Monday, March 1, 2021

Out of the Deep Freeze and Loving It!


"Morning Glory" (framed)
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison 
It's good to get out of the freezer! Yes it has been a frigid one the last half of February...nothing to write about, besides my fingers have been too numb to type!  Ha!  
Well I did try to warm things up a bit in the studio...have been doing some small commissions for people and then decided to try something just for myself...I decided a "Sunrise" was in order.  Haven't really done a sunrise just for a sunrise's sake...had done a painting many years back that had a sunrise in it, but it was done more for the mood and color play in the landscape...that was a painting called "Daybreak - Southwest Corner Fence Line".

"Daybreak - Southwest Corner Fence Line"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
My latest depiction of a sunrise is "Morning Glory" was painted from a sunrise one morning this past August here across the valley from the house and studio.  I was a little unsure of this one as it was a very vivid sky with more color than I've ever thrown into a sky on the easel before!  But after I got into it, I was really enjoying the process!  In fact I've missed painting skies for the sake of it and do want to do more...doesn't need to be another sunrise but then again maybe so...whatever happens is fine by me.  I'll post a larger image below for more detail.
"Morning Glory"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
It's finally March and this first day is a fairly pleasant (albeit somewhat chilly) one...guess that means that March has come in like a Lamb...hopefully Spring doesn't throw too many hard balls at us! But regardless, we're finally out of the deep freeze and loving it!


Saturday, January 9, 2021



The old John Deere Hay Rake has been a great "prop"
in the south pasture over the years - mornings in the teens
with a freezing fog can be fairly dramatic.
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

The year has started out quite pleasant...not great for driving I'm sure, but the cold foggy mornings have brought pleasant tapestry everywhere.  Its been a mild winter so far.

As far as critters visiting each day, we've had the usual Opossums and Raccoons at the bird feeders during the night and a flush of American Goldfinches, House Finches and a good crop of Purple Finches from up north.  Our Juncos all seemed to have moved south on the heels of the blizzard a couple weeks back and occasionally we still see a Tree Sparrow or two, which is unusual as most winters they tend to stay in good numbers through at least February or March.

Northern Bobwhite Quail
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

We have had one unusual visitor and I suspect is is an escapee from someone's pen.  We had a Northern Bobwhite for a few days!  It was very skittish and a loner so I don't have much hope for it surviving around here...we have lots of hungry Coyotes, Owls and hawks!  We had a Northern Bobwhite show up here in the valley about 18 years ago too, so this has been fun to see!

A bit of a rush this past Christmas in the studio, some last minute orders and a very slow postal service for shipping anything!  It makes it a bit hectic getting materials and supplies on time for clients!  But we got through it and now settling in for the winter.

I usually try and write a positive blog...I'm struggling with this one...even what to say.

We all witnessed January 6th.  I'm struggling to understand why some seem to think it was no big deal.  I'm struggling to understand why some of our legislators swore an oath to the Constitution, yet are loathe to carry it out.  I'm struggling to understand why people I thought were intelligent, believe anything a classic narcissist says. And I struggle to understand why we can't work together for the common good and benefit of one another.  

I truly hope that this nation can pull together, quit finger pointing, quit crying wolf and be good to one another.  Love thy neighbor as thy self - haven't we learned this yet?

Take care and cherish your family and friends.  I'll say it again - please be good to one another.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas Was White After All...

Am I getting old or what?   Here we were plugging along, being spoiled with warmer than normal days - Georgie even cut Spinach from underneath her row cover in the north yard garden a couple days before Christmas!  We were feeling pretty smug about it all...even been putting off mounting the plow to the truck this fall/winter, I mean - why bother, right?

Ha!  Of course it snowed - it was Christmas yesterday after all!  I only remember one Christmas in NW Iowa when there was no snow, and that was in the mid 1950's!  I remember fussing about how was Santa going to get around - guess I should have looked at the bigger picture...hey he had to deliver to the southern hemisphere too - DUH!  Shouldn't be too hard switching sleigh runners to wheels right?

 But ya, reality raised its head and there we were...spending the last day of no snow and decent temps getting ready for a Blizzard Warning the next day...not a lot of snow, maybe 5"?  Hard to tell when its horizontal.  Pretty good winds...a basic white-out for nearly 10 hours.  Yup, sure looked like Christmas...should be a lot of happy kids anyway!  Us old grumps will just have to enjoy the view - it is pretty😊

Just a week ago we were all excited checking out the "Great Conjunction" of Jupiter and Saturn in the SW sky.  For a good 10 days I thought we were doomed to cloud cover each evening, but two days before the event we got lucky and had a good was kind of cool seeing both Jupiter and Saturn in the camera lens together...were able to see 4 of Jupiter's moons also but not any of Saturn's (Its just a camera lens after all).  The next night we were clouded in again and it seemed maybe the best day - the 21st - might be lost as well.

But we got lucky!  It was pretty windy the evening of the 21st but I did the best I could with the camera/lens...could see just 3 of Jupiter's moons...Callisto was too far out and too dim this time but Saturn was now very close in view with Jupiter.  I tried taking some normal scenes with the two in the background but they just weren't shots I was happy with.  This had plenty of hype for a few weeks before but really (not to rain on parades or the "emotional" event some portrayed) I remember plenty of single planet observations of Jupiter by itself - closer in its orbit to Earth, and Venus - especially last summer(!); that were much brighter than this conjunction...but it really was cool to see both planets so close by one another in the night sky!

And now we're hearing rumbles of another snow system coming in about 3 days.  But its now winter and we'll just settle in to the rhythm of the season; at least the days are now getting longer - that's a positive!

I'm looking forward to a better year ahead...and I know of a few Billion people thinking the same least we had a White Christmas here and didn't miss out!   

Have a Happy and Blessed New Year, and be kind to one another!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Freezing/Thawing...Once in a Blue Moon

The Blue Moon on Halloween here on October 31, 2020
(photograph -  ©Bruce A. Morrison)

If memory serves me, the past couple years lacked some of my favorite days of the season...Indian Summer.  This year has tried making up for it and hasn't done too bad of a job. Although we've had 3 snowfalls this season already, they've been fairly light and melted in short order...just the past several days have been in the 60's and 50's and quite pleasant for late November! 

Really I haven't relished this Fall too much, I won't get into it, just say I'd as soon forget fact most of us would just as soon forget the entire year!  Its been tough on some folks more so than others.

I will admit I have been having a good deal of trouble motivating myself, like many, many have I'm sure.  But I have had a few bright spots appear here and there this thankful for Georgie and the kids, and good friends who think of me and lift my spirits.  I know I am blessed and am grateful.

Studio work has been slow, but I keep on plodding away with small jobs and also work on the acreage...the chain saw has been busy off and on, a little seed collection from the pastures and some patching of the barn and crib roofs have also kept us busy.  Drawing, printing and some framing occupying each day now, tis the season😊.

Recently some friends called and let me know they had some River Otters out by their place and welcomed me to come out and try and get some photos.  I went early last Tuesday morning and found them, as if they were waiting for me!  Its been some time since I've seen Otters...they've been in the pasture out in front of us, along the creek...have seen them in the Little Sioux River a number of times, and even up north years ago.
When I approached the water, I was hearing the familiar sound of the ice "pinging" and breaching...a noise I remember from times when something large was swimming close to the underside of newly formed thin ice.  And there they were!  First one, then another...

(photographs -  ©Bruce A. Morrison)
At first they watched me with curiosity from a distance, eventually popping up through the thin ice by butting it from underneath with their heads...eventually right in front of me - then crawling out on a small log to get a better look...what fun!

Mink walking on the ice through the rushes.
(photograph -  ©Bruce A. Morrison)

I got an extra bonus while waiting for more photo ops - a Mink was walking around on the ice and one of the Otters would pop up through the thin ice around it and the startled Mink would jump up into the air - so funny to see!  This went on for maybe 10 minutes but kept taking place behind a bunch of rushes out of view of the camera...was like they were playing a game!

The trip to photograph Otter really made my week...between critters and great weather, its been fun.  A lot to be thankful for out there - even in rough times.
Be good to one another - Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Beat the Heat!!!


August 23, 2020 - "Over Pocahontas" - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Finally!!!!!!!!!  It's the 29th of August and its "Decent" outside!  Very pleasant day in the shade and even in the sun...I hope we outlasted the heat.

August 17, 2020 - "Over SW Minnesota" - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Its been a bugger...slightly over a quarter inch for the entire month of August and most of the plants in the prairie pasture are going dormant or look like they wish they had.  Everything will be fine, its just a "brown out" type of a scene with the golden rods and sunflowers doing the majority of the lifting of colors.  One good side to it is we haven't had to mow the acreage since the first week of July!  Oh - the other good side of it is we have not suffered through Durecho wind storms nor hurricanes or forest fires and we're still healthy!  A person must always count their blessings and be grateful...I say this sincerely.

August 16, 2020 - "Over Storm Lake" - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 

We have had some spectacular evening skies around here the past month.  As storms developed in the region, they always split around us - leaving us dry but with awesome views of their majesty!  It was frustrating but as I said, we've been very fortunate.

"Distant Thunder - Redtail" - color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

Things have been unusually brisk here at the studio, cannot explain it other than just saying I'd better get busy this winter as my walls are getting bare!  My participation in the 2020 Birds in Art international exhibit in Wausau, WI comes up in a couple weeks!  Although this will be the first time I haven't gone to see the opening in person when I've been included - everything's changed with will still be an outstanding showing of Bird Artists the world over!  I just sent a small piece for an auction the Woodson Art Museum is having for Birds in Art...they do a "post card" auction of small 4X6" originals and I contributed a small color pencil drawing "Distant Thunder - Red-tail" for the auction...I'll at least be there in spirit 😊

Bring on September I say...and I beg your sincere pardon if it sours on us all as this summer seems to have.  Hope we at least finally beat the heat!


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Hot Enough For Ya!!??

 Eastern Bluebird on Common Mullein
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Its been a warm one for sure and the faucet has been constricted a bit too.  And here we are in July already...geeze - mid July!  This is getting way out of hand; I know I'm easily distracted (Squirrel!!!!!!!!!) but give me a break!  This was once a weekly blog and now its almost quarterly!

We have been keeping busy around the acreage...the gardens are all doing extremely well thanks always to the Mrs. - Georgie runs a tight ship and works really hard at it too...been too much water hauling with the low rain this summer but its going well for her. 

Georgie and I started the early summer with a huge brome problem in the pasture where they laid a septic field in June of 2019...I mean huge!  Although there were some "survivors" in the disturbed part of the pasture, it actually turned into nearly solid brome.  Ugh.  

I started weed whacking it bit by bit and hauling our "hay", but it looked like a better method should be found.  Georgie started cutting it out - at the base of every clump - literally...I think it took maybe 2 weeks of every morning to get it done...I'm sure we could have made a nice big bale out of that mess!  Then I went through and treated clump stumps...its going to be a process - trying to get new things to survive in chest high brome is problematic to say the least.

Heliopsis helianthoides getting to be a real pasture/ditch bully here!
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Other parts of the native pasture are doing well and other parts have issues too...just takes a lot of monitoring.  Interestingly one of the problem plant (forbs) this year is decidedly Heliosis helianthoides or False has now completely filled the south ditch and has 30% of the north - spilling over into the north pasture!  Particularly bad in the NE triangle of that pasture.  I have spent a few days earlier in late spring chopping their bases and hauling them out but now can't even see where I'd done even that much!  This stuff is very hard to pull...a 2 year plant will "NOT" pull no matter how hard you try...its better to just suck it up and bend over (harder now than it ever used to be!) and cut it with a knife or pruning shear - this will take more effort on my part or things will turn a direction I don't even want to think about.

Wow the studio finally got a facelift!  Georgie was getting tired of having to paint the old siding - it would not hold paint, no matter the brand or cost...never did.  Plus the old used door was not very efficient - even took a picture this past winter of a snow drift inside the studio, yes "really".  So now I have a new door and siding, plus the contractor (Thanks Jeff Halverson!!!) even building wrapped the sides again and clad the wood window frames in aluminum so they don't have to be painted again either!  I'm spoiled.

C2020 F3 (Comet NEOWISE)
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Its comet month in July - C2020 F3 (Comet NEOWISE) has become visible to the unaided eye, both in the morning and in the evening...but only after dark.  It took me three tries to finally find it and get a shot (above).  My first mistake was thinking that 4:45 a.m. was early enough to get up and see it...wrong.  My second mistake was go out at 9:30 p.m. and see it...wrong again!   Ugh, frustrating.  But then I found some more specific times relating to viewing the just needed to be earlier or later...depending on the time of day of course. 

I finally found NEOWISE out back here after 10:15 p.m., but I had to first spot it with the aid of binoculars...I'd never have found it without them.  It's just too dim yet.  The above picture was taken with my 200-500mm lens with a 1.4 converter attached, which gave me 700mm at F8.  Now F8 is not fast by any stretch of the imagination but ramping up my ISO (ASA to old timers like me) to 3200 gave me the image above with a 1.6 second exposure.

If you're interested in seeing NEOWISE I'd recommend going out before 4:00 a.m. or after 10:15 p.m.  It is getting brighter but I'd still recommend using binoculars to "find" it first then you can see it without if you like. (Its much more interesting magnified of course).  In the a.m. look to the left of where the sun will rise (NE)'ll see Venus rising at around the same time in the east - that is bright!  NEOWISE will be dimmer so it'll take some looking first.  In the p.m. look right of where the sun set that the NW.  You can use the pan of the Big Dipper as a guide...follow down and to the right and it will get you in the right vicinity...again use binoculars to help locate it first.  I believe its brightest (closest approach to the earth) is around the 24th of July, but there's no telling if it will hold out that long...comets are unpredictable.

Monarch on Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

We are having a nice number of Monarchs here this summer...hardly a day goes by that I don't see Monarchs in "tandem" flight, and we're seeing good numbers of caterpillars as well.  But many other insects seem absent or at least in much lower numbers.  I judge this by what I encounter when I'm pulling weeds...I'm just not disrupting or bumping into things like I normally would have during other summers past.  But we have been having nice numbers of Lightning Bugs (Fire Flies to some) each night...if you look closely at the lower left corner of the photo above you'll see a Lightning bug resting under the forming blossom head.

In the meantime I'm taking much of the summer off...was out pulling brome in the pasture this morning and will likely be out this afternoon with the shears cutting out elms on the north pasture...elms and mulberries mostly...maybe a few locusts.  But if the sun comes out from behind our current overcast, I may call that off too - its been beastly hot this summer!!!  And dry - here any way!

Everyone stay safe out there and be kind to others please.  See you down the road this summer!!!



Sunday, May 31, 2020

June Approaches...Keep savoring Spring!

Eastern Bluebird
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

May seems a bit messed up to me with Memorial Day weekend coming so early; and yes, its been a dry - then soaking month as well.  But we are fortunate here...we didn't need a more than we wanted...yet no serious flooding here.  Oh there's some of the typical streams out of their banks but no more so or damaging than usual.  But we're lucky - other parts of the state are having real flooding issues.

Cape May Warbler
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

One thing May has brought is cool weather and some real interesting fallout of migrating birds.  Always up for cool birds!   One of the best migrants that stopped for about 3 days during the constant rain was a Cape May Warbler.  Now we've seen Cape Mays before...up in Canada, but never passing through on migration.  It was a real treat!  Liked grape jelly - had to fight for it with all the Orioles but held it's own despite only being a third of the size!

 Summer Tanager (first year male)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

We also were lucky to get a Summer Tanager (first year male) to visit the feeders for a day.  We've been seeing a "Lot" of reports for both Summer and Scarlet Tanagers this spring and actually "did" get a Scarlet Tanager for "a few seconds" across the driveway in the Dandelions with the Goldfinches, but it never showed again...a shame - I'd really have liked to have gotten a photograph!!!

Baltimore Oriole
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Brown Thrasher
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Of course there were many of the old familiar friends that returned, like the Baltimore Orioles and Brown Thrashers...but we also got our Hose Wrens, Catbirds, Orchard Orioles, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and many others back for the season...they so brighten up our days!

photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Our pasture's birds also returned; just yesterday afternoon our Dickcissels arrived!  They're usually the last grassland bird here.  Luckily our Bobolinks have also come back and have been flying from pasture to pasture doing their flight "thing" they're staking out their territory...or trying to attract a lady.  I worry about the Bobolinks on the south pasture, as it was slightly decreased in size by maybe 3/4 of an acre...the neighbor who owns the 4 acres south of our one acre, wanted to take his fence line out and make things more expedient for his equipment.  Every sliver of grassland gone can make a difference...I don't know if that will deter another nesting on this small bit of ground.  Who knows how much it takes to convince one Bobolink that there's enough space or forage to raise a family?  I'm crossing my fingers.

 "The Hurt-Adkins Mill"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

Finished a commission for someone out of state.  Was a bit challenging as it was an actual location (in Kentucky) and historic grist mill, that fell down about 30 years ago. Very little to work with...spent a lot of time going through historic records to get it as accurate as possible...worked through the late winter months on this landscape/location, am very happy with how it finished out! "The Hurt-Adkins Mill" - oil painting.

 "In the Wild Plum - Nashville Warbler"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

I talked about this painting a couple years back...was working on it the summer my father passed away.  I felt pretty good about this painting and wanted it considered for an international exhibit but held off until this Spring, as I wanted it to be included in my solo exhibit at the Pearson Lakes Art Center last fall.  

The exhibit I wanted it considered for is "Birds in Art".  I've been accepted into this prestigious exhibition 5 times since 1983...that's only 5 times in 37 years!  Its a real difficult exhibit to be juried into...but most years I keep at it.  Then a couple weeks ago I was notified that this painting "In the Wild Plum - Nashville Warbler" has been selected by 3 independent jurors across the country to be included in the international "Birds in Art" exhibition for 2020 this fall. 

I still find it overwhelming to be selected to exhibit with 90 other artists from all over the world. Because of the pandemic there will be no traditional weekend gathering of artists, so we will not get to meet new faces or talk with many we've met over the years. This is the coveted holy grail exhibit for bird artists - hosting work from across the US, Canada, South America, Africa, Europe, the British Isles, Asia and Australia. 

The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI will exhibit Birds in Art from September 18 through November 29th - after which the exhibition will go on national tour. Years back one of my serigraphs was selected for an international tour traveling through the US to Bejing, China. 

I guess all those distractions from the birds I so love paid off once more...I feel very blessed. 

Its been a busy late winter/spring here but now its back to reality...stay safe out there and treat each other with caring and respect. Have a Good Summer!