Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Mad Potter Strikes Again

Brrr, did it get cold last night! I had turned off my furnace and vowed not to turn it back on again, so when I got home from the studio after pottery class last night, it was 59 degrees in my house. What to do? I built a fire in the fireplace, plugged in the DeLongi space heater in my bedroom and gutted it out. Here are the pots I brought home last night:

This was supposed to be a mug, until the handle fell off after bisque firing. What is a small pottery piece when we don't know what else to call it? A salsa bowl!

white clay, dipped in grape glaze

Practice making cylinders. I guess this is a small vase. Or, you could put wooden spoons and a whisk in it, and use it in the kitchen.

white clay, dipped in seafoam

My first shallow bowl. I liked the piece, but did a slap-dash job of glazing, unfortunately.

everglade, a painted-on glaze
You can still see the brush marks and thin areas.

This is an oil lamp. You run a piece of wick through the [unglazed] ball at the top. You have to glaze your piece inside and out, including the bottom, or else the oil leaks out. This is blue rutile again, but dipped into a clear glaze to prevent leakage.

The color isn't exactly what I had envisioned, but I like it. The ball is too big; I need to sand or grind it down some so that it fits better.

I've got another "narrow-neck" piece that I was making to be a dispenser for lotion or liquid soap, but it is too small, so I guess I will make another oil lamp.

Our last project was a teapot. Last night, we attached the handles and spouts, and I must say, I think mine is pretty cute. I was dreading the "lidded vessel" part of teapot-making, since my first one, in my first class, was so terrible. The teapots are on the shelf, drying and awaiting bisque firing. I have been taking pictures throughout this process, and when it is all done, will show you the series. I am really debating the glazing process, as I don't want to screw it up after all the work I have put into it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Redbuds and Apple Trees

Blooming trees in my yard this week:

I love the redbuds that are native in this part of Ohio. I don't remember them from my childhood in the southeastern part of the state.

One of four apple trees. Last year's hard frost came just as they began to bloom, and I lost nearly my whole apple crop. This year, they are blooming like crazy.

Bluebirds are close to fledging; I saw one poking its bill out of the nest box as I walked by today. Earliest anticipated fledging is 16 days; I usually see fledging at 18 to 20 days, which puts predicted fledge date at April 30 to May 2. In answer to Mary's question, I won't see the fledglings around for the first two weeks or so, but after that, I anticipate seeing them in the yard, with their speckled breasts, following Dad around and begging for food. Here's hoping I can catch a photo or two for you.

Returning migrants this week include Eastern Kingbird and Ruby-throated Hummingbird, both on Friday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Baby Bluebirds: Last Photos

Bluebird fans, these will be the last pictures of the first clutch of 2008. So, drink in these images, there will be no new bluebird photos for a while. (Read on for the reason why.)

Nine days old and 5 nestling bluebirds hide their faces,
hoping I won't notice them.

As you can see, I took the nest out of the box for this family portrait. It doesn't seem to cause any problems when I do this, but it makes me nervous, so I only do it once or twice.

"Has she gone yet?"

Wow, the last few days have just flown by, and we are nearing the end of the baby bluebirds' first stage of life. Remember my first bluebird post this spring, when I said there were some times when it wasn't OK to open a nest box? Now, we come to the time when we have to stop open-box monitoring, Day 12.

Day 11, and they are looking more like birds.
"Get this piece of grass out of my face.
It is blocking my good side."

All three of my bluebird references* advise not opening the nest box after the young are 12 days old. The concern here is that you may cause premature fledging. Once a baby jumps from the nest, it is nearly impossible to get it to stay there no matter how many times you put it back. I have never had a problem with premature fledging in bluebirds, but I nearly had a disaster with Purple Martins last summer. (Read about it here.)

12 days old, a touch of blue in the wings
"Fledge well and prosper, little ones."

*My bluebird references? First and foremost, "The Bluebird: How You Can Help Its Fight for Survival," by Lawrence Zeleney; Audubon Naturalist Library, copyright 1976, by Indiana University Press. I think this book is out of print now, which is too bad. Mr. Zeleny could easily be called the "father of bluebirding," and was (I think) the guy who invented the term "bluebird trail."

The "Stokes' Bluebird Book" is an excellent reference on the care and feeding of Eastern Bluebirds (also the Western and Mountain species get their own sections.) It follows the classic format of many of the Stokes' guides, and of course, has stunning photographs.

