A few minutes observing Mourning Doves

One morning last week – I looked out my kitchen window on a warm breezy march morning and noticed two mourning doves on the railing of our deck…just beginning the mating dance. I ran upstairs to get my camera and started shooting the sequence below through my office window. The action takes place in just over a minute. The male has iridescent feathers on his head and neck. In the beginning, he is on the left….at the end he is on the right.  Afterward the female flew off first and the male stayed put looking out over the yard.

This is not the first time the deck railing has been a favorite place for doves mating. In May 2018 and April 2016, I managed to photograph a mating pair as well. In our area, the doves are probably the most substantial and numerous prey for the red tailed hawks and other raptors.

It was easier with my new camera and its continuous shooting feature. I also now recognize the early stages of the courtship so have a few more seconds to prepare.

Macro Photography - Textiles

I am finally experimenting with my 60x macro lens that I got for my phone. Textiles around the house were an easy project. The lens has a light and I found it handy. With this lens, I use the zoom on the phone to avoid clipping the image to take out the vignetting around the edges. I’d rather compose the image in the camera.

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I liked the simple weave and colors of the worn dishcloth.

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A crocheted hat had brilliant color but was not flat enough to focus well.

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The washcloth had more fuzzy fibers than I expected but

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Not nearly as many as the wool sock.

I got stuck on a tapestry jacket…had a challenge to choose just 3 to include in this post. The last one was from the inside of the jacket.

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The machine embroidery of a silk jacket looked very different than I anticipated.

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The weave of a light-weight jacket was more complex.

I realized that the patterns on t-shirts were painted – but hadn’t thought about what they would look like with the macro lens. The blobs of color stand out on the surface of the cotton knit.

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The most non-fuzzy fabric was microfiber underwear!

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The yarn in the bulky cardigan was almost too big to look interesting at this magnification.

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Machine-made borders look more orderly than the fabric sometimes (the black is thread).

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The eye detects tiny holes in the fabric of the bag for delicate fabrics to go in the washer; with macro lens, it looks like a Zentangle.

After I got back to my office, I looked at two mouse pads with the macro lens. One is a woven surface…the other looks like a paint.

Spring Cleaning – Outdoors

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It’s still a little cold to be out and doing big projects in the yard but we’ve made progress on a few this past week. They were the ‘easy’ projects. We took the lawn mower for pre-season servicing at the local hardware store first.

Then we planned to take my daughter’s old bicycle (not ridden for over 10 years) to donate. It had been on the covered part of deck out of direct weather but still exposed to temperature changes and some moisture during blowing rains. My husband discovered it was coated with green dust/slime when he went out to walk it around to put in the car. We decided to wait until we could clean it off.

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A little water and some rubbing….and it looked much better. It got donated the day after I cleaned it.

Then there are projects that I’ve just identified and am waiting for a good day to get them done – like cleaning up piles of tulip poplar seeds and leaves that the wind had blown into corners of the deck and moving the compost bin to allow a thorough turning of the compost still ‘cooking’ (and distribution of the compost that is at the bottom and is probably ‘done’).

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The hardest projects are where I’ve identified an issue but am not sure what to do yet. The most challenging is an area of our backyard that used to be very grassy but the record rain we gotten over the past year has washed away the grass and it’s now a small muddy stream. Maybe the grass will recover as the weather warms. If not, I’ll probably be looking at rocks and water loving plants for the area.

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3 Free eBooks – March 2019

In some months it’s hard to pick just three books to feature for the monthly eBooks post. March 2019 was one of those. I cheated a little and picked a periodical…with lots of issues available online…for the first one.

Baer, Casimir Hermann. Moderne Bauformen. Stuttgart: J. Hoffman. 1902-1923. Hathi Trust has volumes for each year here. A German periodical about architecture and interior design with many illustrations – some in color. It’s a slice of history of the period. Many of the interiors look modern…others dated. I realized again how appealing I find glass bricks, window seats, alcoves with benches and sometimes a table or a wall of windows and comfy chairs for reading, and curtains to divide a large room into segments. There were quite a few ideas I’ll use in Zentangle tiles as well.

Trouvelot, Etienne Leopold. The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings. 1882. A slide show of 15 drawings is available from Internet Archive here. Trouvelot was well-known for his astronomical drawings made from observations at the Harvard College Observatory and the US Naval Observatory. Unfortunately, he also is the person that introduced the European Gypsy Moth into North America.

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Day, Lewis Foreman. Nature in Ornament. New York: Charles Scribner’s sons. 1892. Available from Internet Archive here. Lots of ideas for Zentangle patterns in this book. I particularly liked the different stylized peacock feathers.

