Monarch Butterfly Portraits

The number of Monarch Butterflies seem to be less this summer than last; it’s very sad. I’ve been taking portraits every time I see them dreading the year when we won’t see any at all.

Sometimes I get a zoomed picture and see the gender quite clearly. Males have a black spot on each hind wing.

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The females don’t have the spots. The thickness of the veins on the wings are another indicator. The males have skinny veins and the females have thicker ones.

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A Serendipity Hike at Mt Pleasant

Last Saturday morning, there was a Serendipity Hike offered at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt Pleasant location. There were quite a few registrations for the free event after the forecast temperature and humidity were lower than recent days in our area. About 50 people came and we had 4 volunteers to lead hikes. My group included people that had not been to Mt Pleasant before.

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My focus turned out to be about landscaping with native plants (like the sweet bay magnolias)

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And cone flowers.

We headed through the Honors Garden to see more flowering plants and around to the stand of Joe Pye Weed (full of tiger swallowtails). Along the way, the green frogs provide a serenade from the pool. I told them that I had seen 3 frogs earlier but that the summer campers had found 7 a few weeks ago. My hiking group saw 5 and one was positioned to easily observe when he made his croak!

From the Joe Pye Weed we hiked around to see Ranger the Barred Owl…then to the meadow, noticing the orchard and Montjoy barn along the way. Down at the stream we noticed the steep slopes that now have vegetation growing on them --- an indicator that the stream restoration upstream has slowed the flow of water from storms. To avoid a steep uphill climb, we crossed the meadow and walked along the stone wall and then back to the nature center. I pointed out the tree with myriad yellow-bellied sapsucker holes.

The hike was a little over an hour…several people came in to get maps of the trails afterward.

Flowers on Table

I have been enjoying the cut-your-own flowers from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this summer. It’s great to have the color on the table – changing every week. A small bag with scissors for that part of the share pickup has been added to the larger bags for the heftier veggies. I often get some herbs as well. Fresh oregano and thyme are my two favorites. I rinse the herbs and put them on a small plate on the counter using it up in a few days or letting it dry so that it crinkles easily into a steaming pot of sauce or stir fry.

Blue Jay at the Birdbath

I was pleased to see a Blue Jay at our bird bath. Back in July, my husband I had found blue jay feathers to the side of our house and we didn’t see or hear them for several weeks. A week or so ago, we started hearing them again and then one came to the birdbath! I liked this picture because it shows the wing feathers so nicely…the blue with white bars on the flight feather, the more down-like feathers covering the top of the wing and the neck.

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This week is at the Howard County Conservancy Camps is about flight and I’m going to bring this picture and the feathers for the campers to look at closely….flight feathers up close. It’s a great supplement to the rest of the activity I have planned.

Laptop Trauma

My laptop is almost 4 years old…the warranty expires in mid-September. The only trauma I experienced with it up to this point was right after I got it and the Solid State Drive (SSD) turned out to not be compatible with Windows 10. A technician came to the house and installed a new drive. But now there are several things that have gone wrong.

The first was the machine not booting. It isn’t clear what happened overnight, but the upshot was the SSD was no longer bootable first thing Thursday morning. It was a horrible way to start a day. My husband had a thumb drive that we booted from and decided that the easiest way to recover was to do a Windows Reset. The positive aspect of that strategy is that it preserves the data files. The negative is that the applications are uninstalled. Aargh!

Another problem then became evident. While we were working directly with the laptop itself on the recovery process, we noticed that the mouse pad is bulging….a sign that the battery underneath is swelling – which is not a good thing at all.

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I’m not sure how long the problem has existed. For the past few months I’ve been using the laptop with a monitor and external keyboard (note the letters worn off the keys of the keyboard…it’s a good thing I am touch typist).

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I called Dell and will be sending it in for battery replacement and general hardware checkup and cleaning…the last (and only second) warranty work on the machine. It should be back by Wednesday. My husband has graciously said I can use his laptop until mine is returned and I have my external drive with everything I need ready to go. Still – I am a little discombobulated at being without my (up until now) very dependable laptop.

