Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Thanksgiving Time All Around


"Autumn in the Waterman Valley" photo - ©Bruce A. Morrison

It has been a hard year for many; continues to be so for the planet - yet I want to be thankful for what blessings our family has received...not just this year but throughout our lives.

Firstly I am thankful for my life, my family my friends and neighbors...for this place that we were brought to over 20 years ago now.  Georgie never liked uneven years; although I never gave it much thought, I don't think she was far off on this one.  But although we lost loved ones, or suffered some hardships, we are so thankful for every blessing!  We have no guarantees in this life, but I am grateful everyday for taking breath and witnessing the beauty of it all!

I have been absent from the blog since mid-summer; I will throw in a smattering of what keeps our spirits going, with a few descriptions where warranted.  Happy Thanksgiving to each of you out there!

Bumble Bees and Tree Crickets enjoyed our pasture in late summer as much as we did!  


The Monarch roosts returned in late August.
Bald Eagle activity always picks up here beginning in late summer - this one in the yard!
Drought still a concern in September as the Waterman quit flowing again this year...


The trail camera watches all the traffic passing the barn at night.
Things change, and then change again - this was fleeting - gone now.


Lots of friends return or pop by for a visit! 

Georgie and I were able to burn the south pasture for the first time in 3-4 years due to an amazing rain event that lasted about 3 days!  I hope to plant seed I've been collecting for the past month or more...waiting for a "lasting" winter event before seeding that pasture.

The Waterman is flowing once more but is still in need of a return to normal rainfall.

So much has been put to bed here and just awaiting winter.

I hope this finds you and yours well - ready for a celebratory Thanksgiving feast or just a grateful break to reflect on what is good and welcome in your lives.

Think about those things - this world cannot exist unless we are good to one another.  Isn't that what life is about?  There is no "them" and "us"...we are all of one family.  There are no "scores" to be kept nor settled, no "even" to be gotten.  Ponder the good in your lives and spread it out to those in need - they are your brothers and sisters...we are all one...

...Being Thankful.


Saturday, July 8, 2023

July Only Comes Once a Year...


Red-headed Woodpecker - photograph - ©Bruce A. Morrison

Of course it does!  I guess I'm trying to be metaphorical...or maybe melancholy?  Even I don't know.  Maybe getting older has me thinking about things too much.  I was so used to saying to myself things like "I've got to try and see those next July."  Or maybe "We really should take that trip to (fill in the blank) next summer.  I'm not quite there yet but so many things are now out of my reach - they were great ideas but now no longer in the cards.  Especially things like that long hike or trek I always thought would be great to do...even some places I've long had permission to walk with my camera are beginning to be out of the question any more.  If you haven't reached that place in your life, it is sobering when they confront you, and you realize fully, I shouldn't have kept putting it off.  That is "life".



Lately, when I'm up to it, I have been trying very hard to take each moment and have fun with it.  When I was younger, I was busy with things that seemed important.  Now I know so much of it wasn't.  And now, everything is (important).


Female Eastern Bluebird - photograph - ©Bruce A. Morrison

We have had such a fun year with nature here on our little postage stamp sized acreage.  Every day I try and watch and catch things before they pass. 


Cottontail Rabbit...rabbits make Georgie crazy! - photograph - ©Bruce A. Morrison

Echinacea angustifolia in our pasture - photograph - ©Bruce A. Morrison

Pearly Crescentspot (Phyciodes tharos) - photograph - ©Bruce A. Morrison

Asclepias tuberosa in the pasture here - photograph - ©Bruce A. Morrison  

Now I haven't caught everything with the camera or easel of course...it's just not possible.  But what I miss stays with us in other ways - the Yellow-billed Cuckoo which calls from high in the grove, we know its there as it sings for us each day.  Then there's the Eastern Wood Pewee that we also hear each day; we do see it "fly catching" from the lower branches around the yard, but often we only hear it talk to us.  

