Intermission: Winter Wind Rattlers

2023 journal page with a few of the actual seed pods scattered about

January 18, 2023

Not wild, but wildly rattling in the wind? Not snakes, but the showy seed pods from a row of Chinese Lantern trees, hanging on for dear life throughout our numerous winter wind events.

We frequently park near 8 of these non-native trees used as sidewalk landscaping, just before the Copper trailhead. After wondering for several years what these medium sized trees are, in September 2020, discovering the answer, I drew them out …… seed pods, leaves and all.

Searching for something wintery to add to my journal this year, these hardy seed pods called loudly. It was hard to resist!

Browsing my 2020 journals, I came across my first drawing. Always fun to see if and how my technique has changed. Can you detect the differences?

2020 journal page

What’s nature displaying in your world right now?


Intermission: Townsend’s Solitaire Comes Calling

January 11, 2023

Who doesn’t love birds? Watching them, listening to them, photographing them, and in my case drawing them. And it’s especially exciting when a new visitor comes calling. When the bird is the first I’ve ever sighted, automatically becoming a new addition to my life list!

There I was, working away on one of my Sonoran Desert posts, when I glanced up from my sketchbook and noticed an unfamiliar bird standing tall under our big juniper tree. Not one of the hundreds of dark-eyed juncos that feast all winter below our feeders. Definitely larger than the comical juniper titmice and noisy mountain chickadees that pop in and out conducting their continual grab-a-seed-and-dash maneuvers. Hmmmmm ….. a bit larger than our resident canyon and spotted towhees, but slimmer than the Woodhouse’s scrub jay. An American robin? A western bluebird? Certainly similar, but not quite; certainly a member of the thrush family?

Turned out he was one of the thrush species …. not the robin or bluebird, but the beautifully sleek Townsend’s Solitaire. For a brief moment he seemed to be evaluating the quality of juniper berries lying beneath the tree. Not wanting to spook him, I watched in muted excitement, then dared to make a move for my camera. He stayed just long enough to bend over for a bird’s-eye look, promptly dismissing our berry crop, and off he flew. Somehow, while juggling my field guide, binoculars and camera, I managed to snap a photo to confirm my sighting with iNaturalist. Confirmed! How cool was that!

It was a great day!

I’ve watched every day since to see if this one or more Townsend’s Solitaires drop by. No luck yet, but now I know they’re around. Maybe I’ll catch them this Spring breeding, nesting, but more likely singing and calling from the treetops while defending their territory full of delicious juniper berries!

What’s nature displaying in your world right now?


Intermission: Searching for Spring

January 14-15, 2023

Right now I’m watching it snow …… again. Logic tells me this moisture is so necessary for our drought-stressed juniper and piñon pine that provides year-round food and cover for a host of birds and mammals that call the East Mountains home. Our annual and perennial wildflowers, oaks and native shrubs depend on winter rains and snows to flourish in the growing season. So I say, “bring it on, Mother Nature!”

But by January and February I do tire of brown. My animal brain needs of a shot of “Spring Green” this time of year. Just a little bit to carry me through the winter; a tiny bit in anticipation of full-blown Spring is just the ticket!

This is why we take regular trips down our mountain to enjoy the Albuquerque foothills. It’s amazing the difference a 2,000 foot change in elevation can make in nearly everything.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love living at 7,300 feet, in the shadow of majestic Sandia Mountain, and in the winter we sometimes experience days of cloud cover and fog. So down the mountain we go, in search of sun, warmth, and Spring Green.

And to my delight, here’s what I found! “Nature’s first green is gold.” And indeed it is!

What’s nature displaying in your world right now?


It’s a “New” Year…Happy 2023!

January 1, 2023

I usually don’t commit to a single word to spark my inspiration for an entire year … there are so many! But, as this is the beginning of a brand New Year, and so many New creative and adventurous opportunities lie ahead, I’ve decided to challenge myself with discovering all things “New!”  Ta-da …. My word for 2023 is officially “New!”

I’m constantly inspired by my creative friends who dare to explore New ways to express themselves …… Elaine who writes beautiful and sometimes unusual poetry …… Susan, Jane and all of my Zentangle friends, who turn inked lines into magic ….. and last, but far from least, Karen, a wonderful artist, kayaker and outdoor enthusiast, who captures her discoveries and adventures in her nature journals (visit Karen’s blog and see for yourself! https://iamchasingbutterflies.wordpress.com).  