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 16, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Wind Cave, In the National Park, Is 150 Miles Long...And Counting – About 2 miles are surveyed annually and there are about 3,000 unexplored openings that haven’t been checked.

Climate of North American cities will shift hundreds of miles in one generation: New web application helps visualize climate changes in 540 North American cities -- ScienceDaily – The article includes a link to the interactive map. Baltimore Maryland will be like Cleveland, Mississippi in 60 years!

Southern California Will Soon See Another Booming Superbloom | Smart News | Smithsonian – Much better than burn scars and mud slides.

The Obelisks of Heliopolis - Archaeology Magazine – Obelisks taken from the city…a project to understand where they originally stood and the role they played.

In Era of Drought, Phoenix Prepares for a Future Without Colorado River Water - Yale E360 – Living on the edge when it comes to water supply. It’s not just South Africa that has the challenge.

BBC - Future - How Japan’s ancient trees could tell the future –Teasing out how much rain fell in Japan over the past two and half millennia by looking at the preserved wood of ancient forests.    

The soaring cost of US child care, in 5 charts  and Paid family leave is an investment in public health, not a handout – Thought provoking…families coping in the modern world.

Utilities are starting to invest in big batteries instead of building new power plants – Shifts in the way big utilities are structuring themselves for the future – it not all about new power plants.

New molecules reverse memory loss linked to depression, aging -- ScienceDaily – Maybe in the future we’ll be able to treat some types of cognitive decline better than we can now.

The Future of Universities | What's Next: Top Trends – 7 Cs: Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Curiosity, Character and Compassion

Tree Bud Project – Week 1

I started a project to photograph tree buds this week by cutting small branches from trees in our yard: cherry, plum, red maple, tulip poplar, black walnut, and sycamore. Unfortunately, there were no branches low enough for me to reach on our oak.

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The plan is to bring the branches indoors (where it is warm) and monitor the buds – see how many of them would open indoors over the next few weeks. Once they do, I’ll check to see what is happening with the buds on the tree outdoors.

I took pictures of the buds with the 15x macro lens clipped to my smart phone…starting with the cherry. The buds are enlarging but still firmly closed. Our tree lags the blossoms down in DC around the tidal basin.

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The plum buds are still very small. They already show the pink color of the flowers. The tree usually blooms after the cherry.

The red maple twig is easy to identify - opposite twigs, red buds. I was surprised that there were so few branches with buds on the lower branches; the deer must be the culprits. It took a lot of looking to find a branch I could reach with buds.

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The tulip poplar already had a popped bud! The others on the branch were still closed. The leaf scars are interesting to notice too.

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The black walnut has a lot of buds at the tip of the branch. This tree was also heavily browsed by deer. The branch leaked sap as I was taking pictures. Hope is it OK with the water from the vase.

Finally – the sycamore buds are still tight. In a previous year, a sycamore bud on my indoor branch opened and a tiny leaf unfurled.

I’ll be posting about the leaf buds about once a week if there is action to report.

Ice Bubbles

Last week there were plenty low temperature nights. I started a project to collect frost flowers on a red glass plate to photograph. The conditions were not right for frost a single night! But – it did rain a little and the water that collected froze around the red plate that I had slanted in a container.

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When I pulled out the plate and the ice, I noticed that there were a lot of bubbles in the ice and modified my plan to photograph them.

I started with the lower magnification (15x) macro clip-on lens for my phone. The bubbles that were near the surface of the ice look fractured – not quite round.

My favorite at the 15x magnification was near the edge of the ice – where it met the plate. There were some long narrow bubbles as if the air was climbing the slope of the plate.

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I switched to my 60x macro lens with its own light source. The bubbles look jewel-like and the color of the red glass plate come through the ice.

My favorite was one that did not have the red color. It looks like a grayish pearl.

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I am still hoping for some frost flowers and there is a possibility since it’s only March. There should be a few more frosty days for us here in Maryland.

March Sunrise

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It was a cold morning last week when I noticed the sunrise color was reflected off the clouds and stepped outside on my front porch for a picture. By next month the trees will be leafing out and the sunrise will be obscured almost completely. I hurried to take my pictures – thoroughly cold almost instantly in the 20-degree temperature.

The cat was waiting for me at the door but made no move to come outside. The trash truck was rumbling through the neighborhood; 6:30 AM and the day was brightening.

It was cold enough that the birds seemed to be sleeping in. I’ve been seeing more robins and red-winged blackbirds recently…but the morning was quiet at sunrise.