The morning chorus has been amazing.  I used to try and record it with audio equipment in past years...maybe succeeded in a small way but could never do it justice!  Always first seems to be the Robins, then the Catbirds and Mourning Doves, then the Chipping Sparrows and the Orioles and Meadowlarks and Dickcissels, House Wrens, and so many others...sleeping with the windows open is a blessing!

We have noticed those missing this year...we no longer hear the night time calling of Sedge Wrens, and this year no juvenile Great Horned Owls or summer Redtailed Hawks.  Although the Great Blue Herons returned to the Waterman Creek rookery this spring - they abandoned the rookery in June and none raised their young here.

Not every year is the same..some things change, and not always as we'd wish.  Although we still have our ash trees here in the acreage and in the valley out front - there are farmsteads only a 5 minute trip from us that are losing all of theirs as I speak.  We are not far behind. 

But I will try and take in and enjoy in any way I can what is given to us each day as it happens...each day is a gift!  There is so much to see and do and July only comes once a year.

Be good to one another out there - we truly need each other.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

June is "Dickcissel Month"...Just Say'n


(color pencil drawing - ©Bruce A. Morrison)

I got an idea last summer, reveling in all the Dickcissels living along our road and pastures. Nothing deep or serious mind you...and selfishly - something just for my own fun. I have to keep reminding myself - if you aren't having fun, then knock off what your doing and get to it...life is too short! 
I don't exactly recall why or how I came to this idea? Maybe it was all the perseverance these birds were being educated to each day - forming and raising families...staking their territorial claims and announcing that every day...all day long. Its really quite something to see and hear throughout the summer months.
I decided to just have fun and dedicate this artwork to them...all the graduates of Prairie Hill Farm - Class of '22. They wouldn't all pose for their class pictures but I got a few of them...mostly the guys of course, but a couple girls showed up as well.
Making this reminiscent of an old country school class composite did present some issues for me.  Color pencil is not a good tool for lettering nor graphics...I almost gave up the silly idea half way through, even before getting to the birds. I should've farmed that part off to someone who is actually "Good" at lettering and calligraphy...like our Daughter-in-Law Amy, she's a "Natural" at design and lettering - just look around our house!
The birds were fun - as was the central image representing their "school grounds"...putting everyone in a oval was "not" fun...not an easy shape constraint for my tired eyes and hands.
But here's to the "Prairie Hill Farm Summer Academy - Dickcissel Class of '22" - of whom many graduates returned this year and every year, to school their young and bring them up to be proud little Dickie Birds (as someone once called them)!!!
(color pencil drawing - ©Bruce A. Morrison)
I decided to declare June as "Dickcissel Month", in honor of these little birds and the memory they leave behind after they head south at summer's end.   I still have a glimmer of a seed to sprout a more serious Dickcissel piece someday...maybe a painting, who knows?
But I still remind myself not to take things too seriously, and have fun in the moment!
Be good to one another out there - we truly need each other.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Mid June...Not Bad!



Things come on fast once the weather turns hot and even more so if the rain actually starts.  We aren't out of the drought "woods" yet but it has improved from the past 3 years...very grateful for that!

The Dickcissels are back this June and are a happy lot once again - I swear we have one every 50 feet down the road and several in the pastures as well...its great!  They are even nesting in the pasture here - very fun!


And the Bobolinks did show up in the pasture across the road...occasionally they'll chase one another across the road to our place so we can get some enjoyment out of their company!  It was a special time when they nested on our place and when we'd see them up the county blacktops and highway pastures as well, but, again...I am grateful for what we still have.

The spring prairie flowers are happy with our rain too, and the heat is moving them along faster than I can keep up...every time I find something new blooming, its finished before I know it...help!!!
One evening I was down in the SE corner of the north pasture shooting the While Wild Indigos and just as I started walking away a beautiful female Ruby-throated Hummingbird was suddenly right in front of me - feeding on the White Wild Indigos!   The light was subsiding as it was mid evening, but I had the camera on the tripod already and managed some nice photos of her - really fun!

