Sunday, March 8, 2020

Wildlife at our new property

This property with the pond is an excellent place to observe wild animals. We keep binoculars, a camera and guide books handy in the living room that looks out over the pond.  So we are accumulating a collection of photos of the animals around us. However, some animals come out only at dusk so the pictures are not so good and we have seen more when a camera isn't available.
Here are some photos.
Two otters swimming

Three male wood ducks

A beaver swimming

A flock of geese at sunset

Canada goose

Double crested cormorant

Bald eagle and carrion

Eastern tiger salamanders

Female king fisher

Female wood duck

A great blue heron

An immature great blue heron

Indigo bunting

Male redstart


Turtle on a rock

Some animal we have seen but no good photographs:
Green heron
Wild turkeys
gold finch
deer (we have seen deer signs, 
but didn't actually see any until this winter 
when some ran across a field in the evening)
red tailed hawks
fly catchers
leopard frogs
fox (we and a contractor just got glimpses of her, 
but during the summer heard her and her kits 
calling to each other, foxes sound weird!)

Monday, March 2, 2020

Settled into our new home

After almost two years, we are now settled in. All of 2018 and 2019 was stressful. Getting the house done seemed to take forever! And we were hemorraging money paying off contractors. Then Don decided to save several thousand dollars and do the inside painting ourselves. This was slow and physically demanding. Then Don injured himself and we got some painting help from a couple of my brothers and a friend. Then there was flooring to be done. Upstairs was laminated planks done by professional installers. Downstairs is all tile. The Master bathroom was done by a contractor because of the intricacies of a walk-in shower and tile around the window. For the rest of the house, finding a cheaper contractor wasn't easy. Then my nephew-in-law Brian stepped in to moonlight laying down the tiles. We had four different patterns of tiles (not counting the master bath tiles) in an open-plan layout. Then it was installing kitchen cabinets. We bought Menards' Klear Vue cabinets and assembled them ourselves and intalled laminate kitchen counters.
As soon as the floor was installed upstairs I started to clear out the attic in La Crosse and taking the boxes upstairs. Bit by bit, stuff started to move from one house to another. We had thought moving would be done by January. No, it didn't, the prospective buyer of our old house was very patient and lent us employees to help load U-haul trucks. Don injured himself again while unloading and I spent the month of February taking out old magazines, computer equipment and other odds & ends and disposing of it all. I lost weight taking boxes downstairs, to the outside and loading up the pickup truck to get rid of it all. In May we formally moved in, then I fell and dislocated my left shoulder which also delayed things. We spent the summer going back to La Crosse to get more stuff, especially from the garage. In the end, it was "screw it", the new owner has healthy, young employees to take out unwanted stuff and dispose of it. We closed the sale of the property in August and didn't go back to La Crosse for six months.
Meanwhile I started a garden and had containers of Kale and herbs. But I never did take the bike out and ride the trail. I was just too busy or just tired from being busy. Meanwhile my father died September 2018 and we adopted his cat Rocky. The relations between the new cat and our other cats were strained for awhile. But Rocky showed that while he was old and arthritic, he was bigger and still has his front claws. We came home one day with tufts of yellow fur on the carpet and fewer moves of aggression from the younger cats.
There is still work to be done. The downstairs trim needs to be installed. The deck and sidewalks have to be built, more gravel laid down and the half-bath needs to be tiled and its vanity installed, the upstairs bathroom needs to be tiled; bathtub, sink and toilet installed, and the garage more organized. So much to be done, but I spent some time this winter arranging the upstairs for sewing, rugmaking, studio, computer, library and sitting area and enjoying it! I can't be work, work always. Some things can wait.
The new house across the pond, facing east

New garden beds

High ice

red sunset

summer sunset
planting spring bulbs

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The end of 2017 and more changes in 2018!

