Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Dog Days...

Backwater - Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

August has arrived...it should still be June as far as I'm concerned but then what I think won't change things so that's that.  I am looking forward to some time...maybe by mid Autumn, that my time will not be tied to deadlines so much and I can once again slow down...take a guiltless nap every once and a while...just stroll around the pasture or down the road with no goal in mind - just chill out and relax.  Boy that actually sounds good!

In the mean time I'm still prepping for a solo showing in early October at the Pearson's Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa...I'll throw out more information closer to the date though.  

I've been really struggling with a landscape here in the studio that did a number on me...but I haven't removed it from the easel yet...maybe I haven't given up on it yet?  That happens; I'm sure I'm not the only person that has run into this dilemma and it won't be my last either I know.

 Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

One thing comes about out here when August rolls around - things are visibly transitioning.  The early to mid summer flowers are finishing up...the Compass plants and Cup Plants are all in flower and maturing, goldenrods are starting to bloom, the liatris are beginning to move along too, the prairie clovers are about done, and the warm season grasses are in flower or early stages of putting on seed.  It's still mid summer (I don't want to rush things) and the prairie is "Pollinator Heaven" right now...and of course the hotter it gets out there - the happier the pollinators seem to be!

Many types of Bumble Bees are busy pollinating 
the Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) blossoms
photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison

A member of the Bacchini sub-family
of Hover Flies (family Syrphidae)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

A member of the Hover Flies family (Syrphidae)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Painted Lady pollinating a Wild Bergamot
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

The Culver's Root here was a big hit one evening down on the pasture...we had lost a good clump to the new septic fields we had installed but thankfully there are still enough to go around here.  We had everything from wasps to Bumble Bees to all kinds of Hover Flies...many of which are quite different looking!

photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison

When you have a lot of pollinators out and about you also get some predator activity, and August is a particularly good time to see all types of spiders out working their webs - especially great to see in the early morning dew.

Pale Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens pallida)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

We also have a couple mid summer woodland types of native flowers blooming here in the north grove right now.  One plant I've seen repeatedly each summer and never caught it in bloom is really putting on a good show right now, and certainly welcomed by the local pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nesting in the yard!  They are commonly referred to as "Jewel Weed"; the type we have here are the Pale Touch-Me-Not - a fun plant to show kids when the seed's ready to disperse!  Just touch a ripe seed pod and "POP" the sheath snaps open and the seed goes flying! This is a fun plant to collect seed from.

White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Our other mid summer woodland bloomer is the White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), a fairly common plant even in disturbed areas...which doesn't surprise me seeing it in the old grove remnant here. Its a great plant for pollinators and lasts well into Fall.

I hope to get out more, not fuss so much about what's taunting me on the easel, and enjoy what summer we still have to enjoy...the bugs aren't so bad right now too so what better reason to get out there!

Thank you for stopping by and visiting the blog - be sure and click on any of the photos for a larger view - Have a Great Summer!!!

Monday, July 1, 2019


 Been a tough May and June for bugs!

Rats, let May and June go by without an entry...had a lot I could have written, just too many interruptions, projects and head in the wrong place I guess...oh ya - and BUGS!

Finished a couple small pieces since the last entry...had a great songbird spring and now a lot going on in the pasture here...uh more than usual, more on that later.

"Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)- Portrait"
(color pencil drawing -  © Bruce A. Morrison)

Did a nice little life size portrait of a Red-bellied Woodpecker a few weeks back...it is just slightly larger than those in the past..I wanted a more-to-life-size presentation, where I felt many of those in the past were a bit under sized.  The Red-bellieds are here year around and are really quite attractive up close, especially the males - as was this color pencil drawing.

"Windrows in Cloud Shadow"
(oil painting -  © Bruce A. Morrison)

Just finished a small oil painting of a pasture down the road about 3-4 miles...It was a great cloud shadow afternoon; I love those days in the landscape...as a kid I used to race them across open fields of a friend's farm.  I added some windrows in the foreground shadow and spot lit the middle distant ground field pattern and bales.  I had issues and hurdles with this one...firstly not getting the foreground dark enough to appear as in cloud shadow - then the middle ground not brightly lit enough to suit me...I spent about 3 weeks glazing the foreground to deepen and cool down the cloud shadowed windrows and foreground trees...then scumbling the middle ground area to make the sunlit pasture and landscape appear warmer and more brightly lit.  In the middle of all this I had cataract surgery in both eyes - wow did that add some issues!!!  In fact the cataracts kept me indoors much of the time, much much too bright outside now, which is improving every day though.

