Photographs & Perspective – Autumn Bound

My family often gathers together for Thursday evening dinner. The conversation last night turned toward summer’s end, and the finish of fun activities, picnics, and warm weather. The swimming season at lake and pool is over, school is starting next week, and coatless weather will soon be replaced with jackets and hats. Since my sons have been working in high heat and humidity outdoors, they aren’t sorry to see temperatures in the 90’s disappear, but we all wish the freedom and fun of summer would never vanish. The calendar might proclaim summer not ending for twenty-two days, but Labor Day weekend in the U.S. always seems to announce Autumn.

Although they bloom all summer, sunflowers are commonly associated with Autumn. I recently found these beauties growing in the front of a neighbor’s home. The day was overcast, the sun still rising, and the grey of the sky created an unearthly backdrop for these beauties. I think they will be perfect to use as the September header image for the blog. Good-bye August…Hello September.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday and Fandango One Word Challenge (FOWC) – Bound

Plants and Problem-Solving – Sunflowers in Bloom

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Every year I attempt to grow sunflowers. Quite often, the animals that live in my yard will dig up the seeds before they even sprout. I’ve stopped this natural tendency of the critters by sprinkling chili powder on top of the soil that covers the seeds. Even so, if they sprout, the tender green shoots are a delicacy to chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits, and when I’ve checked the progress of the sunflowers I find them nipped away and ruined.

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This year I’ve had a bit more success. The sunflower in the photograph is growing outside my kitchen window. My husband measured it and the stalk was well over eleven feet. The plant is still growing and now has two blooms and many buds. So far, no adventurous squirrel has climbed to the top to bite away the buds and flowers.

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I owe my success in growing sunflowers this year to empty water bottles. After the sprouts broke through the soil I placed a bottomless water bottle, with the top cut away, around the shoot. In a few gardens, as the sunflower grew, I added another bottle for more protection. (Bunnies are very good at standing up on their hind legs to reach the top of a tender plant.) If you live in an area that stays warm through November, there is still time to plant a crop of sunflowers.

Perspective – The NFL & The Unborn Child

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This is a photo of the confusion of magnets, artwork and bits of paper on the side of my refrigerator. The shining star of the assemblage is the ultrasound photograph of my new grand-daughter, due in a few months; I already pray and think of her daily.

There are other precious babies, as yet unborn, who are in jeopardy of ever having a chance to walk this earth. Wouldn’t it be great if the mainstream media, newspapers, social media sites, and radio hosts would give as much time to saving them as they have to condemning the alleged abuses of a handful of men in the NFL ? I am not in any way condoning or diminishing the abusive behavior exhibited in the incidents, I’m just wishing as much verbal and written bravado was shown toward saving the unborn.  It also would be encouraging to have several politicians actually fighting to diminish the ease with which the unborn are terminated rather than just giving “lip-service” to the pro-life movement.

Hmmmm…I just caught myself in my own net of condemnation, because isn’t that exactly what I am doing here…only stating the obvious? Speaking out against abortion is at least a toeing-up to the starting line. What are you saying or doing about the horror of abortion…anything at all?

And a thank you to my cousin Lisa, for opening up my eyes to the fact that I need to do more to uphold the right-to-life of the unborn.

Problem-Solving – Update/Sunflower Towers

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I don’t always have success with my critter-war weapons, but I did this year with my sunflower towers. Well, strike that, I had success with half of my sunflower towers. They worked perfectly for keeping the critters away from the sprouts and seeds. What I hadn’t counted on was our wet and cold spring…a few of the plants succumbed to soggy feet. I thought about cutting the chicken wire away from the sunflowers, but I decided against it since they are Mammoth sunflower seeds and will only have one bloom. I have grown Mammoth sunflower in years past and the buds have been nipped off pre-bloom by hungry squirrels. I think I will leave the towers in place for a little bit longer. You can read the initial post on my sunflower towers here: Sunflower Tower/The Beginning

Problem-Solving – Critter Wars/Chicken Wire, Wet Diapers and Used Kitty Litter

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So far this year very few sprouts or transplants have been bitten off by bunnies, squirrels or chipmunks.  Since warmer weather is on the way, there is still potential for the tender greens to be nipped away by a hungry rodent. I need to take preventative action before I lose any of my beautiful Mammoth Sunflowers. In the photograph above you can see a sunflower sprout, hopefully protected by the smell of a freshly wet baby diaper.

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A bag of cleaned out kitty litter also has a bit of an odor even when closed, hopefully it will frighten away any hungry rodents.

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I made small cages with chicken wire, open on the bottom, closed at tops and sides, and covered tender transplants such as zucchini and melons. Any transplant that grows from a nut-like seed seems to be a favorite of hungry animals and even birds.

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Four of my sunflowers are encased within a tall chicken wire tube. Be very careful working with chicken wire, the jagged edges bounced up several times near my eyes. It has quite a lot of spring and is unruly and hard to control. The tubes were not difficult at all to make. Bend the long cut edge together until it stays closed, cover with clear cellophane (a dollar store item) and tape with duct tape or gorilla duct tape.

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Because the tube is tall it will catch the wind. You need to anchor it to something. I used another long piece of duct tape and nailed it into the wood of my square foot garden.

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The long view from above. I have high hopes for my sunflower towers.

Painting – Acrylics/Sunflowers Part I

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This sunflower photograph was pleasing, but pointing in the wrong direction, I flipped it in my photo workshop, and added it to my final composition. I will have to be careful that I don’t misrepresent the direction of the shadows when I begin to paint.

I am very new at painting with acrylics. I have painted with watercolors for well over twenty years, and I still plan to use this medium in the future, but I have been enjoying the boldness and opaque qualities of acrylics.

To start I coated the 18 x 24 inch canvas with a layer of gesso. I don’t have as large a palette of colors with acrylics and used a combination of cobalt blue and ultramarine blue to begin painting the sky.

I had a good time creating the clouds. In watercolor the use of white is taboo.  You must save portions of the paper completely without color to give the effect of white.   This can be difficult and one loose drop of paint can spoil the effect you are attempting to achieve.

In acrylics, the whites are opaque, and produce good coverage. I was able to actually enjoy painting the clouds, and painted exuberantly, rather than holding my hand and creativeness in check.

I blended the cobalt blue into the white at the bottom of the clouds to give them some stability and shadow. I used medium extender to keep the paint wet longer, giving me more time to move it around.

I will update the progress of the painting in a few days. So far I am pleased with the progress.

Plant – Sunflower Sunday

Longwood Gardens was ablaze with the glory of sunflowers this week. A friend and I visited and strolled through the idea garden where these beauties are growing. To my fellow artists and crafters: Please feel free to use these photographs as reference for your paintings or projects. To download easily visit my Flickr account and follow the easy directions for downloading there. Click here to view and download from my FLICKR photostream. To upload click on the photostream picture you desire, this will take you to a new window, at the top there is an actions link, click on view sizes, this will bring up a link that allows you to download. Happy painting and crafting.

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