Sometime this fall, I’ll probably buy a new laptop…maybe the top of the Dell XPS 13 line. It’s what I did last time and they’ve gotten even better in the last 4 years.

Summer Camp Volunteering- Week 3

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Water Wizards.’ The campers at both Mt. Pleasant and Belmont made terrific water themed Zentangles®! I started out the sessions by briefly talking about the water cycle…how water moves on our planet and in the atmosphere….honed for the 5-12 years old campers. I projected a simple diagram of the water cycle from the NASA website….and then used the same set up to enable the campers to see how I drew some water themed patterns on pale blue cardstock (using the camera on the iPad which was hooked to a projector).

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There were three groups at Mt. Pleasant. They all enjoyed frogs eggs and tadpoles, raindrops making ripples in a pond, mist….and clouds. The youngest group made rainbows! I used 4.5-inch squares for the youngest group (last of the group of 3 mosaics below); the other two used 3.5-inch squares.

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At Belmont, the session was on a hot afternoon and the campers appreciated the time to cool off inside. I took a picture of the room before the campers arrived – the cool and calm before a flurry of activity.

After a short discussion of the water cycle, the room was filled with very focused campers making Zentangle patterns. One of the counselors came in and commented about how quiet the room was. It wasn’t silent exactly…everyone was just busy. The first mosaic were made by the older group and are 3.5-inch squares…and some that finished early made mini-tiles on 2-inch squares. The younger group used the larger 4.5-inch tiles. Both groups enjoyed frog eggs and tadpoles, cattails (or seaweed), raindrops into a pond, and mist.

Each week I do Zentangles, there are a few campers from prior weeks that know the Zentangle basics…and others that are new. All are keen to learn some patterns and are tickled with the tiles they create. There’s always a crowd around the mosaic at the end.

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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.

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 10, 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: Green – National Geographic Society Newsroom – Starting off the gleanings list with birds this week – green ones.

Indigenous Maize: Who Owns the Rights to Mexico’s ‘Wonder’ Plant? - Yale E360 – The nitrogen fixing maize --- farmed in Mexico – but who will profit if the trait is replicated in corn to feed the rest of the world.

Vast majority of dietary supplements don't improve heart health or put off death, study finds -- ScienceDaily – Massive analysis…277 clinical trials. The supplement industry is large and advertises; how do studies like this counteract that even if the supplement in many cases is having only a placebo effect.

Brothers Use Drone to Reveal Beauty of Ordinary Objects – Art of objects seen from above.

Making HVAC heat exchangers five times better -- ScienceDaily – We’re going to need all the innovation we can muster to get air conditioning more efficient…and power it with renewable energy.

BBC - Future - Do we need to walk 10,000 steps a day? – Hint – 10,000 is not a magic number at all. I’ve had my goal set at 12,000 steps for quite some time. I make it when I am home but am usually challenged when traveling.

Toyota plans to launch its first full EVs, in a deal with China’s BYD - MIT Technology Review – I hope by the time I get ready to replace my Prius Prime there are a lot of EVs to choose from!

What it Means to Design with Nature in 2019 - News | Planetizen – Is this the thinking of all design going forward?

A Fungus Is Now Infecting Humans & Global Warming May Be to Blame | CleanTechnica – Candida auris started showing up in humans in 2009 and it is multiple drug resistant already. New research is indicating that the fungus might have adapted to warmer temperatures until it can now multiply in the human body…which it couldn’t before.

Water Cycle is Speeding Up Over Much of the U.S. – Lots of changes in the time period between 1945 and 2014.The article includes a color-coded map. It will be interesting to see if the trends continue over the next decade

Deborah Griscom Passmore

The Deborah Griscom Passmore watercolor album was made available on Internet Archive last May. She always meant to publish the album as “Wildflowers of America” but never got around to it before she died in 1911 at age 70. Enjoy a few more sample images from this album below and kudos to the USDA archivist that is making these available now.

