Future Equine Doctor Mends Toy Horse’s Leg

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A few days ago, this young horse lover found a white toy horse missing a leg in the Pitney Meadows Community Garden’s toy farm. She also found the leg.

Taylor, who frequents the garden with her mother Lauren, asked is she could take the horse and leg home to see if she could do “something to help.”

This morning, the five-year-old brought the white horse back. She explained that surgery had been necessary and had gone very well. Taylor, who hopes to be a veterinarian one day, told her mother this had been “her first real work.”

She did an outstanding job. To mend the break, she crafted a rod from a paper clip and inserted it into the hollow leg.  A glue was applied. Back in its corral on the farm, Taylor made sure the horse had water before leaving.

Well done Taylor. You are on your way to being a fine vet and your gentle, loving care was greatly appreciated.


Our Garden Helpers


When I saw a beautiful cobalt-blue backed swallow family had taken up residence in our garden, I was happy because I knew they ate insects.

But when I read that swallows eat up to 60 insects per hour – including mosquitoes, I was over-the-moon delighted. What better way to get rid of the pesky insects. Go birds go!

Add to that the graceful, acrobatic flying and the beauty of these birds with their long, pointed wings and streamlined bodies, and you have a show to watch as you tend to your garden or sit under the trees.

According to the Cornell Ornithology Lab website, legend holds that the Barn Swallow got its forked tail “because it stole fire from the gods to bring to people. An angry deity hurled a firebrand at the swallow, singeing away its middle tail feathers.”

I guess that deity wasn’t bugged by mosquitoes.

P.S. The birdhouse was built by Bob LeClair. Thank you!

Green Roof Graces Ingenious Chicken Coop

w-coop1I visited a garden this weekend that had a chicken coop touched with both whimsy and practicality.

The wooden coop was attached to a wire enclosed cage for raspberries. Built with four by fours and hardware cloth (a sturdy wire mesh) the cage was large enough for several rows of berries and for the tallest berry picker to stand upright with ease. My best guess was that it measured 30 by 30 feet.

No deer, raccoons or birds could possibly enter. The adjacent wooden chicken coop had a hatched door that could be lifted and give insect pecking chickens the opportunity to enter. An advantageous arrangement for both the fowl and the farmer.

And, as if this cleverness wasn’t enough, the roof of the hen-house was covered in succulents including . . . yes, hens and chicks. wcloseup

Eastern Painted Turtle, two

I just finished this painting of an Eastern Painted Turtle. I saw this fellow this Spring basking in the sun on Lake George in upstate New York. I was out in my kayak and he was back in the marsh off Huddle Bay. Most of the other turtles splashed into the water as I approached but this handsome fellow was brave enough to just watch as I shot photo after photo. The painting measures 9 by 12 and is for sale.

Turtle Paintings

I worked on both of the turtle paintings yesterday. One is still in progress but – drum roll please – the other is finished.

Reminder: I took a photo of this turtle while kayaking on Huddle Bay in Lake George earlier this year. He was a brave turtle and the only one that didn’t dive into the water when he saw my boat approach. Instead, he posed on a bed of moss and let me take photo after photo of him basking in the sun.

If you are interested in purchasing this 11×14 oil painting. Contact me.

My next painting will be of old garden tools.

I like having something I’m thinking about painting while I’m still finishing up a current painting. Friends of mine have loaned/given me some old tools to use. I also have some images of contents inside garden sheds that I took on road trips.  And, I’m certainly including my favorite trowel.

In my imagination, the painting has a few watering cans (I have my Grandmother’s), terra-cotta pots with patina, a worn green cultivator (Thanks, Judy B.) and my Johnson Brothers trowel. I’d love to include a glass bell-shaped cloche should anyone have one I can borrow.

I’ll start by setting up the still life and tweaking it until I’m satisfied with the composition. I like when the eye travels from a main focal point to another point and another inside the painting. I’ll show you the photo I will work from once it is done. Meanwhile, enjoy Mr. Turtle.

Garden Conservancy Tour – Margaret Roach’s Garden

We spent part of this soggy Saturday in Columbia County exploring gardens including the garden of Margaret Roach, who was the first garden editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Her garden was part of the Open Days Garden Conservancy tours, a fundraising event for the organization that preserves exceptional gardens across America.

I always see something that I can bring into my own garden designs when I visit the gardens on these tours. In Roach’s garden, it was the masterful play of color and texture. At her country home, where she has garden for 25 years, plants from lowly ground covers to stately trees were visually woven together in an appealing tapestry that is at once both stimulating and subtle. You can tell that a great deal of consideration was given to plant placement.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see several different shapes of leaves artfully planted closely together to showcase color, texture, glossiness and shape. For example, shiny rounded European ginger leaves near a feathery fern next to the hand-like wild geranium leaves, across from the tiny oval leaves of a barberry. It is all about shapes of color and form.

The key to a great garden design is in the details. In the photos below, notice what Roach has created for herself. It is masterfully done. And, something you can do in your own garden. Following aretwo images that really showcase the importance of textures using plants that are readily available.

Another design element that was well done in this garden was the use of color and contrast. In the photos that follow Roach played off two complimentary colors….red and green. Notice the Japanese Maple with a bright yellow-green sedum acting as mulch in the terra-cotta pot. And, at right below, the Smokebush’s purple rosy leaves paired with the fresh green leaves of the wild geranium.

Other noteworthy elements of the garden were a small pond where visitors stopped to appreciate the chorus of frogs and unusual trees such as the Autumn Moon Japanese Maple. At left below is a closeup of the leaves of this tree.  Roach said she moves the small tree into a garage to protect it from ice and snow damage in winter.

If you don’t know about the Open Days Conservancy Garden Tours you can find out more at their website http://www.gardenconservancy.org. Preserving beautiful gardens for the public to enjoy is the goal and mission of the Garden Conservancy and the funds raised during the garden tours ($5. per garden) go toward this purpose.

I have been to many great gardens through this program and look forward each year to reading the directory that lists the gardens on tour with a brief description. The directory arrives in my mailbox in late winter and I’ve been known to put on the kettle, settle down with a hot cup of tea and begin marking off the gardens I don’t want to miss.

I’ve even been known to schedule family visits in other states around open days tours in those locations. Visiting the gardens of others and talking with those who care for the properties is deeply satisfying. These kindred spirits appreciate what you do, share nursery sources, and often speak the same language….botanical Latin.

If you decide to look at the schedule and want to know if I’ve been to a garden you’re considering, contact me. I’ll share my experience.

If you would like to see more of Margaret Roach’s garden, her website is http://awaytogarden.com.

Scores of Dragonflies

We went hiking today at Moreau State Park and when we entered the beach area, scores of dragonflies flew up from the sand and grass. It was a sight to behold as they lifted up with wings glistening in the sun. As we continued to walk around the lake,  we saw several dragonflies working their way out of their larval nymph body, which looks a little like a beetle and a lot like something you wouldn’t want to meet in the dark.

I know that dragonfly nymphs are water creatures and the lake at Moreau State Park seemed to suit them well. We saw hundreds during our walk around the shoreline. When they are ready for metamorphosis, the nymphs crawl from the water onto shore. Some of the empty larval bodies – called exuvia – could be seen near shore stuck to grasses or sticks. In the photo below we actual caught a dragonfly at the moment it was emerging. We stopped to watch and it looked like hard work for the insect, as it wriggled and pulled until it was free.

Turtle Painting – Week 2

Today, I worked on accurately drawing the turtle, getting the darkest colors on the canvas, applying color to the shell and adding more color to the background.

The shell color  is a mix of  ivory black, zinc white, and burnt umber mixed together to make a warm gray. To this base, the colors magnesium, thalo blue and a touch of ultramarine blue were added. It still isn’t exactly as I want it, but it’s not done, yet.

One of the things I like about oil painting is that there is always time to make changes.

turtle painting

Progress was made today on the turtle painting.