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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

And Spring I got!

I've already begun thinning the seedlings, but, I must admit that this is the hardest step for me. It just breaks my heart to do it even though I know that if I don't, there won't be room for the root (radish) bulb to swell.

I've already begun thinning the seedlings, but, I must admit that this is the hardest step for me. It just breaks my heart to do it even though I know that if I don't, there won't be room for the root (radish) bulb to swell.

Not too shabby for seed that’s nearly four years old, eh?

And, while Mother Nature and Old Man Winter have still not worked out their differences, fortunately, there are still plenty of other signs of Spring. Snowdrops are peaking through piles of dirty snow, the maple sugar sap has been flowing for a few weeks now and the daytime temperatures are hovering around the 45° to 50°F (sometimes even 55° and 60°F) range a bit more often than not. It won’t be long now before I can start working on my deck garden again. … Hmm! I think I’ll have to visit a local garden center pretty soon. … Then again, my houseplants, especially my maternal grandfather’s Christmas Cactus, could use some TLC too!

My grandfather passed away in September of 1984 and I became custodian of his Christmas Cactus. But, believe it or not, I've already repotted this plant several times, just not lately! As you can see, it is desperate need of repotting again.

My grandfather passed away in September of 1984 and I became custodian of his Christmas Cactus. But, believe it or not, I've already repotted this plant several times, just not lately! As you can see, it is in desperate need of repotting again.

The need to repot is especially noticeable here. See how small the "leaves" are? Notice another difference? In the shape of the "leaves" ... the one on the left is a November or Thanksgiving Cactus and the one on the right is a December or Christmas Cactus.

The need to repot is especially noticeable here. See how small the "leaves" are? Notice another difference? In the shape of the "leaves" ... the one on the left is a November or Thanksgiving Cactus and the one on the right is a December or Christmas Cactus.

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It never fails, starting in late February and early March, when Mother Nature begins to flirt with springtime temperatures and the ground starts to show through the dirty snow cover, that I begin to crave my garden, to begin planting vegetable seed and to plant flowers in soil warmed by the sun. It doesn’t help my cravings either to find an old packet of radish seed long buried under papers pinned to my bulletin board.

Are they viable? Will they sprout and give me the feeling, at least, that spring is just around the corner?

Are they viable? Will they sprout and give me the feeling, at least, that spring is just around the corner?

Now, was it last summer? Or, maybe, it was the summer before then that I tried planting those radish seed in a deck rail pot but gave up after finding the little seedlings dug up time after time. At first, I blamed mischievous squirrels for the destruction but, then one morning, I caught the real culprit! It was an Eastern Chipmunk; the little devil was hiding among my alpine strawberry plants, waiting for me to leave so that it could continue wreaking havoc on my deck garden seedlings!

It really doesn’t matter though, my cravings are just too intense to ignore … I’ve planted a small pot of the radish seed even though I doubt very much that the seed are viable. I’ll put it in my bay window and hope that my little corner of spring will soon sprout anyway.

It doesn't look like much yet but, keeping fingers crossed, I hope that in a week or two, this pot will be filled with seedlings!

It doesn't look like much yet but, keeping fingers crossed, I hope that in a week or two, this pot will be filled with seedlings!

Especially since, it never fails … on the 1st of March, Old Man Winter chose to make another appearance. But then, it seems that Mother Nature just may have the last laugh yet! Temperatures in the 50’s are predicted for the weekend … can springtime gardens be far behind after all?! 😀

***

A Few Notes …

  • Do you know how to test seed for viability? To plant a pot of old seed and hope for the best is one thing but I wouldn’t want to plant a whole garden that way. To test old seed is really simple, just place a few seed on a moistened paper towel then wait for the number of days till germination (which can be found on the back of the packet of seed). If then you seed little roots forming, you’re good to go!
  • Normally, I would sprinkle some milled sphagnum moss on top of the soil to prevent damping-off disease (a disease or mildew that forms on the surface of the soil when starting seed indoors. It is caused by the moist soil that meets warm indoor air, it then makes it look as if someone has pinched-off the seedlings at the soil level). But, I simply did not have any milled sphagnum moss on hand and I will have to replenish some of my gardening supplies soon!

One Final Note …

Sadly, this year’s New England Spring Flower Show has been canceled. In its place, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society has initiated a new show called Blooms! that will be held at two venues. One is in Downtown Boston from March 13th through the 15th and the other is at Simon Malls from March 12th through the 22nd, 2009. “BLOOMS! is not intended to replace the historic New England Flower Show. BLOOMS! is intended to continue the Mass Hort tradition of celebrating Spring in Boston! …”

In addition, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is asking for donations to bring back the New England Flower Show in 2010. For more information, visit New England Spring Flower Show!

For a few images from last year’s show posted to my blog, visit “Two Tickets to Springtime, Please!”

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To me it is anyway, to see an Eastern Bluebird here in winter? I thought bluebirds were insect eaters.

Photo taken January 26, 2009! My apologies for the poor background, I was just so excited to see an Eastern Bluebird in winter!

Photo taken January 26, 2009! My apologies for the poor background, I was just so excited to see an Eastern Bluebird in winter!

Of course, the northern line has been moving up for many species of birds. Just more evidence of global warming and climate change. Still, this is my first siting of bluebirds, EVER, and just to think, my first siting came in winter!

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My apologies if I sound a bit defensive here, but, whenever I mention to friends, relatives and neighbors that I prefer to trap (in Havahart® traps) and relocate mice (to places like a local park, NOT to another neighbors yard) as opposed to killing them with poisons, more often than not, what I get in return is a little smirk and, sometimes, even a little chuckle. Well, just yesterday, I read an article in Tufts Journal titled “Rescuing the Raptors by Jacqueline Mitchell” that, in my view at least, has finally validated my methods.

In part, the article was about the way in which hawks that dine on rodents that have consumed a commonly available over-the-counter poison (brodifacoum) can eventually die of that same poison! Apparently, this poison, an anticoagulant, “metabolizes slowly and accumulates in the liver, a raptor feeding on poisoned rodents can build up toxic levels over time.” Thus, while the rodent takes several days to die, the hawks can die an even slower death simply because they have not consumed the poison directly.

Okay, I admit, I knew nothing of this before reading the article! I also admit that I used to use those poisons but, after seeing a mouse convulsing on my cellar floor shortly after setting out trays of the poison, … well, that just “turned me off” from that method of ridding my home of the little critters. It was then that I turned to the Havahart® traps instead.

So, go ahead and smirk, go ahead an chuckle! I have been a bird lover for several decades and, I especially love raptors. And that I turned to “trapping and relocating” rodents just may have saved even one red-tailed hawk?! Well, I say that’s all the better.

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Well, I sure hope so! I can tell you one thing for certain though, I know that I’ve missed blogging and now, I’ve got so much to catch up with that I don’t really know where to begin! And, I’ve never really been far away either, just incredibly busy.

For one thing, I finished another decoy head painting, a Mallard this time. (Hey Bill, looks like I’ve got a series going now too. However, with your third painting,

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

you’re still one ahead of me.) I’ve been using these decoy paintings to experiment with different media or methods for the details and such. For example, on the Canvasback painting, I used watercolor with airbrush and traditional brush and on the Mallard, it’s watercolor with airbrush, traditional brush and colored pencils with “stumps,” specifically on the bill (and no, that’s not Bill) and the neck. I’ve also been laying down the background color first which worked well on the Canvasback but not so well on the Mallard.

I’ve now started working on a decorative Green Wing Teal carving that was done by a friend named Francis X. McHugh. He passed away in late 2000 from lung cancer and, to my knowledge at least, he never smoked a day in his life! But he did carve decoys, which creates a very fine sawdust that’s more like baking flour and he used acrylics in an airbrush without wearing a mask or using some other means of ventilation. There’s a lesson in there folks! But, enough of that, now back to the painting. This time, I won’t lay down the background until I’m finished with painting the head, we’ll see how that works. In addition, I thought I might take photos of the work in progress then post them on this blog (or maybe another blog I’ve been putting together [on WordPress, of course]).