Based on the biographical paragraph on the catalog page for the book on Internet Archive, the typed biography and  3 obituaries from 1911 taped into one of the early pages of the book and scanned, and the Wikipedia article about Passmore, I started looking for some more of her work. There are 1525 of her works in the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection available online here. They are not as easily browsed as the books are within Internet Archive. Some of them are included in the “Promising New Fruits” articles of the Yearbook of Agriculture beginning in 1901; those volumes are available on Internet Archive but it’s a few pages out of almost 1000. I discovered that I had found her cactus illustrations in Botanicus back in 2010 (another female artist , Mary Eaton, was the primary artist) but they are more easily browsed on Internet Archive (here). I’m putting them on my list to look at again!

Red-Tailed Hawk

I had a busy June and July…just catching up with some of the things that happened. One was a flurry related to a red-railed hawk in State College, Pennsylvania. We were coming back from dinner the day before the finally packing up and cleaning out of my daughter’s apartment – heading off to Springfield, Missouri.

As we turned into the apartment parking lot a large bird flew low just over the car toward the base of a tree. There was a lot of noise in the underbrush….and the hawk came up empty. The squirrel escaped into a nearby tree and the hawk sat on the ground for almost a minute – seemingly befuddled.

The bird flew up to a light pole and sat long enough for me to get my camera out and take a picture. It still looks a little scruffy (and maybe frustrated) from the encounter!

My daughter had told me about the red-tails she had heard and observed frequently from her apartment window in State College…and I was thrilled to see one in action.

Jane Webb Loudon and Gardening

Jane Loudon started out her writing career in 1827 with a three-volume science fiction novel (before the genre was named) describing a future filled with advance technology…and featuring a reanimated mummy. By the 1830s she shifted the focus of her writing to making gardening more appealing to young women. I had read her gardening books available on Internet Archive previously but there was a new book from her that became available recently: British Wild Flowers published in 1846 (available on Internet Archive here). It is a great addition to my list of botanical eBooks (here). Enjoy 6 sample images from the book!

Nature Finds During Yard Work

A week or so ago I was doing yard work and seemed to find interesting subjects to photograph at every turn. I took breaks to get pictures.

A katydid on the mint…and mint flowers…in one flower bed. I was cutting the mint because it had escaped the flower bed and was blocking the path to our front porch.

A black eyed susan and spiderweb filled with dew a few feet away. I noticed both when I was cleaning out the bird bath and filling it with water.

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I was cutting day lily leaves from around the oak tree…noticed the way the leaves curve around the stem of the flower. There was a rustle in an area I had already cut….a toad. I left the remaining leaves and hope I didn’t disturb the toad’s home too much.

There was also a very small black rat snake among the remaining leaves. I didn’t stay around to get a picture. I’m pleased that the leaves have provided shelter and ‘home’ for wildlife in a suburban setting!

eBotanical Prints – July 2019

Sixteen books added to the list of botanical ebooks collection this month. The are all freely available on the Internet. The whole list of over 1,700 books can be accessed here. Sample images and links for the 16 news ones are provided below. (click on the sample image to see a larger view) Enjoy!

There is quite a variety this month – trees, mosses, wildflowers, mushrooms, pitcher plants and roses. A lot of plant types to savor.

Forestry handbooks * Maiden, Joseph Henry * sample image * 1917

Species muscorum frondosorum V1 * Hedwig, Johannes, Schwagrichen, Christian Friedrich * sample image * 1801

Species muscorum frondosorum V2 * Hedwig, Johannes, Schwagrichen, Christian Friedrich * sample image * 1801

British Wild Flowers * Loudon, Jane Wells Webb * sample image * 1846

The ladies' flower-garden of ornamental annuals * Loudon, Jane Wells Webb * sample image * 1840

Watercolor Album * Passmore, Deborah Griscom * sample image * 1911

Field book of common gilled mushrooms * Thomas, William Sturgis * sample image * 1928

Illustrations of British mycology V1 * Hussey, Thomas John, Mrs. * sample image * 1847

Illustrations of British mycology V2 * Hussey, Thomas John, Mrs. * sample image * 1855

Illustrations of North American pitcherplants  * Walcott, Mary Vaux; Wherry, Edgar Theodore; Jones, Frank Morton * sample image * 1935

Journal des Roses  (yr. 18-20, 1894-1896) * Cochet, M. Scipion * sample image * 1896

Journal des Roses  (36-37, 1912-1913) * Cochet, M. Scipion * sample image * 1913

Journal des Roses  (33-35, 1909-1911 ) * Cochet, M. Scipion * sample image * 1911

Journal des Roses  (1897 ) * Cochet, M. Scipion * sample image * 1897

Journal des Roses  (1880 ) * Cochet, M. Scipion * sample image * 1880

Journal des Roses  (1903 ) * Cochet, M. Scipion * sample image * 1903

Summer Camp Volunteering – week 2

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ I spent a morning at Mt. Pleasant and the next morning at Belmont. At Mt. Pleasant there were three groups of campers….45 minutes for each. I used the dinosaur and mammal track rock found at NASA Goddard (saw it back when I was in the HOLLIE program) to initiate the conversation about extinct animals and fossils. There were some fossil shells from Calvert Cliffs and some of the campers had been there to explore themselves. I had on my ammonite shaped earrings too.

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Then for some action: Two pans of water, a measuring tape and white board. A person put one foot into each pan (shoes on) and then stepped out and walked normally. The measurement team (usually two campers) measured heal print to heal print to determine the walking stride length. We measured the walking stride of the tallest and shortest in each group (and then everyone else because everyone wanted to know their stride length…or game it and take extra-long steps!). In the oldest group of campers, we measured the running stride (heel first and on toes). It was a great activity to further explore what information can be gleaned from tracks.

We transitioned into evidence of animals living today with some whelk shells and egg cases found on a beach. Some campers were surprised that the whelks were animals that still live in the ocean along the east coast of the US.

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One of the junior counselors had participated in a dinosaur dig in Montana…and shared some pictures for her adventure with the campers.

It was a busy 45 minutes!

At Belmont, there were two groups of campers making Zentangle® tiles. I introduced the session using the NASA Goddard rock, the welk shells and my ammonite earrings….and then showed them patterns for beasts. The first group (younger) made octopus/jelly fish and tracks. The second group experimented with an ammonite type pattern, tracks and shells. The theropod tracks were the most popular. Many made some big therapod tracks and then some small ones (moms with babies). A variation from one camper: a therapod track….then a blank area where the therapod flew….then more tracks. One camper made mammal tracks. Both groups enjoyed adding colors after they made their patterns with the black Sharpie ultrafine pens.

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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.

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 3, 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.

Dive beneath the pyramids of Egypt’s black pharaohs – The challenge of excavating a 2,300-year-old tomb that is submerged in rising groundwater.

Another Fire in Greenland – There have been more reports of fires in the far north this year. Evidently warm dry air causes Arctic circle landscapes (that are not ice and snow) to be very flammable…fires start and burn quite easily.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Pigeons and Doves – National Geographic – I was surprised at the diversity of these birds.

Call for green burial corridors alongside roads, railways and country footpaths -- ScienceDaily – I wonder how many other countries have a similar problem. Space for burials is probably already a challenge for almost all large cities.

How the sound in your office effects your mood – Aural architecture….how we listen to buildings, the sound within buildings, and how we react. It isn’t considered very often in the current built environment except for things like concert halls and sound proofing. Maybe in the future it will be. One segment of the article talked about the need for quite and nature sounds in city soundscapes…much better than sirens and traffic noise.

Air pollution speeds up aging of the lungs and increases chronic lung disease risk -- ScienceDaily – A large study…another reason to do everything we can to improve air quality.