 Male Bobolink in the south pasture
(photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison)

I did try and chase a male Bobolink around the south pasture in dark glasses right after the surgery - didn't want to wait as they're finishing up their nesting and will be gone very soon.  I know I've talked about Bobolinks before more than once; after they finish nesting they will flock up and move around to other areas and parts unknown...will have to wait till next year to see them again.  Anyway - thank goodness for auto focus telephoto lenses, its not easy focusing through dark glasses!

 "White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba)"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Been loving the pastures this summer, so much blooming and each ear a surprise.  About 6 years or so ago I found leaves of a plant tat hadn't shown itself there before...I recognized it as a Baptisia.  The next year I lost track of it, then actually forgot about it.  A couple years ago I saw it again and then remembered the first sighting.  Its gotten bigger each year and this year went into bloom!  A gorgeous plant and blossoms, a Wild White Indigo (Baptisia alba).

(click to enlarge)

The pasture is going through a "bit" of a transition right now...is necessary but still more of a change than I'd like.  The process hasn't been finished yet because of the extreme heat we're experiencing right now (mid and upper nineties with dew points of 78-79) - not a good condition to be working outside.  The "process" is a new septic tank and fields...the fields being in the pasture.  Right now it appears we'll have about I/10th of an acre to rehabilitate when all is said and done.  Losing a few good clumps of Culver's Root and some other desirable plants but hopefully no more than that!
Trying to get on to my next painting - with a solo exhibit approaching faster each week, I'm starting to feel a bit of anxiety!  I hope the summer temps cool down a bit and maybe actually get some outside time with the camera too!

Hope you have a safe and pleasant summer out there...take care!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Process

American Robin
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Two days ago it was a blanket of snow....yesterday it was 3/4" of rain...its a process, this season called Spring.

The Herons are back in the rookery across the valley...we're not sure how many more are to arrive, or how many here now will move on.  It depends on the season called Spring.  Some Springs can be brutal and some storybook pleasant.  I like a good story, maybe this will be a nice one.

Dark-eyed junco - male
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Many birds have returned to the acreage, like the Robins and the Red-winged blackbirds and Grackles.  Some are gathering to leave for north destinations, like the Dark-eyed juncos and Tree sparrows. 

Black-capped Chickadee
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Our Chickadees are still with us...most Springs they gravitate back to the woodlands down the valley. But many more "visitors" stop by for a few short weeks to visit and we expect them soon!  

Its all a part of Spring...its a process you know! 


Monday, March 25, 2019

Easel TIme (A Couple Seasons Behind)

"Autumn Along the Mouth of Dog Creek"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

"It is finished"....those words mean a lot to any artist.  In this case it is both of relief and satisfaction.  Most people don't truly understand the struggle artists can go through trying to make something in their minds slowly (and sometimes painfully) actually materialize on the easel.  

This can be a very long effort...this one began several years ago.  I was south of our place about 10-12 miles as the crow flies, and came upon this spot along the small creek that has some history in the county.  One of our first settlers lived near this creek's mouth and is buried upstream about a mile.  A little further to the west this creek was dammed creating a small "hillside surrounded" lake which was named after it. 

This is Dog Creek, a very unassuming little stream, which runs into the Little Sioux River, only a few yards from where this painting is depicted.  Behind this stream are rolling prairie hills and to it's south a "hanging valley"...a really curious and fairly small yet dramatic geological feature showing where the LIttle Sioux Sioux River once flowed before the end of the last glacial episode here.

I started the painting idea for this a couple years back with a small  "preliminary study"...a 5X7" oil painting done to "test the ground" so-to-speak, before committing a larger effort in a more finished painting.

