I saw a patch of blue in the smoke-filled landscape today. Air quality is hazardous and skies are smoky over Bend, Oregon, but one of my notoriously camera-shy mountain bluebirds paused for a portrait. I needed that today! My main computer decided it no longer wanted to wake up from sleep mode.
Here is the air quality reading yesterday afternoon over Bend.
Here are the readings from in and around Bend yesterday.
Fires are far from Bend, but wind blew smoke our way.
Wildfires are raging over much of the west. We are looking forward to a little rain this week.
Thanks to the firefighters at work on these fires! May they find their own patch of blue.
I’m featuring pictures of Plateau Indian beaded moccasins for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. The challenge this week is “A labor of love.”
After so much was taken away from Native Americans, creating beadwork became a labor of love. They preserved parts of their culture by decorating everyday items.
Prior to the European invasion of North America, Native Americans decorated their clothing with shells, porcupine quills, and bones.
In the early years of European settlement, pony beads were often offered in trade. Seed beads became available in the late 1800s. Seed beads are smaller and come in a wider variety of colors compared to pony beads.
Many of the designs used in the early years of beading were geometric. They generally included symbols important to specific tribes and regions.
Techniques for applying the beads varied. One technique involved threading several beads onto a thread. Thread on a second needle tacked these lines of beads onto the material.
By the late 1800s, realistic designs became more common. For example, patterns often included local flowers and wildlife.
In the early 1900s, more types of beads were available and designs became more elaborate. Interest in buying beadwork increased. As a result, designs changed to include marketable patterns, including American flags.
These Plateau Indian beaded moccasins, displayed at the High Desert Museum like works of art, showcase the skills of their makers.
When I first saw this praying mantis on hop plants in our garden of plenty, I thought it must be a species I had never seen. Its coloring was so light it was almost white. I learned that when some types of mantis shed their skin, they stay white for a short period of time. They can molt 10 times before reaching their adult size. This one will probably turn green, like others I have seen on our property.
The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is to pick images that go with five possible words. I chose to use all five.
I am featuring pictures from a late September trip to The Oregon Garden, in Silverton, Oregon. It’s an 80-acre botanical garden that is beautiful to visit during any season.
This mixed border is an “exuberant” mix of colorful flowers of various sizes and textures.
This planting looked “comfortable” with every plant spaced out so you can appreciate the details.
These chrysanthemums are “crowded” together in a quilt of color.
This landscape is “growing” red as fall approaches.
The cactus garden is “tangled” with the spiky leaves of prickly pear.
It can get crowded at The Oregon Garden, so if you don’t want to get tangled in traffic, plan your visit for a comfortable time of day so you can experience this growing attraction with the exuberance it deserves.
Last year we started to create a new garden space in our backyard. After a lot of work, it’s looking like a garden of plenty now.
This is how it looked several years ago when we bought the place. The house included a fenced dog run with a heated doghouse.
Some of the beds in our newly-created garden are bordered by rocks collected on our property, and others are store bought. Smaller rocks we collected on our rock hounding adventures decorate the edges of the raised beds. See the obsidian from Glass Buttes?
What’s growing in our garden
This year we have lots of flowers filling in the spaces between the fruits and vegetables. The flowers include sunflowers, Bachelor’s buttons, sweet alyssum, clematis, hollyhocks, nasturtium, and poppies.
The sunflowers grew so tall, we had to clip through the bird netting to allow them to reach their full height.
We’ve had a great crop of veggies including kohlrabi, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beets.
The raspberries we put in last year are finally producing. We had a few strawberries this year in the garden and they were tasty and sweet.
The garden is fenced with two kinds of fencing and bird netting, but we still find unexpected visitors. This tree frog looked very comfortable around the beet plants.
Our fruit and vegetable garden has filled out and the rest of the landscaping has too. Here’s what it looks like now.
The spruce trees are huge and the birds love them. The Russian sage, the large shrub with purple flowers in the middle of the picture, is more than six feet tall.
Like many of you out there, we are putting more time into gardening this year. Our repurposed dog run has been transformed into a garden of plenty.