The clouds thickened during the day and snow fell (melted on impact) in the afternoon. At this time of year, any snow could be the last of the season. I savored the snow in the air through the window of my warm office.

Hooker’s Icones plantarum

Icones plantarum (illustrations of plants - figures, with brief descriptive characters and remarks, of new or rare plants, selected from the Kew herbarium) was started by Sir William Jackson Hooker in 1837 and edited the first 10 volumes and continued by his son Joseph Dalton Hooker (9 volumes) and then others. Over 25 volumes are available on Internet Archive or Botanicus (same scan…simple different user interface so take your pick).

The Hookers (father and then son) were directors of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1841-1865 - the time period that the gardens became world renowned. They published throughout their long lives (the father lived to be 80 and the son 94) on botanical subjects. One of Joseph Dalton Hooker’s daughters (Harriet Anne Hooker) was a botanical illustrator and married William Turner Thiselton-Dyer who was director of the gardens from 1885-1905.

Gustav Hegi’s Illustrierte Flora von Mittel-Europa

Hathi Trust has multiple versions of the Illustrierte Flora von Mittel-Europa (Illustrated Flora of Central Europe) that Gustav Hegi edited between 1908 and 1931. There are editions published after his originals as well. I chose to peruse the volume made available by University of Michigan. The first 6 volumes (some of the volumes have multiple parts so there are more that 6 items in all) have colorful images – lots of plants on one page. The sample images from the 12 volumes I looked at – lots of color and variety on a winter day.

According to Wikipedia, the author, a Swiss botanist, wrote about a third of the content…and edited the whole. He obtained his PhD in 1905 and was had been a curator at the Botanic Garden of Munich from 1902-1908. The volumes were published in Munich. He died in 1932. The article contains very little information of his life outside of his publications although he had returned to Switzerland before he died at age 51.

eBotanical Prints – February 2019

Twenty-six botanical print books February; that’s what a lot in a month that only had 28 days! Most of the books were from one series and not in color but the drawings were detailed and often contained a lot of botanical details (flower parts, etc). Enjoy the carousel of the 26 sample images today and all the links to the volumes below! I’ll provide more information on some selections in the next couple of days. The complete list of all the botanical books I’ve found online, can be found here.

Illustrierte Flora von Mittel-Europa V6 pt2 * Hegi, Gustav * sample image * 1907

Plantæ Yucatanæ. (Regionis Antillanæ) Plants of the insular, coastal and plain regions of the peninsula of Yucatan, Mexico * Millspaugh, Charles Frederick * sample image * 1902

Icones Plantarum V1 * Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1832

Icones Plantarum V2 * Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1832

Icones Plantarum V3 * Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1840

Icones Plantarum V4 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1841

Icones Plantarum V5 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1842

Icones Plantarum V7-8 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1844

Icones Plantarum V9 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1852

Icones Plantarum V10 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1854

Icones Plantarum V11 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1871

Icones Plantarum V12 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1876

Icones Plantarum V13 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1879

Icones Plantarum V14 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1882

Icones Plantarum V15 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1885

Icones Plantarum V16 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1887

Icones Plantarum V17 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1887

Icones Plantarum V18 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1887

Icones Plantarum V19 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1889

Icones Plantarum V20 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1899

Icones Plantarum V21 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1899

Icones Plantarum V22 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1894

Icones Plantarum V23 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1894

Icones Plantarum V24 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1895

Icones Plantarum V25 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1896

Icones Plantarum V26 * Hooker, Joseph Dalton; Hooker, William Jackson * sample image * 1899

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 9, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: January and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: February and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Feathers and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Forest Birds – From National Geographic. There are multiples this week since I seemed to have a backlog in my gleanings holding area. Enjoy the colorful, graceful images.

'Upcycling' plastic bottles could give them a more useful second life -- ScienceDaily – Now that many countries that used to take our recycle waste have stopped accepting it, we are suddenly facing the problem of what to do with ‘recyclables’ closer to home. Making materials that have higher value is one way to keep more of it from ending up in landfills.

Soundscapes of Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon – Cool Green Science – Listen to some nature audio…if it’s too cold to get outside and into the wild right now! These would make great backdrops to a meditation practice.

Image of the Day: Prickly Legs | The Scientist Magazine® - Froghoppers gain traction for jumping by piercing plant surfaces with their spiny legs! (Note: froghopper nymphs are spittlebugs!)

Photography in The National Parks: A Winter Shutdown Stay in Olympic National Park – I want to go! This is a national park I haven’t visited.