And of course there’s my Konstant Kat, Flambé, who pushed and prodded me to create a New image of her curious and playful side.  So I opened a New journal to celebrate 2023, and redressed Kat anew.  A smiling Flambé must mean a good beginning to this New Year, right!

Now for the hard part …… I’ll strive to break out of my usual-usual, and explore New-to-Me things, along with trying some New approaches to my journaling and art. I’m certain Flambé will be keeping an eye on me, and I hope you do too. Stay tuned!  

Thank you followers ….. for being there and also for encouraging me to carry on.  I’d love to know what you like about my posts and what you’d like to see more of and/or New.  What and who will inspire and challenge you to be your best during this year-long journey that lies ahead as we take another spin together around the Sun aboard planet Earth?

Wishing you an exciting 2023, full of happiness and health, and most of all laughter and fun!


Summer Bugs and Botany: Cochineal Dye Making

It was a rainy day in most of NM, but what a welcome relief to be getting moisture! As we hastily hiked the lower Copper Trails, we noticed the prickly pear seemed to be draped in a more-than-usual white fuzz, and it wasn’t cotton ball shaped but dripping and running down hundreds of cactus pads. Every direction we turned we found nearly every prickly pear to be covered………………….
And then we spotted hundreds of thousands of brilliant scarlet red bodies of the cochineal insect ….. exposed, naked and frantically trying to hold onto their food source, the vertical surfaces of prickly pear pads.  The rain had “melted” their protective coats of fine white wax and the green pads of the cactus looked white washed. 

Opportunity!

Continue reading “Summer Bugs and Botany: Cochineal Dye Making”

Summer Botany: Wild About Wild Potatoes

One of the weediest places we camped during our recent Reservoir tour, Santa Cruz Recreation Area, became a floral hot spot of discovery, at least for me. I shared a photo sampling of some of the flora in my last post……

Two new-to-me members of the Potato family really stood out. A plant called Greenleaf Five-eyes and another simply called Wild Potato.

Continue reading “Summer Botany: Wild About Wild Potatoes”

Summer Botany: My “Crayola” Potato

Oh I do love purple …… not sure why? Anything purple and any shade of purple ….. even a hint of purple will do! As a kid (then and now) my most treasured possession was a new box of crayons. Breaking the seal and inhaling that delicious aroma of color (admit it …. you know the smell) was only the first step in my love affair. Removing each crayon, one-by-one, and taking them for a test drive soon followed, with special care and attention paid to the purples, with names like ……….

Vivid violet, wisteria, twilight lavender, pearly purple, purple pizzazz and purple mountain’s majesty. Who wouldn’t love cyber grape and lilac; or plump purple and sugar plum. How could here be so many purples!

So when I literally stumbled into a mound of the exquisitely purple-hued Silverleaf Nightshade, my surprise and delight was audible. While carefully removing countless nettle-like prickles from my hands, Roy heard me explain, “My “Crayola” Potato!”

Continue reading “Summer Botany: My “Crayola” Potato”

Summer Botany: Meet the Milkweeds

Strolling the neighborhood on a cool July morning, in search of any newly-blooming botanical delights (thanks to our all-too-brief bout of monsoonal rains), from a distance I recognized something different. From a distance it looked like a common pepper plant, or maybe a spectacle pod? Coming closer I thought, “shepherd’s purse” with those tiny satchel-like seeds!  Or could it be bedstraw, with such an intoxicating fragrance?  Finally facing this spindly, narrow-leafed plant, I reached down to a stem and prepared to take a sniff when I was surprised twice!

An ant that had been busy gathering nectar (?) had leaped into my hand and bit me, hard! Obviously he was extremely upset at being disturbed and wanted me to know about it. I instantly dropped the stem and when I flicked the ant from my now throbbing finger, noticed an army of busy ants climbing up and down this tasty plant.

It was then that my surprise was complete. The flowers were unmistakable and recognizable.  This plant was a member of the Dogbane family ….. a beautiful Milkweed! Now I had to learn which species of Asclepias this one was that had such tiny flowers?

Continue reading “Summer Botany: Meet the Milkweeds”