And last but not least, I have a little 30 page booklet called "Enjoying Bluebirds More." It was published in 1993, and I don't know how long I have owned my copy, but I'm sure it has been for at least 13 years. I pulled it out last year, because I remembered it had instructions on making a stovepipe pole baffle, and happened to notice the author's name: Julie Zickefoose. Huh, that lady seems to know a little bit about bluebirds. I'll bet she'll go far!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Guess the Nest

photo by my sister, Lisa

Who can ID this nest, found in a porch light in suburban Columbus, Ohio? I think I know, but am interested in your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How did you celebrate Earth Day?

I remember the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. Our youth group volunteered to clean up a vacant lot, and in the process, I knelt on a piece of broken glass. It sliced right through my jeans and made a deep cut. I didn't notice it till I realized my pant leg was soaked with blood. My mother, a nurse, cleaned and disinfected my wound, and closed the cut with tape "butterflies." I still have the scar on my knee to help remind me of my first Earth Day. Since that day, I have tried to celebrate the earth in some small way each April 22.

Today, I took a walk at the Cincinnati Nature Center at lunch time, with my best hiking buddy, Holly. Since her knee surgery, and honestly, even before she ruptured her ACL, Grace has been dragging on our walks, but Hol is always full of energy and ready to go.

For Holly, walks are about what's around the next bend. I can never get her to slow down and enjoy what's right in front of her.

We saw some lovely daffodils.

We found a morel mushroom right along the path. Unfortunately, somebody had knocked it off its stem, so it had dried out.

For my "service," I pulled a lot of Garlic Mustard, another invasive plant. I didn't make a dent in the overgrowth, but pulling even a dozen plants makes me feel like I'm helping a little bit.

I could have chosen a lot of images to leave you with this Earth Day.

Like, this blooming redbud tree.
Or, this odd couple we found basking on a log at Lotus Pond.
"C'mon, baby. I know our friends say we're too different,
that it won't last.
But just because you have scales and I have feathers,
that don't mean we're not meant for each other."

But, I thought this image said it all.

Worm castings.
When you care enough to send the very best.

Happy Earth Day, everybody!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

CNC Wildflowers and Ornamentals

One of the joys of my life is walking the trails at the Cincinnati Nature Center in spring. Every week, something new is in bloom. The legacy of Carl Rowe's garden shows everywhere, in the thousands of daffodils and other ornamental flowers and trees.

But, the real beauty of CNC in the spring is more subtle and requires more effort to find and appreciate. Ohio's native wildflowers are an ephemeral gift, one that you have to go looking for. Miss a week, and you miss a bloom that won't return for another year.

The niche of a tree trunk holds a tiny and fleeting garden.

I've missed the Bloodroot's white flower.
And the White Trout Lilies have already gone to seed.
But, I found a big patch of Virginia Bluebells

To truly appreciate bluebells, you have to get down low and look up.
Dutchman's Breeches are drying on minature clotheslines throughout the woods.

The Sessile (or Toadshade) Trilium, with its dark red flower, is in full boom.
And the Nodding (or Bent) Trilium has leafed out. It will bloom a white, hanging flower later in the season.
I found Wild Ginger in a few places, and even this early bud just breaking the surface. Its
dark reddish-brown flower will be right at ground level. You have to part the leaves to find this cryptic wildflower.
Mayapples are up in force, and I found several plants with buds.
Mayapples have to have two leaves to bloom.
A single umbrella-like leaf doesn't provide enough nutrients to produce a flower.
As a (woman) naturalist once told me, "It takes a lot of energy to be female."

Blue and yellow violets. There are too many species of violets for me to get any closer on their names.

Cut-leaved Toothwort

Wild Blue Pholox

Spring Beauty
* * *

I love the daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs that were introduced to CNC by its original owners. Even though they don't belong here, they are cheery, and not aggressive. However, there is one plant which was introduced, accidentally or deliberately, depending on which story you believe, that I abhor.

Lesser celandine is a European native, often considered a harbinger of spring there. Here, it is an invasive alien that carpets the ground with a thick mat and chokes out all my favorite little natives.

Although the hillside might look pretty cloaked in green, by late spring this leafy cover will all die back, leaving the slope denuded and prone to erosion.

And, because it emerges so early, it overwhelms the native plants.
False Rue Anemone (white flower) surrounded by Lesser Celandine (yellow)

Dutchman's Breeches, swallowed up by celandine.

Sessile Trilium, ditto

Virginia bluebells in a sea of Lesser Celandine

This is what an Ohio wooded hill should look like in spring: