Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Large-flowered Trillium

Large-flowered Trillium Watercolor 7 inches by 5 inches

I was happy to get back to painting last week. For the previous two weeks, Tom and I were focused on nature related activities...first the trip to Magee Marsh and then the Hug the Earth filming.

I used a photo taken at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary as inspiration for this painting. Painting a white flower with shadows on it is challenging. Artists use various colors for the shadows. For this one I used mostly Ultramarine blue deep. French ultramarine blue and Ultramarine blue are two other possibilities. I am painting a second similar picture and may experiment with a different blue. The random striped background is obtained by laying lightweight plastic wrap on wet watercolor and leaving it there until the paint dries.

I appreciate everyone who manages to get through the commenting process. Several people have told me they have tried to comment but have been stymied by the process. I know the feeling. Other bloggers I follow use this system and I can only sometimes get a message posted. I will continue to look for other comment posting options that protect from viruses.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Daily Word...Harmony

Yesterday afternoon, Stephen and I looked at the flowers in the yard as we usually do.  The air was hot and humid.  We could see darkness in the west.  The storms were on their way.  I knew the peony blossoms would be destroyed so I cut the prettiest ones and added sprigs of sage for contrasting color.  Peonies are one of Stephen's favorite flowers because  they bloom on his birthday.

This morning I was reading Daily Word as usual.  After birding at Magee Marsh and spending a week with the Banana Slug String Band at the Hug the Earth program, the words nicely summarized my thoughts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Banana Slug String Band...Hug the Earth Wrap Up...Part 1

After entertaining thousands of Miami County students for four days, here is the Banana Slugs String Band still full of energy and song on Saturday at Garbry Big Woods Reserve entertaining the public at their final concert of the week.

The week before the Slugs came was beautiful in the Miami Valley.  The week they were here, there was rain during the week but none on Saturday.  The festival was held mostly in buildings at the Miami County Fair Grounds on Thursday and Friday because of the rain.  That didn't stop kindergarteners from having a great time singing with Marine Mark dressed as a Giant Redwood.

Here is Tom filming from the back of the building.  On the right, hoisted on a ladder, is the fixed video camera that takes the distant video.  Tom is zooming in and getting close ups.  Back home at the computer he merges the two videos so he has a combination of long and close views.  He also takes still photos with another camera to intersperse.  I take video and photos with my little camera of events he doesn't get to for a variety of reasons.  After ten plus years, he has a system that works.  The finished products will be shown on public access TV stations in the area and on U Tube through the park district's web site.  The primary purpose is so the students and their families can see their performances.

Next post...a few of the other events and more of the Banana Slugs String Band.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Stephen

Stephen's birth announcement.  Ray, his dad, who designed the announcement, must have realized intuitively that Stephen would grow up to be a railroad fan.

Stephen at four months with his big brothers

 Stephen at Christmas, age 1 and 1/2.

Stephen in 2000.

 Stephen and James, his brother, with Thomas in Whitewater, Indiana.

Stephen  in the shirt with the NIC on it)  helped with the middle school garden a project in conjunction with the Miami County Parks District. James, an eighth grade student, ( in the white shirt with colored speckles)  was one of the students working on the project.  I took photos.  Everyone is taking a snack break.

Stephen wearing his  CSX shirt, holding a model train and a can of Coke.  These are some of his favorite things.


 Stephen with a sycamore seed ball that he found at Brukner.  He is great to walk with.  He sees a lot that I miss.

  Stephen holding the dump truck he made with a kit.

Have a great day, Stephen.

 Lots of love from Grandma       

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What IS a Banana Slug?

I am a full-fledged member of the Banana Slug Club.  Here I am at the initiation ceremony.  Notice the size of the Banana Slug.  They can be over nine inches long.  Tom captured the ceremony on VHS tape ten years ago.  This was before he had progressed to digital videos. 

With me is a member of the Banana Slug String Band, Steve Van Zandt, also known as Solar Steve.  The band from the Santa Cruz area of California named themselves after the banana slugs found along the coast of California, often among the giant Redwoods.  The band specializes in environmental education for young people through the use of songs and other activities.  They have a wonderful collection of CDs available at their web site.  I like their songs because of the environmental themes running through them but also because they use many musical genres. Water Cycle Boogie is a Boogie.  Penguin Parade is from the upbeat New Orleans tradition. The River Song is contemplative and peaceful.  Each year the band spends most of a week  at Garbry Big Woods Reserve jamming with elementary children from our county.  They bring their environmental message to about three thousand children in our county each year.

Banana Slugs are popular in Santa Cruz.  The mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz, is the Banana Slug.  At one time there was a movement to change the mascot to the Sea Lions, but even after a sea lion was painted on the basketball floor, the crowds still rooted for the Slugs.  The powers that be gave in after five years and now it's official.  The UCSC mascot is Sammy the Slug.

Slugs are an important part of the ecosystem.  They are primarily decomposers, turning dead organic material on the forest floor back into soil.  I found the slug in the picture below on the boardwalk at Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary. It is a typical Ohio slug, probably a little over an inch long. I picked it up and put back in the dead leaves so no visitor would accidently step on it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Banana Slugs

"Banana slugs, banana slugs,
I like them. They're beau--tiful."
From the "Banana Slug Song" sung by the Banana Slug String Band of Santa Cruz, California.

This is the song the children of our county sing with great enthusiasm at the Hug The Earth Festival.  If they are encouraging enough, a giant banana slug will  dance the "Oochie Koochie" for them.  The slug is also a great leader for a Conga Line. The giant slug suffers from low self esteem because lots of people call it ugly and slimey.  As a result, it is very shy.  But it opens like a flower when it is in the midst of people who love it.

Another way the children and park district staff  show that they love it is by wearing banana slug antennae. 

 Cinda holding a model of a banana slug, a little larger than life size.  Tom is off to the left filming Cinda's presentation from the doorway.  I am at the back of the classroom videotaping and also taking stills like this one.

Wouldn't it be wonderful for the entire world to sprout Banana Slug antennae?  Think how happy the giant banana slug would be. Your set is in the bin. 

Coming soon...the next chapter...What IS a Banana Slug?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Rock Cycle

There is fun in store for students at this school today.

Cinda is telling the students the story of the rock cyle and how Rocky moves through it from Igneous to Sedimentary to Metamorphic.

The students walked down the hall to another room where Mike Manning, a retired science teacher, had a wonderful display of rocks set up on tables. He brings his collection to various groups in the area.  For more information you can contact him at 937-552-4705.

 He said this was the youngest group he has worked with.  He had no trouble keeping their attention.  The students were fascinated by the stories he told about the rocks.

Here he holds a magnetic rock that a paper clip will cling to.

Mike is holding bauxite and an aluminum can that is made from this rock.

After Mike talked about each rock on the table, he invited the students to come up and touch them.  The students were impressed by how different one rock felt from another. They noted the wide variety of colors.

Here are two of Mike's  geode specimens.

But there was an even greater treat in store. Back in the classroom each group of two students was given a bag of dirt to dump into a seine. The dirt filtered out into the water and wonderful rocks were left behind.

Mike sat up a cabinet with rock samples labeled. The students took the rocks they found and compared them to the ones in the cabinet. Mike helped them find the matches. And best of all the students were allowed to keep the rocks they had found.

The last activity of the day was making the hats the students will wear when they perform with the Banana Slug String Band..

John was wearing the Metamorphic hat when he helped hold up the flannelboard while Cinda told the story of Rocky on the Rock Cycle.  Some of the students made hats like John's.  Others made Igneous hats or Sedementary hats.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Biggest Week in American Birding

Tom and I spent a few days at the birding areas along Lake Erie this past week.  We were there for part of the second annual "Biggest Week in American Birding" which was May 5-15 this year.  The boardwalk at Magee Marsh was the spot to be.  There were birders from all over the United States and Canada.  We also met a large group from England. 

 During spring migration the small swampy woods is filled with hundreds of warblers and other birds.  Tom and I call ourselves experienced birders because we have birded for many years.  An expert birder is a special breed of birder.  We know a few.  Those birders know songs and habits and habitats and expect to find over a hundred species on a good day at the marsh.  We look less vigorously and found 90 species over a four day span.  Most of them we found at Magee Marsh but we also found some at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and at Metzger Marsh, two nearby sites.

The boardwalk is crowded with birders and bird photographers with a huge range of equipment. I took two photos I was pleased with using my little focus and click Sony.

Green Heron

You may not see the American Woodcock. Even though this bird was only a foot from the boardwalk it was still and blended into the foliage.

Here is a closer view. His back is toward us. He has horizonal stripes across his head.

The photos below are some of the pictures were taken by Tom with his Canon and a bigger lens. He took photos one day of the four that we were there. As he said, "I can bird or I can take photos. I can't do both at the same time."

Common Yellowthroat

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Prothonotary Warbler

Trumpeter Swan

Barn Swallows

Gray Catbird


Magnolia Warbler

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Water Cycle Boogie

This is a flannelboard story presented by the educational staff of the Miami County Parks District. It shows the complete water cycle featuring Drip the Drop. To the left is the CD player playing the Water Cyle Boogie.

The Banana Slug Stringband from Santa Cruz, California celebrating the watercycle with students dressed in costume.  Notice some students are Precipitation(Rainbow and raindrops headbands), some are Evaporation(Big sun headbands)and some are Condensation(gray cloud headbands). Doug, the Drop, is leading them in a rousing boogie. "The watercyle goes round and round/ The water cycle goes up and down."  Every spring the band comes to Garbry Big Woods Reserve as part of the park district's Hug the Earth Celebration.

I'll be boogying with students again in a couple weeks. Right now I am having a hard time appreciating water. We have had more rain this spring than in any year since 1932.

The Great Miami River

The Great Miami River Floodplain

As long as the water is outside my basement, I appreciate it a lot more.

I found my basement looking like this on April 15. Since our washer was 23 years old, and there was water under it I thought the washer was leaking so Tom and I went out and bought a new one.

That was not the problem. I looked a little further. A pipe above the washer had water leaks below a joint. I wiped my thumb across the pipe below the joint. I am very strong. I pushed my thumb through the pipe and water from the rinse cycle of the new washer rinsed my hair. But I have Duct Tape.

The laundry piled up.  The pressure on the Duct Tape when the rinse water was being pumped out might have been too much to ask the plucky tape to withstand.

A plumber took a look on April 19.  He said the copper pipe was rotten and needed to be replaced.  He also looked at our two sump pumps which send water coming into the sump hole to the front ditch. One was broken. He said he would replace the pipes and sump pumps on Friday.

On Wednesday morning, April 20, I went to the basement. There was an inch of water over nearly the whole basement. The basement would have been dry if we had had the second sump pump working. Oh, well.

The single  sump pump had the water pumped out by Thursday morning. On Friday morning, the plumber replaced the pipes above the washer and the broken sump pump.


But the next morning there was still water around the washer. The seam between the floor and the wall behind the washer was leaking; the water was flowing from the back wall to the sump pumps beside the front wall.   There was a river of water at the bottom of the stairs.

The plumber has been out again. He thinks he has a solution. He is in the process of getting the necessary parts to cure the back wall problem. Until he returns or the groundwater table lowers, I will walk through water at the bottom of the basement stairs. BUT, I have only a little river to cross, not an ocean.