 "Autumn Near Dog Creek's Mouth - preliminary study"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

Now that spring is breaking out all over around the studio I can get out and hopefully enjoy it!  Studio time is great but its been a long winter...I need some fresh air!

Hope you get some time to enjoy being outside again soon!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Glaciers still in the yard but its Spring!

Great Blue Herons in the valley
 (photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)
Spring has finally arrived the the valley here and we have been most fortunate as far as our flooding here.  A week and a half ago we were taking on water pretty fast and the valley in front was threatening lake front property once again, but fortunately all the culverts broke open in time to spare the road and its been dropping back to the channel since.  
We are so, so lucky and count our blessings as we watch the dire situation in extreme western Iowa and the eastern half of Nebraska...a perfect storm did happen after a heavy snowfall and rains exacerbated the completely saturated soils from last year's record rains - it was all downhill from there for anyone in the flood plains of the Missouri River and its tributaries.   Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the flooding going on right now.
Things are starting to look "normal" here for a change...we still have 4 foot drifts covering most of Georgie's barn garden but she was able to get into the yard garden and peek under the snow flattened hoops and see that the spinach did survive the winter this year - YAY!!!  Last year the mice had set up shop under her row covers and dined on spinach all winter...we have strong mice out here!
Juvenile Bald Eagle
 (photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)
We have been seeing a few Great Blue Herons returning to the Waterman Creek rookery the past few days, but in low numbers so far.  Yesterday we had 8 herons riding a thermal high above the rookery.  The last time we witnessed this there was "Eagle trouble" brewing.  Well, sure enough, a couple juvenile Bald Eagles were harassing the herons - one flying around the hovering flock and another sitting smack in the middle of the rookery!
Eventually the two trouble makers tired of the game and headed off right over the studio deck where Georgie and I were watching - giving us great neck bending looks as they passed.  In the next hour 8 more Bald Eagles flew past the acreage - bee lining straight north on the wind.  On top of that uncounted flocks of Canada and Snow Geese streamed past heading north as well - spring is definitely in play now!

Grateful that Spring has arrived - prayers to all those being faced with loss to flooding.  
Take care and be good to one another!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

How Many Days???

Raccoon napping in the crotch of a tree 
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

It's February and I guess that's a good thing right?  Closer to Spring!!!  I don't mind February so much...its the shortest month of the winter and still looks like winter.  Now March looks like a mixed up month!  Sometimes like winter...sometimes like spring - usually all goofed up and a sloppy mess!

Had a Big old Raccoon in the gate tree this a.m. When Georgie first spotted it, it was rolled up in a ball on a fork in the tree but with the snow turning to a freezing mist it decided to try a nearby hole. The hole it tried hiding in was apparently too small as it kept coming back out to reposition itself...kept hiding when I'd take the camera outside but later showed up napping in another crotch outside.

I know it knows I'm there trying to take its picture, but I just settle for a nap shot and head back inside...hoping it'll stir for the camera yet...

Red-tailed Hawk pair hunting in tandem
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

February is a time when many birds of prey begin getting serious...seems early but the Great Horned Owls already have eggs they're sitting on and the Bald Eagles are setting up shop too.  Another local favorite of ours - the Red-tailed Hawks, have been known to set up nesting late in the winter...we had a pair here hunting together behind the barn.  Sometimes one bird would sit and watch while the other dipped around in the pasture trying to stir something up and other times they'd fly together and swoop into the grasses...don't know what they had going there?   Maybe a rabbit sitting tight or a mouse...who knows?

Red-tailed Hawk - close fly-by
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Its fun watching things begin to stir since the frigid air has left its mark everywhere...kind of has me stirring myself!

How many days till spring??!!!!!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Mid Winter at the Studio

"Late Morning Sun Dogs"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 

A little winter action here at the studio this morning - I would have missed this brilliant late morning display if I hadn't walked over to the house to check on something.  On my walk back I was faced with a nearly full circle light display!  I ran inside and grabbed the camera and this was the first image I took - the right side was dropping out and after the first shot it was gone!  Things can be fleeting! 

Most of us wish winter were fleeting too but I feel less like being outside during this frigid weather and that can mean I get something done inside!  Or something like that?!

Stay warm!!!