 We are always fortunate to have Meadowlarks in our neighborhood.  I do have difficulty telling "Eastern" from "Western" - UNLESS they sing...Western Meadowlarks are so much more vocal and melodious than Eastern's are...and we get Westerns here quite often each summer.  
One day a week or so back I was in the studio working and heard a beautiful Western Meadowlark belting it out, and it sounded so loud I thought it must be on the barn roof.  I stepped out the door and it was right in front of me on the grass across the driveway...maybe 20 feet away!  We've never had a "Lawn" Lark before!!!  Crazy neat!  I stepped back in and grabbed the camera only to see a Robin dive bomb it...maybe it was stealing his thunder?  But it flit just another 20 feet or more toward the crib so I walked over by the barn's corner and took a few pictures of it in the fresh mowed grass.  I watched it pull a worm up and it commenced to beating it into submission...maybe that's why the Robin didn't want it around - encroaching on its food supply?!
It sang in the yard for another day or two but is now back to it's normal perches around the pasture and down along the road.

Another fun change this year has been the Eastern Kingbirds.  We always see them down along the road...flitting from fence wire to fence post to electrical wire and back.  This year they have taken up residence in the yard!  During noon time Georgie and I would be sitting at the kitchen table having lunch and we watch the Kingbirds flycathing right outside the kitchen windows!  We noticed the favored perches the birds would use to dart out and catch bugs on the wing.  One spot was an old Common Mullein stalk from last year...made a great perch for them.
I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to get some closer shots of these guys...I set up the tripod out side and set the camera on it with a electric remote transmitter/trigger.  While I sat eating lunch that day I was holding the trigger in one hand and eating with the other...click, click, click - "Wow that was a good one!"  
Went through quite a few shots and missed quite a few too, but very happy with the results...fun birds!

The days are moving quickly now, even though there's more daylight time - it's still packed with chores and work...inside and out.

I hope you have a good summer ahead yourselves...be good to one another!


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

They Just Keep a Comin'!

Wood Duck Drake - Visiting the "Mrs."
Have I ever been lax!!!  Well, not really, just shirking my blog responsibilities I guess.  It is so easy to get behind on things - especially when Spring arrives with all its distractions and perks!!!
They just keep coming!
Waterman Creek Great Blue Heron Rookery

Nest Building Time
First it was the Great Blue Herons returning to the Waterman Rookery across the road from us.  I'd fretted all winter about them; they'd had so many set backs here the past two years.  Two Derechos in a 7 month period destroyed 2/3's of the rookery...but nest building has taken place in April...not as many birds but around 30-36 we believe at this point.
After the rookery grabbed our attention then the other bird travelers got our attention.  This year was a banner year for Trumpeter Swans!  We observed flocks every day here for nearly 2 weeks - so neat to see that here.

As of today nearly all our spring visitors and summer residents have returned...I believe the Eastern Kingbirds, Bobolinks and Dickcissels are the main characters yet to return, but I know there are others - they just keep a comin'!
Enjoy your Spring and be kind to each other!

(All images - ©Bruce A. Morrison)



Saturday, March 4, 2023

Gett'n Close!


"McCormack Sunrise" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison  

It's finally March and we had our first Robin of the year this morning!  Things are looking up...well, sort of.  Next week we're to have another 2-3 days of snow...maybe not much but still...ugh.

Really I'm not feeling as grumpy as I make it sound.  We are finally in a zone of precipitation, something that just hasn't been the norm here the past 3 years.  Although the ground remains frozen, we still have hope that some of this winter's snow and rain will make it into the soil.  Maybe some of the seeding we did again in the north pasture will actually take this time???  One can certainly hope!

My easel has been hopeful this winter as well, I figure if you can't have warm weather - just paint it!