I am sharing photos of some of my household treasures taken from different angles. I used a tabletop studio to take these pictures. The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Everyday Objects.
The first two pictures are of a cricket cage I’ve had since I was about eight years old. I distinctly remember taking it in for Show and Tell. The crickets were chirping in the darkness within my school desk.
This is an antique egg beater I purchased at an antique show in Portland, Oregon. I’m not sure if the parts were meant to go together but that’s how I bought it. I use it regularly and it works great!
This is one of my favorite rocks. I collected it near Thermopolis, Wyoming at a place called the Smorgasbord. I was carrying a field thermometer with me and I will always remember the reading that day. 126 degrees Fahrenheit!
The last two pictures are of a fork and spoon I used as a toddler. The backs are stamped “Atla – Denmark.” It’s not surprising that I have a deep love of wild creatures after learning how to eat with this particular fork and spoon.
All of these items have one thing in common. When people see them, they want to touch them and look at them more closely. Household treasures can be a treat to the eyes and your other senses.
I have been busy filling up space and time by creating a High Desert mural. I recently posted more details on creating my Outdoor Pronghorn Painting. This weekend I added three additional paintings to the mural.
As I mentioned in my post about the pronghorn painting, I use photos I have taken and other sources to do my first sketches. I like to refer back to field guides and set them up for easy viewing.
Creamy white paint is painted onto each piece to make the colors stand out. Here are the three back painted pieces.
Once I start applying the colors, the piece of paper I use for cleaning my brushes and trying out color mixes becomes a work of art.
Why did I choose these specific critters? They are all characters in books I’m working on. I once heard an author speak about surrounding himself with “artifacts” his characters use while he is writing. I’m displaying some of my characters so that I’ll see them every day, even on the days I’m frustrated with writing and revising.
Black-billed magpies are one of my favorite local birds. In my work-in-progress book, the magpie character is named a Chinese word that means “bright.” They are very intelligent birds.
The golden-mantled ground squirrel helps save the day in the book she is featured in. Her name means “green” in Spanish because she is the protector of green petrified wood.
The American badger is featured as a secondary character and is also featured in a fable. Though unnamed, the badgers are important characters.
I particularly liked how this painting turned out – especially the eye. This badger is guarding some of the rocks featured in my I like rocks! post.
With the addition of these three animals, my High Desert mural is complete. Well… at least until I come up with another idea for a book. 😉
When you click on a fabric, it gives you a couple size options. The 13″ x 7″ sample is enough to make a mask and it only cost $5.00 (plus shipping). Then you select which fabric you want. There are 27 different kinds of fabric available! I chose cotton sheeting.
If you click on the 13″ x 7″ sample size and you don’t like how the pattern fits, you can click the customize design button. This screen grab shows what comes up. You can change how the pattern repeats or make it larger or smaller. I made the pattern smaller on the crane fabric I chose.
Many of the fabrics also allow you to choose colors. See the options with this fabric?
This isn’t exactly designing your own fabric from scratch, like on Project Runway, but you get some creative control.
Things to keep in mind when creating masks
It took about three weeks for my fabric samples to be shipped to me. When they arrived, I had a problem. The pattern I use has casing for the elastic to go through. You need two 1 1/2″ x 4″ pieces for each mask.
I didn’t want to buy a whole package of bias tape or seam binding so I made my own. I cut off the white fabric at the bottom of each sample and used fabric paint to color it to match. If you choose this option, follow the fabric paint directions carefully.
The masks I make have a pocket so additional layers can be inserted. They also include a place to insert wire on the top edge so you can shape the mask to fit your face.
Be careful when you are laying out your fabric or you may accidentally sew the fabric pattern upside down like I did on some of my Scooby masks. Ruh-roh!
You should also think about how the pattern will look when it’s broken up by the pleats on the mask. For example, look at how this fabric turned out in the finished mask.
I finished all the edges with zigzag stitching so I used a lot of thread on these masks. When I finished the last mask, I looked up to see how much thread was left on the spool. I think this must be where the saying, “Hanging on by a thread” came from. 😀
If you’re looking for new ideas for creating masks, consider making face masks with customized fabric.
Here’s an outdoor pronghorn painting I did in our backyard. It’s the first Friday of the month so it’s time to share your First Friday Art. If you have artwork you would like to share, use the First Friday Art tag.
We have an 8 x 16 foot shed in the backyard and it had a boring blank west-facing wall. It needed something to make it more interesting. I thought of painting a pronghorn, one of my favorite critters.
I developed an appreciation for pronghorns many years ago when I did fieldwork at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeastern Oregon. Pronghorns, AKA antelope, are native in parts of western North America and they’re common at the refuge.
Steps taken to create the outdoor pronghorn painting
First I brightened up the side of the shed with some leftover light blue paint. Then I sketched out the pronghorn from pictures I had taken, supplemented with other source materials.
For some people doing the initial sketch is easy, but it’s not for me. Do you know what the picture below is?
Eraser dust! I did a lot of erasing and redrawing.
The next step was back painting the silhouette of the pronghorn. I used an off white paint – more leftovers – to help the colors pop.
Next I sketched over the white paint.
Then I painted in the big blocks of color and added shading. The last thing I paint is the eye. It can give a painting life.
A dead juniper branch and igneous rock collected from my property helped the painting fit in with our High Desert setting.
There will be more High Desert creatures added to this piece. I’ll start work on a badger, black-billed magpie, and golden-mantled ground squirrel.
I filled up some of my empty space (and empty time) creating this outdoor pronghorn painting. Hope you are finding time to be creative!
To weed or not to weed. Sometimes weeding is a big job, so how can you tell which plant is a weed?
Are the tall plants in this photo weeds that I should pull?
What about this plant with pretty purple flowers?
Are these two plants weeds?
You can’t always determine what kind of plant it is, but plant ID tools will help.
Websites & Apps
A good place to start, is the Wildflower Search website. You can narrow down the possibilities by clicking on a map with the general location you saw the plant. You can narrow it down more by inputting if it’s a tree, shrub, flower, grass, etc. Entering the color of the flower and the time of year you observed it narrows it down even more. This site goes into more detail with options including the growth pattern of leaves and the number of flower petals but most of the time, just selecting the options already mentioned helps determine what it is.
Here in Oregon, you can get a paid app for Oregon Wildflower identification. It has similar features to the Wildflower Search site. This app is great to have on your phone when you’re out in the field. Is there a plant ID app where you live? They are a great resource!
I saved my favorite plant identification tool for last. Install the Google Lens app and take a picture with your phone. Open the picture and click on the icon and your screen will sparkle like it’s been sprinkled with pixie dust. Then it will magically show you pictures with names of possible plants. I have also used this app for identifying random antiques, but identifying plants is what I use it for the most. Does Google Lens work perfectly in identifying everything? No! Yesterday I took a picture of a lizard on a juniper tree. It told me it was a pangolin, a type of scaly anteater, on bamboo. 😀 However, Google Lens usually narrows things down and then you can refer to field guides, etc.
So back to my original questions about if I should pull the plants pictured.
Google Lens tells me the first plant is a type of mullein. They are considered a weed where I live. However, birds love the seeds on those tall stalks so I leave a few in the landscaping for them. It’s okay to keep plants that aren’t native if you keep them from getting out of control.
The second plant, with the pretty purple flowers, is spotted knapweed. It is so invasive around Central Oregon that you can be fined up to $750 a day per lot. I pull every one of those I see. The local Noxious Weed Program helps landowners identify aggressive, non-native plants.
The last picture is a twofer. Are these plants weeds? I can click on each plant and Google Lens will tell me what they are. The yellow flowered plant is Oregon sunshine. This native plant grows like a weed, but I love its cheerful color and long-lasting blooms so I don’t pull it. The pink flowered plant is iceplant. It’s an escapee from a landscaped part of our yard. It gets no water where it is but it’s doing great! Both these plants will stay where they are.
Good luck with your attempts at plant ID. Hope these tools help.