Banding Hummingbirds – Banding larger birds has it’s challenges but a hummingbird….I’d never heard someone describe it. Kudos for the people that have the touch to do it well.

Engineers develop chip that converts wasted heat to usable energy -- ScienceDaily – Interesting idea…I wonder how long it will take to get this type of technology into laptops and solar panels?

How a Pokémon-like Card Game Is Changing the Way People Learn About the Environment – What a good idea. I hope more teachers start introducing their students to the Phylo game!

Solar panels cast shade on agriculture in a good way – Research from the University of Arizona…how solar panels could shade plants to help them survive in a hotter environment…and the plants help cool the air under the solar panels as they produce electricity! The plants that might do best are the leafy greens that tend to wilt in the mid-day heat. The leaves grow bigger in the shade too! Production of nutritious food and renewable energy in the same system.

Deer Treat

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Earlier this week I trimmed our cherry and plum tree – one long and horizontal branch from the cherry and a lot of little branches from the red-leafed plum. Both were low and making it more difficult for my husband to mow underneath the trees. I took the cut branches to the back of our yard (the edge of the forest).

The morning after my pruning – I noticed a doe and her fawn feasting on the still green leaves of the cherry branch where I had left it near the forest. It must have seemed like quiet a treat to get tasty leaves that were previously too high for them to reach. I took some pictures through the window of my summer office. They enjoyed the leaves long enough for my husband to see them too. Before they left, the doe sampled the plum leaves too; those leaves must have not tasted as good as the cherry leaves since the duo continued their amble back into the forest.

Zentangle® - July 2019

There was quite a lot of variation on the Zentangle front in July. There was a challenge on the long road trip days and then being very busy the rest of the time. Some days there was plenty of time to make several tiles…other days were too short to do anything other than on the critical path to get my daughter moved to Missouri! In the end – I still had a lot of tiles to choose from to come up with 31 tiles for July. The normal variation is seen in this first group made on the iPad with the Apple Pencil using the Procreate App. I found the iPad the easiest to work with at the end of a long day of driving.

I started experimenting with some square paper coasters for tiles early in the month.

There was also a series that were created with a spiral string then a single pattern….all on the iPad.

The most different tiles the samples I made using the butterfly tiles I used with the summer campers last week. It was fun experimenting with the shape and working with symmetry.

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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.

Brookside Gardens – July 2019

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Even though the weather has been very hot this month, there are still plenty of flowers at Brookside Gardens that are weathering the heat.

The buttonbushes have all stages of flowers and seed formation now.

The green cones are forming on the bald cypress.

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The butterfly weed seed pods are bursting open even as the Monarch caterpillars are munching on their leaves. The common milkweed pods are still green.

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There are quite a few butterflies out in the gardens enjoying the flowers. The tiger swallowtails particularly enjoy the Joe Pye Weed. Last weekend I noticed more Monarch butterflies in the gardens. Maybe these are arriving from Mexico although it certainly is later than usual.

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I walk around the gardens before my shifts at the Wings of Fancy exhibit. There were only two this month because of the travel I did during the first half of the month. There are plenty of things to see like chipmunks and milkweed bugs.

I even found a feather on a leaf that I could get close enough for a macro shot.

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In the exhibit, the caterpillars are eating and growing. There was a Palamedes swallowtail caterpillar that had a ‘sun worshipper’ pose on a ‘excessive heat’ day.

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There are plenty of Monarch caterpillars of all sizes on butterfly weed in the caterpillar house as well.

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Inside the conservatory, I don’t have much time to take pictures of butterflies (lots of visitors) but I did manage a few. One day it was so hot that even the butterflies were desperate for water (on the floor) and not flying as much.

Ten Little Celebrations – July 2019

July 2019 was a busy month with two weeks of the months a way from home and volunteering. We’re in the thick of summer!

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4th of July. There is the holiday celebrated with fireworks and food and family early in the month. I was in Texas rather than at home.

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. It’s thrilling to see a heron that I don’t see all that often…a serendipity sighting during a hike to celebrate.

Easy drive through Arkansas. I celebrated that the road through Arkansas on my way back to Maryland from Texas was a lot better than I expected – good road, no construction, no accidents.

Marigolds. I savored the flowers available for cutting when I go to pick up my CSA share every week. Marigolds are among my favorites….but the sunflowers and amaranth and zinnas are good too.

Pittsburgh to Springfield MO in a day. It was a long drive with my husband and I caravanning. We both celebrated when we arrived – tired but otherwise unscathed.

At home again. After being away for 2 weeks (not concurrently) I had several days celebrating just being at home again.

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Prius Prime. I celebrated my car that has excellent range and is easy to drive. It still feels a little new and it’s 2.5 years old! These recent road trips have added quite a few miles.

Surviving a very hot Wings of Fancy shift. I celebrated that having something cold at each break (grapes, popsicle, Gatorade) and drinking lots of water enabled me to be fine at the end of the shift….and even relaxed in my air conditioned car on the way home.

Summer campers making butterfly Zentangles. Celebrating sharing an activity with campers….enjoying their creations as much as they did.

Toad under the oak tree. There is a toad that is making its home in the day lily forest under the oak tree. I celebrated that our yard is providing suitable habitat (there was a very small black rat snake there too…which I am choosing to celebrate too…but I didn’t take time to get a picture).

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3 Free eBooks – July 2019

So many good books…so little time.

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International Museum of the Horse. A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse. Lexington, Kentucky: International Museum of the Horse. 2010. Available from Internet Archive here. This is the illustrated catalog from an exhibition held in 2010; the presenting sponsor was the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation. The photographs of objects and locations included in the digital book tell the story more than the words.

Bing, Siegfried (editor). Le Japon artistique : documents d'art et d'industrie. Paris: Librairie Centrale des Beaux-arts. 1888. Available from Internet Archive here. The French version of a magazine that appeared simultaneously in English, French, and German. It helped introduce Japanese art and artworks to the West. I had previously looked at the English version but didn’t realize they were the same thing until I looked back at my master booklist. I still enjoyed the illustrations…again.

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Gould, John. The Birds of Australia. London: R and JE Taylor. Seven volumes originally published in the mid-1800s and available from Internet Archive here . The illustrations are probably the work of his wife – Elizabeth Gould. She died in 1841 shortly after giving birth to her 8th child. It wasn’t until 1938 that a collection of her letters from Australia were discovered and became the basis for a biography.

Zentangle® Butterflies at Summer Camp

I enjoyed making Zentangle butterflies with about 70 Howard County Conservancy summer campers last week. They were in 5 groups and 2 locations. The first three groups were done outdoors on picnic tables set up with blotter papers and pen/pencil in holders to keep them from rolling away. There was a little breeze, but the pen/pencil holder had just enough weight to keep everything in place.

I attached my sample butterflies to a plant hook and a pad of paper to use for pattern demonstration on an easel. This was the calm before the first group of campers arrived.

The campers overall were ages 5-12. The oldest of the three groups came first…the youngest were last. I presented different patterns to each group as we talked about butterfly body parts and symmetry. The campers were focused and were very creative both with the patterns (and making up their own) as well as adding color. I took a picture of the creations from each group (click on the image below to see a larger version).

The following day, I did two groups at the second location. This time I was indoors and used the projection technique with the iPad camera (that I had used during my session with the camp counselors back in early June) to demonstrate the patterns. The youngest group came first followed by the older group.  I corralled the butterflies for a picture at the end of each session (although one was missing from the older group and I ended up taking that picture later).

Overall, I was pleased with these sessions and I am getting better as a CZT as I gain experience. For example – the blotter papers get used for additional artwork rather than just blotter papers and then the next camper comments on what is on their blotter! The different age groups have different types of challenges which I will get better at detecting…but they all produced beautiful and interesting Zentangle butterflies!

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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.