What kind of bug is a bug? | The Prairie Ecologist – A little entomology lesson.

Alaska in Flux: Slumping Coastlines – A comparison of a coastline between 1992 and 2018 …showing land slumping in to the Beaufort Sea. An airport is closer to the water now than in 1992.There is also a map showing that quite a bit of Alaska is wetter that is was in 1984. Lots of changes in the Alaska land.

Work Underway to Return the Shine to Thomas Jefferson Memorial – The Jefferson Memorial is probably my favorite in DC. I’m glad it’s getting the renovation it needs to look good into the future.

14 keys to a healthy diet | Berkeley Wellness – A little update based on most recent recommendations (for example, dietary cholesterol is not something to worry about since it has little effect on most people’s blood cholesterol).

Infographic: How Ginger Remodels the Microbiome | The Scientist Magazine® - I like ginger and am including it more consistently in my diet. It’s another food to boost gut health!

Stink Bug

As part of my early spring cleaning recently, I found a stink bug carcass in a storage closet. It could have been there for a long time. it looked a little squashed with the wings visible on one side). And it was missing some pieces – one antenna, 5 of the 6 legs, and an edge of the under abdomen.

A few years ago, we had many more stink bugs inside our house than we’ve seen in the past year. The brown marmorated stink bug is invasive in the US and initially seemed destined to be a bother for the long term but maybe the other bugs (wheel bugs?) and spiders and parasitic wasps that are native have figured out that stink bugs are fit to eat! Or maybe it is just the vagaries of the weather than have caused the population of stink bugs to drop off.

I experimented with the higher resolution clip on lens with my phone. The bug was not flat enough to get the whole field in focus. I was a little surprised by the extra color and texture that showed up with the magnification.

I took the carcass to the trash (outside). I’ll wait for a better specimen to do a more thorough photographic study.

Brookside Gardens Conservatory– February 2019

The Brookside Gardens conservatory was much warmer than outside – one of the immediate pleasures of stepping inside on a winter’s day. And then all the beautiful flowers that are all around draw attention. I did some quick photography using the zoom rather than taking the time to get closer to the flowers. I find that it’s faster and I like the results of the blurry or dark backgrounds. My favorite picture of the morning was shades of purple against a black background…curves and creases.

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The flowers in the conservatory are always colorful and even more appreciated in winter when the outside is so brown and black. In the conservatory there are always pinks and oranges and yellows and reds…with green framing.

I couldn’t resist documenting the cycads near the door back toward the gift store as we were leaving. There wasn’t as much vegetation around the plants, so the structures were more visible than usual. When I see cycads, I always think of dinosaurs since this type of plant was around that long ago…and somehow survived whatever killed off the dinosaurs.

Brookside Gardens – February 2019

My husband and I opted to walk the outside part of Brookside Gardens first on a cold day in February – planning to warm up in the conservatory before we headed back home. We didn’t make it all the way around the gardens (too cold) but there was plenty to see in the part we did manage.

There were dried flower heads from last summer – wonderful texture in their light browns. There is a fragility to their beauty too.

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There were several kinds of witch hazel – probably the most colorful deciduous tree this time of year.

The cold damaged ferns often look more artsy to me than all green ferns. Their color is more varied.

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And then there are the small bulbs of spring blooming. I was surprised I didn’t see any crocus.

And then we headed into the warm conservatory; that’s the topic for tomorrow’s post.

Signs of Spring

Last week, a kindergarten class was the first field trip of the ‘spring’ at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. The temperature was in the 30s and there was a little breeze – very wintery feeling. The children and I had our coats zipped, hoods up, and gloves on. We hiked and looked for signs of spring….and remnants of other seasons.

We saw daffodils coming up and snow drops blooming…signs of spring. We looked at holly with its shiny green leaves and red berries which is often symbolic of winter. One holly was leaning over the snow drop bed.

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We saw evidence of squirrels around: lots of opened black walnut shells which had been their food all during the winter. We searched the trees for squirrel nests but decided that the strong winds recently must have blown the nests away.

There were some trees that had been cut down recently. We noted that the centers had been rotting which was probably why they had been cut. The largest stump was near the farm house and the children crowded onto it for their teacher to take a field trip picture!

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The children were surprised to see the witch hazel in bloom and learning that it normally blooms in late winter. They saw the brown leaves on the ground and still clinging to the branches of the tree – correctly identifying them as the leaves from last summer/fall.

There was a winter jasmine with buds of all sizes – and a single flower. It was another sign of spring on the way. They were surprised at the different sizes of buds and identified the ones that were about ready to open.

