Thursday, April 30, 2009


("Soo Landing in Early Spring" 6X8" plein air oil painting)

We've been getting some very cool damp days lately. Seemed to slow things down as far as the spring wildflowers and flowering trees. Our Wild Plums outside the studio have been swollen and waiting for a warm cue the past few I think we have a break coming!

I decided to take advantage of this break in the scheme of things to get in some short painting practice. I feel very bad to let so much time pass in between paintings, but I need to take care of living issues like most everyone else. I have a couple big jobs taking all my efforts at the moment but decided I needed to be true to myself and scratch that itch today.

I drive by this location several times a year and on driving by last week, I thought this would be a nice location for plein air painting. The trees are still trying to shed the sheaths of their buds and some are just breaking into leaf...just starting to green up the river valley. This is the Little Sioux River a few miles south of here and what is called "Soo Landing". The river wasn't high like it should be this time of year but we're a little short on rain so far this spring.

The landing isn't in the best of shape but affords a nice river bend view to the wouldn't even have to get out of your vehicle...which would be my preference come Black fly season! (This is a great river for them.)

Well...back to work I guess...nice to take a break though!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Herp Chorus

I've been mostly holed up in the studio today as the rain patters on the roof...something about tin roofs that brings to mind being outdoors camping. Love the sound and the sensation of it.

(Northern Leopard Frog)

I also love the sounds of the Chorus and Northern Leopard Frogs at this time of year! The first frogs to "sing" in our region of the prairie are the Western Chorus Frogs and Northern Leopard Frogs.

Many years ago when I was in my early teens I caught several Chorus Frogs and put them in a gallon jar and took them home. My mother (God bless her!) tolerated my habit of releasing frogs and toads in the basement of the house. I told her they'd help keep the silverfish and centipedes down (we lived in an older home). I hadn't released the Chorus Frogs yet though...don't remember why but just sat the jar in a corner by the furnace.

Later in the night my Dad woke up to noise coming up the furnace was still chilly at night in the spring and he thought the furnace fan was making the up , went downstairs to the basement and turned on the light. As soon as the light came on the noise stopped! He was puzzled but having been roused from a dead sleep he just turned the light out and went back upstairs and back to bed.

Sometime later the noise rising from the furnace ducts woke him again...back downstairs and on comes the light...the noise stops again! He's a bit miffed by now and wide awake so he looks around and there on the floor next to the furnace is a gallon honey jar full of frogs...Ha!

I always think of that when I hear Chorus frogs anymore! Just love it!

Add Video

If you've ever heard Chorus Frogs you know how they sound...very much like running your finger along a fine toothed comb. And Leopard Frogs kind of remind me of the noise made when you run your thumb along the surface of a balloon...with a few low grunts thrown in. Take a listen while watching the video above.

We're opening the windows at night now and catching a few "zzzzz's" with the neighborhood frogs serenading us...great ambiance!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From The Tallgrass...A Book

Something that I've had in the works for some time is a portfolio of works that summarizes my direction as an artist over the past three decades or so. "From The Tallgrass" is now in book form and available "now" online and soon at the Prairie Hill Farm Studio.

I must say I was very pleased with the print quality of the color and the B&W work in the book. If you wanted a visual synopsis of the Tallgrass Prairie and my painting, drawing, and photography over the years...this is it. If you're a may see some familiar pieces in there as well.

Available as softbound, hardbound w/dust jacket (recommend), or hardbound w/image wrap (with either I'd recommend the "premium" paper choice)- you can check it out online Here or just click on the book cover above or the link on the side of the online blog.

Thank you to all who have supported my work through the years, I hope to bring you more in the years ahead...


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring on the Tallgrass

It's now officially spring on the Tallgrass Prairie! The Pasque Flowers are in bloom.

I'm practicing "Phenology" again, as I mentioned back on the 24th of March. This year (in NW Iowa) things are a bit behind the rest of the fact we still have some good snow drifts along the black tops and back roads here today. But we may have broken the cold streak and turned the corner! Well, one can always hope.

I'm extremely tied up with freelance work at the moment and have not had any creative or even relaxed time lately, so I try and take advantage of those small windows of opportunity as they present themselves. Yesterday (Tuesday) I had to go to a meeting at the Prairie Heritage Center SE of here...if I went about an hour early I could stop along the way and check out the Pasque Flower progress and possibly get some pictures.

Except for the lack of more time I wasn't dissapointed, the flowers were up and the wind was down (lack of wind is almost unheard of around here!). There was more going on there than I could take advantage of so I'm hopeful of a return trip or two in the next couple weeks. I'm also hoping for some more windows of opportunity in general around here this spring...we all need those moments to our take in the natural world and charge the batteries!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Woodlands and Prairies

As I've mentioned before on this blog - Painting, Photography and the Tallgrass Prairie are passions of mine and it's a process. The prairie is an environment I fell in love with later in my life, and I fell hard. It now occupies my awaking time creative or not!

I am a proponent of wise land use...we didn't get it right for the tallgrass prairie - it is nearly gone...only one tenth of one percent is left in North's likely one of our most threatened habitats. About 3 years ago I came across a publication aimed at people like myself and
I would highly recommend it to anyone out there that is a steward of their land...whether it is a backyard habitat, a small wood lot, acreage, or prairie remnant. That's Woodlands & Prairies Magazine.

Woodlands & Prairies Magazine is about aesthetics of the land...something any living/breathing artist or naturalist (or just about anyone else) would appreciate. It's about good stewardship of the land...something any landowner worth their salt should be interested in. It's about looking toward the future generation's well being. It's about being smart with what God left in our possession for a finite period of time.

Last summer Publisher Rollie Henkes asked me if I'd agree to work on a web site for the publication. I do few web sites and the ones I do are only related to our natural heritage. I knew this magazine qualified whole heartedly for this mission and late this past winter we launched the web site. Get a feel for Woodlands & Prairies Magazine - check out the site! You can subscribe online too - and enjoy "ad free" reading...some pretty inspiring stories about those who understand what aesthetics of the land are all about!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Late April Fools?

We've been enjoying some nice days off and on at Prairie Hill Farm...nice weather wise. We've played hit and miss the past couple weeks with snow storms and got to dodge them until last night.

We get April snow storms often enough, but it's always harder when the weather lulls us into a zone of contentment...then springs the white stuff back on us; kind of like a late April Fools joke of sorts. Kind of mean spirited I think!

We didn't get any where near what was forecast but the wind is really making things tough on the birds and other critters here with what snow we did get.

This morning at breakfast Georgie and I were treated to some drama in the yard. An adult Cooper's Hawk came barreling into the yard scattering all the Robins, Juncos, and other birds. Some Juncos were so disoriented in the chase that they flew into the windows trying to get away.

The bird flew to a patch of prairie grass we hadn't burned yet and walked in and among the grasses and forbs trying to route out anyone that might be hiding within. It was fun watching the hawk stalking it's prey on foot. This is a characteristic of this order of hawks
(accipiter) that we've watched many times over the years...kind of reminiscent of the Jurassic Park Veloci Raptor scenes!

Photos taken through the kitchen windows are never the best but the quickest way to scare off a skittish raptor like this is to open a window
, so I tried a couple shots through the glass and even a short bit of video footage which I might show some other time. The thing that identifies this bird as an adult is the orangish barring on the breast, the dark gray back, and the red eyes.

Weather like this just keeps us inside a while longer; guess we'll just keep working at those indoor jobs for a few more days yet...but an occasional glance out the windows might bring more fun distractions...