is something we all look forward to! This year we had friends come visit from out of state so they could join us at the fair. We made sure to go two days.


 Yay for cooler weather at the fair! It makes all the difference!


The kids all tried their hands at fishing at the fair and each caught a fish!


I think they might like to do this more often....


 The Pioneer Village is always a favorite place and my mouth was watering walking by the dining room just as the ladies served up a full farm lunch.


 Our whole visit to the fair is one long string of tradition after tradition. Candy sticks are a must.


I love this quilt pattern. I used to have antique quilts like this when I was a child.


We all loved the cows. America has far fewer cows now than we had 60 years ago, but the cows we have produce FAR greater amounts of milk. It's interesting to hear all the statistics and think how agriculture has changed.


Laura is the only child young enough for "Little Hands on the Farm."


Here are the animals that built the west. Impressive beasts!


Our state fair has a new "ride"! Our friends treated us all to a turn on it and we loved it! The best way to see the fair!


The bunny and chicken barn is so fun.


Especially the amazing-haired chickens. I think I'd like this for a costume party.


 The canned food displays are always fun but this year there was no question which was my favorite!!!


Once we'd exhausted the fair it was time to introduce my friends to Goodwill Outlet! They loved it just as much as we do!


And then we spent a few mornings at Eagle Creek and eventually discovered some monarch caterpillars!


Cousin Olivia is growing all the time! She's so sweet!


James and I had the chance to receive an oil painting lesson from a friend. We both thoroughly enjoyed it!


I spent many hours in August prepping for my art classes which I've started up this fall. Lots and lots of nature journaling kits were made and ideas put down on paper.


And of course we had our Great American Eclipse experience.


And then it was time to settle back into a regular routine of school and get used to the fact that summer is drawing to an end.


Meanwhile, we are enjoying hatching monarch butterflies.


With the first of September the weather has taken a decided turn for fall. And now the weekend is ahead, and we are all waiting news of the hurricane and praying for those in its path.