We did it! After spending most of the summer and fall of 2016 looking for property closer to family and almost buying a place, we got something. Last December Don found an undeveloped property of about 15 acres near Adams, MN. What was attractive about it was the pond on the property. This pond is the remainder of one of three sand pits used in the construction of State Highway 56 in the early 1960s. This one holds the most water. There are no springs and it is fed by a drainage ditch and drains into a drainage ditch. (Most drainage ditches were dug during the 70s).
We put in an offer and it was accepted. The closing took place in March. Then we had to wait all summer until work can begin in the fall. Now the slabs for the house and garage are in with the in ground plumbing, the septic system and temporary electric run to the site. The pole house and garage can't begin until February at the soonest and the well still has to be dug.
The house will face west over the pond with a deck and upper balcony on the second floor were my studio will be. Another nice feature is the Shooting Star Bike trail on the other side of State Highway 56.
I have already did some artwork inspired by this site.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Indoor and outdoor work

This summer has been rainy. So I haven't been out bike riding and sketching as much as I should. Earlier this month I got together with some other Plein  Air painters downtown La Crosse on a day that was both sunny and not excessively humid. Plein Air Artist of La Crosse
Downtown La Crosse, gouache

Another fine day I rode my bike to the La Crosse River Marsh and did a gouache painting. I came prepared with insect repellant.
I did quite a bit of indoor work this year. Earlier I did lots of charcoal drawing, then now I am using Conte crayons.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Doing more outdoor work, gouache painting set up

Despite the rain this summer, I managed to get some outdoor painting and drawing done. Last year I bought gouache paints and practiced first with them indoors to get a feel for the medium and then developed an outdoor painting kit.
The kit had to be be able to fit in my bicycle baskets along with my stool, drinking water, tripod and other accessories. I went through several ideas, including a covered palette with tube paints squeezed into sections. But there were too many days between painting sessions and the paint would dry out. Gouache is watersoluable and rewettable but rewetted paint just isn't the same. The paint had to be freshly squeezed to be at the consistency I like. A solution is a wet palette made from pencil set tin, sponge cloth and cooking parchment paper. The sponge would be wetted and a precut sheet of parchment paper laid on top with the freshly squeezed paints on that. This has kept the paint soft and workable outdoors.When done the parchment paper is put in my trash bag along with any used paper towels, the sponge squeezed dry and put back and a small spray bottle is used to spray an ammonia mixture on it to inhibit mold growth. Several sheets of precut parchment paper are stored in the tin.
My easel is two boards hinged to together with adjustable hinges and I attached a tripod quick release plate to one of the boards to attach to a tripod.
I spent more money and bought a good tripod. The tripods I had are decades old and either big and heavy or lightweight and flimsy. The tripod I bought is a Mefoto Backpacker.

Here are some of the paintings done outside this summer:

Friday, January 23, 2015

I'm back! change and more change

Change! I finally had knee replacement surgery in 2013. First the left knee in February and the right knee in November. I'm not like new but a great improvement. Then in 2014 UW-L decided to close the Wittich Hall pool and convert the building to offices. Since the only reason I joined was to use the pool, I let my membership laspe. During the summer I tried using the municipal pools. Even the newest one, only a few blocks away from my home was uncomfortable with cold showers, paid lockers that didn't work and only Friday having an Adult swim time during the day. So in October after our trip to Maine and Acadia National Park I joined the YMCA and now back to swimming three times a week.
This year Don retires, he will turn 60 in June but he will be quitting in February. All of those years of saving money and living well within our means is going to pay off.
My parents finally moved out of the house they had built in the 80s and bought a duplex in Lyle. But Mom's health is now worse and she is now in assisted living in Austin. Dad's health took a turn for the worse and after recovery he might join Mom in Austin. Lucky for him my brother Ron always check on him everyday.
For art activities I put away my colored pencils and did almost nothing but oil pastels most of 2014. I set a goal of using just my old cheap OPs and cut down old matboard, priming with homemade grit primer and using photo references from the Reference Image Library at Wet Canvas. I also changed subject matter from landscapes to flowers, still lifes and animals. Because of the iffy nature of my materials these aren't for sale. I haven't done a count of OPs done, but there must be a couple of dozen. Doing a lot of these over a comparatively short time improved my skills and I experimented with colored primer and underpainting.