Birds, Art, Dessert

The hummingbirds arrive to the water feature first. Around six in the morning, they start to bathe. They're mostly Anna's Hummingbirds, beautiful small bundles who 'chirp!chirp!' fairly constantly. The males have a gorgeous pink neck. Some perch lightly on the side, dipping their heads and beaks in; some hover and drink from the side where the water cascades; and still others like to motorboat across the water, giving a good shake at the end.

After the hummingbirds, the finches arrive. Lesser GoldfinchesAmerican Goldfinches, and House Finches all come for a bath. They like to face outwards, and put their backsides in the water. Then they fluff up and shake. It's super cute.

Later, with no apparent schedule, the chickadees arrive, along with the occasional larger bird, such as a scrub jay or robin. Often we'll see mourning doves in the late afternoon hours. We have lots of other birds in the garden, like titmice and woodpeckers, but I rarely see them at the fountain. I don't know if they get their water elsewhere, or if they are just too shy.

This past week, nearly every morning, we've had a new visitor - a small black bird with a white belly. I finally looked him up - it's a Black Phoebe. I find this so exciting! It's fun to see someone new!

Putting that water feature right outside the kitchen window was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. Watching the birds as I cook or clean just makes me happy.

The view from my kitchen window
I went through a bird painting stage a couple of years ago. I know nothing about technique, but every so often I get a hankering to hold a brush, and why not indulge that and enjoy myself? I look for sales on canvas at the local craft stores, and I've collected good brushes and paints over the years, so it's not an expensive endeavor if it fails.

Western Bluebird

Western Meadowlark

Anna's Hummingbird

I used to get very down on myself because I cannot paint from imagination. I must have a model or a photo. 

From an informal art class many years ago

I somehow thought this was wrong. Just two weeks ago I watched "Tim's Vermeer" (available on Netflix) and realized that many of the great painters used models or still life groupings to create their masterpieces. So I don't feel bad any more. However, I have no illusions that my artwork is anything other than amateur!

I also like to make carvings on lino, but they are often created by tracing other artwork, so it's not original at all. It can be quite difficult, though.

From the original 'Candide' illustrations

These darker afternoons and evenings lend themselves to craft and art. The dusk comes earlier, the weather grows colder, and I suddenly find myself rummaging in my drawers for the paint. I've been working on the yearly Christmas card project. I make our cards every year (with the exception of last year; I had gone back to working every day and the faster pace of home life was a steep learning curve); sometimes I make a carving and print each card by hand, sometimes I do a painting or drawing and have the cards made using that artwork. This year, I've decided to do a painting based on our garden adventures this past year. I'll post a photo as we get closer to the holiday.

The turn of the seasons also makes me want to bake. I've been experimenting with different recipes for a Thanksgiving alternative to pumpkin pie (as if there CAN be any alternative to pumpkin pie) and we've had some good eats lately. Danielle Walker's Apple Cake was a hit, moist and delicious with a little cream instead of icing. I also took a chocolate cake recipe from Food52 and substituted almond flour for the regular flour, and coconut palm sugar for the regular sugar. I also didn't frost it, but made whipped cream with a little stevia for the topping. It was delicious. Next up, Calabrian Walnut Cake, also from Food52.

This past week, we had a tree service come and trim up all the big trees in the yard - a Valley Oak, a Brazilian Pepper, a Catalpa, and a horrible Magnolia which I can't bring myself to remove as it provides good shade. I had them remove the Quince, which I will replace with a sweet Cherry. I also had them remove our Flannel Bush - it had the most excellent large yellow blossoms in the spring that attracted every kind of bee you could imagine - but it was the size of a tree and it's called 'flannel' for a reason - the leaves were covered with fine hairs that itched like crazy if you came in contact. Trimming it was a nightmare. I'll miss the blooms, but I'll replace it with some kind of Manzanita and the bees will enjoy that, too.

In the vegetable garden, the braising greens have already germinated! I can't wait to have fresh greens again.