In the old orchard, we looked at the buds on the apple trees and the pear tree – deciding that the pear tree would probably bloom first based on way the buds looked.

By the end of the hike – they were ready for a little warm up in the nature center then back outdoors for a focused lesson starting with looking for animal tracks in the muddy areas.

It was a good start to the ramp up of spring field trips!

Skunk Cabbage

Every winter, I hike the trail to a wet area at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm to see the Skunk Cabbage coming up. I was a little later than usual this year, but it’s been a cold February and the skunk cabbage was still blooming last week. I found all stages of its early development after slogging through the muddy trail to get to the location. Some of the plants appear damaged (outer part black or brown) but the center might still be alive and able to continue development. Most were near or in water; it’s been a very wet winter and these plants like to be wet. They come back year after year from a rhizome; this stand appears to be about the same size as previous years which caused me to wonder if the plants are producing any viable seeds.

The best picture of the morning was a bloom (like a golf ball (spadix) inside a purplish hood (spathe)). I’d read that the inside of the spathe is warmer than the surrounding air and may be attractive to insects/spiders. Sure enough – there appears to be a spider web inside this spathe!

Capturing a Sunrise Moment

Getting sidetracked from fixing breakfast by a sunrise – what a great way to start the day! I timed it perfectly late last week. I saw the color in the narrow windows on both sides of our front door as I came down the stairs and turned around to get my camera. I stepped out the front door in my stocking feet to capture a sunrise moment. Both are zoomed somewhat – which do you like best? The tree is an oak that is by our mailbox.

As turned to go back inside, a car went by. They probably wondered what I was doing on my front porch without a coat…in below freezing weather.

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 2, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Good News for Eastern Monarch Butterfly Population - The National Wildlife Federation Blog – Now to sustain the improvement into a trend….and stop the decline for the western population.  

Joshua Trees Could Take 200 to 300 Years to Recover from Shutdown Damage | Smart News | Smithsonian – A very sad result of the shutdown.

Physician-targeted marketing is associated with increase in opioid overdose deaths, study shows -- ScienceDaily – Hopefully with the opioid crisis getting more attention…the targeted marketing is reduced or eliminated. The study used data from before 2016. Things have gotten a lot worse since 2016 but maybe there is a lag between prescription opioid use and opioid overdoses.

Rocking Improves Sleep, Boosts Memory | The Scientist Magazine® - A research topic….and maybe a trend in new bed purchases.

America colonization ‘cooled Earth's climate’ - BBC News – More than 50 million people died and close to 56 million hectares (an area the size the France) they had been farming returned to forest. The drop in CO2 is evident in Antarctica ice cores and cooler weather.

The World’s ‘Third Pole’ Will Lose One-Third of Ice by 2100 - Yale E360 – The Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountains are the source of water for nearly 2 billion people. The region has lost 15% of it’s ice since the 1970s. The current estimate is the river flows will increase until 2060 (flooding) but then will decline. There will be more and more bare rock rather than snow covered rock.

Oregon Launches First Statewide Refillable Bottle System in U.S.: The Salt: NPR – It’s starting with beer bottles. Reuse is better than recycle is better than landfill. If given a choice between buying something in glass or plastic…I choose glass.

BBC - Future - The ‘miracle mineral’ the world needs – Phosphorous. Thermic compost piles rather than mineral fertilizers. It’s economical and environmentally a better way.

Top 25 Wild Bird Pictures of the Week – Raptors – As usual – great photographs of birds from around the world.

What happens to the natural world if all the insects disappear? – Big perturbations of food chains. The article ends with a question: If we dispossess them, can we manage the planet without them? It would be a very different planet.

Zentangle® - February 2019

Only 28 days in February; I had a lot of tiles to choose from to pick the 28 in the mosaic below. I’ve continued to be more experimental during the month –

  • With and without a frame.

  • Starting with a string or not. There are times I like to start with something in the center or off to the side and then just let the tile evolve from that start.

  • Picking a pattern from the tanglepatterns.com or finding inspiration in other sources (this month it was basketry books and early 1900s architecture/home decoration…art deco). Many times, a portion of the tile is just auras or other ‘filler’ of blank space.

  • The ‘screen’ filler has become one of my favorites although I also have experimented with the ‘screen’ as a grid.

  • Black tiles with white ‘ink’ for lines and shading is my favorite on the iPad but I switch to a color or overlay a color periodically just to be different.

I’ll be creating some physical tiles in March to prepare for my upcoming CZT (Certified Zentangle Teacher) training that will happen in late March; going back to traditional paper and pens will be quite a change for me.

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.