Another project that has been keeping me busy is my latest “e-commerce” venture. I’m now on CafePress! (Have patience, though, it’s brand new! A work in progress. I’m still learnin’ how the site works, how to promote it, and so on.) You see, I noticed a number of my images from this blog that many of my visitors seemed especially drawn to, so, I decided to open a CafePress shop where I submit my images, select products that I want my images to be printed on such as post cards, note cards, mousepads, mugs, sweatshirts, etc. and CafePress does the rest. Earlier, I had started putting my images on Etsy (note my Etsy page), however, that site took on a life of its own and became more of an outlet for my sewing or handmade items. CafePress will remain for photos and art from this blog as well as some new stuff.

So, what do you think? I’ve got so much more to write about but I’m still busy with other things too. I promise, though, I’ll be back with blog entries a bit more often ’cause I just can’t stay away from it! It’s addictive! 😀

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Just yesterday, I was reminded (via an e-newsletter) about an art festival that I had attended far too many years ago yet the memory of that event stays with me as though I had attended just yesterday!

It is held each November (the 14th through the 16th of this year) in Easton, MD and this year’s event marks the 38th. It’s “official” title is, simply, the Waterfowl Festival, however, most folks refer to it as the Easton Waterfowl Festival. The whole community gets involved, closing off the colonial center to automobile traffic and using its many fine shops and galleries as venues to display wildlife art, prints, decoys, crafts, etc.

When I attended the event, the Tidewater Inn was the “centerpiece” so to speak. One room called the “Gold Room” was used to display the original works and many of the artists were there, too, to talk to visitors, sign autographs, and so on.

Folks lining up to enter the Gold Room in the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Folks lining up to enter the Gold Room in the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Hot refreshments are provided to visitors by street vendors.

Hot refreshments are provided to visitors by street vendors.

At least in past years, and probably so even today, a World Class waterfowl carver is invited to create a special piece that is then displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn. During the year that I was there, the carving was that of our nation’s symbol, the Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Bald Eagle carving by Jett Brunet displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

I know, I know! This is just a tiny sampling of what you would see there and, I really can’t show you any art. There are those artists who are opposed to having their works photographed by the general public. But, really, if you love art, especially wildlife art, then you MUST attend this event at least once in your lifetime. It is, after all, an art festival extraordinaire!

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This past May, with much sadness and disappointment, one of my all time favorite magazines titled Wildlife Art, ceased publication. Perhaps what makes this an even sadder event for me, at least, is the fact that it was this magazine that was the first to publish a nature photograph of mine with a byline as well as a few Field Notes and even a Letter to the Editor.

Nature's Perfection Magnified appeared in the September/October 1998 issue of Wildlife Art magazine.

Nature's Perfection Magnified by Janet P. Wilkins appeared in the September/October 1998 issue of Wildlife Art magazine.

But, what makes Wildlife Art‘s disappearance even worse is that for wildlife or nature art enthusiasts like myself, Wildlife Art magazine was an invaluable source of information; everything from listings of new original art or prints, gallery and exhibit announcements, artist accomplishments, upcoming competitions, etc. No doubt, other art magazines and art websites will take up at least some of the slack; in fact, some have already begun to do so. But Wildlife Art magazine was so much more; it was a beautiful print publication, one whose issues became “collectables” in their own right! To put it another way, Wildlife Art magazine had, at one time, been all things to all lovers of the wildlife and nature art genres.

So, what part can I play now? Well, while I certainly can’t do all that Wildlife Art magazine managed, I can, like those aforementioned other art magazines and websites, contribute to taking up at least some of the slack too. Thus, to begin, I have already created a new page for this blog where I will post contact information, due dates and websites (when one is available) to those conservation stamp art competitions that are open to all. Later, I will create other new pages for some of the wildlife and nature art exhibits and calls for entries as the information is made available or, to be more accurate, as I find the information. Actually, to some extent, I’ve been doing this all along for a few competitions and exhibits; they are listed in my blogroll. I feel that this is a good start! And, as time goes on, I’m sure that I will find many more ways in which I can contribute too.

Finally, to those of you planning on entering a few of these competitions, may I wish you all the best of luck!

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