The image above is of a nice little conservation area maybe 7 or 8 miles south of us "as the crow flies".  The McCormack area was donated to O'Brien County about 30 years back by Francis McCormack.  Francis was a native to the area having grown up in the vicinity of this location.  He left the area to serve in the US Navy...spent many years in Philadelphia after his service - then returned home in 1986 and purchased this ground from his brother - ground they were all so familiar with.  Family say Francis would spend time there "for peace and quiet".

It is a very nice quiet spot, one my wife and I and even grand kids have visited...over the years it has been on my regular visit list.  Thanks to people like Francis McCormack for giving back to the people of this area - there are so few places in our county still left that aren't plowed under or built up with houses or confinements.  The McCormack Area is a treasure of our natural heritage.

In the meantime I'm keeping at it in the studio - watching the landscape gradually change in the valley out front.  Spring is gett'n close!!!


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Changing Up A Bit - A Look Again At The "Process"


"Past Thanksgiving - November Barn"  - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

A few friends have noticed I haven't been "yarn spinning" for a while. Getting caught up in other things always gets the better of me...I'm easily distracted... SQUIRREL!!!
Where was I? Oh ya; I think I'm changing my old format up a bit and will eliminate the "Archival Works Friday" theme; but still occasionally give some insight to what steers me and my work derived from it. I'll try and bring these up from time to time. I have to admit I never liked schedules because too many things pop into my head and I just give in to whatever shouts the loudest.
Some weeks back I posted an image of our old stucco barn here on the acreage...it was a still late fall evening under a crescent moon. It was taken on the evening of November 26th and posted the next morning. I will post that November 26th Photograph in my first comment below...so you can make a comparison from the original photograph below...

Original photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
I've always been partial to crescent moons. And I've always been partial to the stucco barn here; I believe it to be the only such barn in our county. I could be mistaken but have looked for 20 years and not found another. The barn was retrofitted with concrete stucco sometime shortly after WW2...concrete block reinforcement of the north and west sheds was done first, and concrete buttresses added to the north shed to support or reinforce the addition are fairly unique for an "old" barn as well. 
I've done paintings of our stucco barn a couple times in the past...still regret selling one of them. And Georgie - bless her (!) has also painted the stucco barn a few times - literally! She has been up there with the barn swallows many times in the past 20 years with her bucket of paint and brush!
After I first brought the November 26th barn image file up on the computer screen, I liked what I was seeing...the photograph was nice yet there were elements in the picture's foreground that did not lend nor add to the support of the image. But I was struck by what I saw in my mind - could I do it justice? Well, that's always the question when I pick up a paint brush.
I set out to simplify and celebrate the light and the delicate crescent hanging in that last glow of the remnant day. That silhouette of our barn was almost iconic and somber in color and tonality. Did I mention loving that crescent phase? I embellished it ever so slightly, by increasing its size by about 50%...not too much to make it seem too unreasonably exaggerated. 
There was much too much "busyness" in the foreground...all the bushes and shrubs add nothing to the design and composition - they will not be included. That lone crab apple intersecting one of the barn windows was actually two trees, one had been damaged by strong winds many years ago and I couldn't bring myself to cut it down...it was still gifting us with a flush of deep prairie rose colored blossoms on its lop-sided trunk each spring. Another opposing color crab was planted next to it a few years ago and they seem quite happily married now. It will be painted as one, as that's how it appears.
The complete idea of the very closest foreground leaves and gravel drive will give the image a resting place, a foundation to support the image. I appreciate those leaves; fall is nearing its end...their least bit of color notes are peaceful on the eyes.
But - as you'll notice, I gave the scene my own color interpretation...I am NOT trying to lavishly copy a photograph but give my own sense of the "emotion" the original scene evoked for me.
These are my thoughts and goals as I worked on this painting. These are the ideas that formed this attempt to remember this moment in oils. It left a lasting impression on me and this small token of an idea, albeit small, is part of this memory.
"After Thanksgiving - November Barn" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison