Have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the Yuletide gay.
~Ralph Blane~

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Camo Toad

I saw movement in the weeds next to the raised bed in the vegetable garden.
I stepped back in quick reaction and then took a closer look.
My eyes didn't focus at first. I thought I saw a rock below the stinging nettles. Then, slowly, a shape appeared.
I looked closer...
There, under the weeds, in between the dirt and rocks, was a toad. This toad was the same color as the dirt. He was so camouflaged that I almost didn't see him.
He was "walking" not hoping and he had warts, so I think he was a small toad.
 Amazing, how this little creature blended in with his surroundings. Another phenomena of Mother Nature... another lesson that we can learn about being who we are and living within the confines of our nature.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A cold but lovely morning.

No, it didn't snow...
I woke up to see the backyard frozen and covered with frost.
Everything was transformed. A covering of frost made the world outside look crisp and clean as the sun came up through the clouds.
After I drank my coffee and put some warm clothes on, I went outside with the dogs. Most of the frost was gone already.
The Prospector had filled the bird feeders, earlier, while I was getting dressed.
This made the yellow finches very happy. We hadn't filled the feeders for a few days because of the rain.
I think they were discussing the lack of food the last few days.
"You know, Mazie, it's just awful how this seed seems to come and go."
"Well, we better stop talking and eat. There may not be any seed tomorrow."
And then they all got serious about eating their share.

And the sleepy little bee on the pansy just sat there waiting for the warmth of the sun to heat him up, so he could fly away.
He buzzed at me softly as I took his picture... so I left him to wake up at his own pace.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Road Checks and Dirty Jobs

The Prospector and I took a drive up the road to the highway and down to the river this morning. After raining all night and hearing what I thought was a tree falling, we decided we had better check the road.
There were a few slides on the sides of the road.
We don't worry too much about these rock slides as long as they are not eroding the dirt under some big tree. The city comes down here frequently enough, checking for dangerous slides and trees that are hanging over the road, so we don't call them unless it's a tree or slide that we can't drive around. I don't know what I heard last night but I really thought it was a tree falling. I even felt the vibration. I haven't been up above the house in a few days so the upper road may be a mess. I'm sure I heard a tree fall... somewhere.
The road was in good shape. The drive down to the river... beautiful. It wasn't raining then, so I was able to take some pictures without raindrops on the camera lens... or maneuvering an umbrella and the camera at the same time... or taking shots hanging out of an open window.  
The creek on our property was filled with water. We have hear it from the house for three days now, as it barreled down to the Mokelumne River.
This is my favorite creek in winter. It comes right down through our property and under the road.
When we first moved here we use to hike up the side of this creek and follow it to an old mine and the upper part of the creek to the west. It was a beautiful hike but the area was always covered with too much poison oak.
A fellow photographer cut and cleared some of the poison oak (and other branches) away recently. Now there is a better view of the creek and falls. Thanks Larry.
This morning  we stopped and I took more pictures. I have hundreds... but I always think that I need to take "Just one more".
We drove back up to the house and The Prospector dropped me off half way up to our house, so I could get some exercise. It was windy and cold but I took a few pictures.
One was of a wildflower that had survived the night...
... and a view of the mountains to the east with budding poison oak branches in front of them.
And a small Manzanita bush that was blooming.
 It was tricked into thinking this weather was going to stay Springlike until Summer. The wild forest does its thing, according to the seasons, and doesn't seem to care about a day or two when Winter comes back.
 Now, it is shivering in the cold wind. But, it's so pretty with its little white flowers all over it.

 This morning it was almost freezing. There was snow on Butte Mt. but all was gone by mid day. It seems much colder today and if it continues to rain we could get a dusting of snow tomorrow morning.
I hope... I hope... I hope.
After lunch I decided to do the job that I have been putting off all week. I will be helping with the Taste of the Arts classes that are put on by the Art Council here in Amador County and it's on Saturday. We will be teaching gourd embellishment and painting. The class has become very popular and we have three classes filled. That means 45 students. That means 45 clean gourds for them. The club pitched in and cleaned gourds for us and this afternoon I cleaned four large ones to help out.
These gourds were REALLY dirty and required soaking before they could be scrubbed. So I filled the utility sink with soap, water and a little Clorox and left them in there for about an hour, turning them once in a while.
Then I started scrubbing them with a rough nylon sponge. Sometimes you need a wire brush or a knife (being careful not to scratch the surface too much) to get the really bad mold and mildew off. But if they have soaked quite a while, usually the outside of the gourd comes clean.
The photo above shows the soaked, dirty gourd and the same gourd after I scrubbed  an area on one side.
Cleaning takes quite a while and you have to get it all off or there will be places where paint won't stick and stain will look odd because the waxy coating blocks the gourd from taking in the paint or stain.
Another gourd was harder than the rest to clean.
It had scars from where it laid on the vines and bugs had eaten holes in it. The scars will be part of the art because they are there forever.
The gourds are cleaned and ready for the students.

Gourds are beautiful... natural, organic and useful for so many things. I haven't been working on them too much lately, but taking that workshop a while back and looking at the possibilities of these clean gourds, makes me want to sit and work on one. We'll see. I've got a lot of knitting to do and it's not like I haven't got anything else to do around here. Dust and Corgi hair is accumulating everywhere. There is another Nuno scarf to be made when I recover from my "disaster" last week.
 But... these gourds are talking to me and when a gourd talks to you... you're suppose to listen.
The old saying is "Wait until the gourd tells you what it wants to be." so...
I can't create anything with these "taste of the art" gourds. They are for the class this Saturday. But there are a FEW out in the garage that have been screaming at me for months.
 I'm sure that these four new gourds are sitting in the laundry room telling each other that they are clean, beautiful and ready to party. I will let you know if they say anything important.