Ready for Pickup

Saturday afternoon, October 3rd, was set aside for readying Diesel and Shorty for the journey to their owners in Utah.  Not quite three weeks after his right knee replacement, Lloyd’s walker steadied him as he stood to spray four light coats of ultra-violet protection over the canvas. When the last coat was dry, John and I taped a protective sheet of paper over the painting’s surface.  I could see the stallions through the paper, and felt my first pangs of parting with the beloved horses that I had been striving to bring to life with light and dark pigments for the past seven months.


Yesterday, a family visiting from church carried the crate up from the basement rec room for us.  Lloyd built it last spring before his knee surgery was postponed to the fall.  After John and I got the long wooden box onto the dining table, we placed the canvas inside the inner cardboard box, and secured its lid with cord.

Tying inner box shut

Lloyd had prepared sheets of bubble wrap to swaddle the cardboard box in and cushion it during shipment. 


“This is how you do it, John,” coached Lloyd, setting the drill’s ratchet before he started screwing the top down on the crate with drywall screws.


Our enabler and webmaster, John, puts in the last screw!  He made sure that none of the screw tops stuck above the surface where they would catch on things.


The crate weighing 48.4 lb. stands on its end, waiting for pickup on Tuesday afternoon by UPS.


A previous visitor from church calculated the weight for us by holding the canvas and standing on the scales, and then standing on the scales by himself . . .  teasing us that we just wanted to find out how much he weighed!  He then sat the crate on the scales and determined the total weight of the canvas and crate, essential information to have as we contacted courier companies for shipping rates.

I put my back out trying to get a slipper onto Lloyd’s swollen foot when he came home from the hospital, so neither of us were into a weight-lifting mode.  Although we can’t lift heavy objects right now, there is something we can exercise . . . and that is giving thanksthanksgiving for our son’s web-mastering skills that enabled Christine Grant to enlarge my painting of Secretariat, which is why she contacted me about painting stallions for her; thanksgiving that this lady possessed huge reserves of trust to commission a painting from thousands of miles away; thanksgiving for the honest (to be truthful, brave) critiquing from both my husband and son; and thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father for enabling me to complete the work before Lloyd’s mid-September surgery.

Diesel and Shorty should arrive in Utah around the time of our Canadian Thanksgiving, and be installed by the contractor above the library’s stone fireplace in the Grant’s new home before the American Thanksgiving!



The Story of Diesel and Shorty

“Just forget about it.  Nothing is going to happen.  It was probably just a crank call from some old kook in a nursing home,” Lloyd said.

What a bizarre experience.  A brief email from a stranger stated that they were building a beautiful home, loved my painting of Secretariat, and would I phone them at such and such a number.

Someone answered Hello, then immediately hung up!  To make sure I had called the correct number, I carefully punched in the digits once more, received no answer, so left a message.

A few hours later, I tried the phone number once more, and asked to speak to the e-mailer.  What ensued were the unintelligible sounds of children chattering and laughing!

The first two letters of her email address were dr.  Perhaps she was a doctor.  Perhaps the receptionist picked up the phone, sat it down on the desk, and what I was hearing were children in the waiting room.  Puzzled, I hung up, and emailed the lady about my unsuccessful attempts to contact her at the number she had given.

A few hours later, Christine Grant, the rancher in Utah, phoned.  She apologized for forgetting to take her cell phone with her, and said the grandkids had been playing with it.

Regarding her intent to commission a painting of horses, more than once she stated, “I’m dead serious.” She seemed absolutely smitten with the detail in Secretariat and especially his eyes.  Our son, John, who is our webmaster, created a feature on that enables viewers to enlarge photos of paintings, and Christine had obviously done that.

Christine gave me the size of the canvas to be hung over a stone fireplace in their cherry-panelled library, and emailed me a photo of a horse she liked.  Unfortunately, I could not use it as reference material, because it was taken of someone else’s painting.

Christine asked if I would I help her look for a photo of horses.  She would phone me in a week’s time.

I spent a few days looking at an endless number of horse photos on Shutterstock’s website, narrowed my choice down to three, and submitted them, sending my favourite one first: two magnificent stallions nose to nose, whose intelligent eyes illumined their gorgeous faces.  

Christine phoned back in four days, saying she could not find anything she liked better than my favourite. I was delighted! However, neither of us liked the chopped off manes on both horses, so it was agreed that I would lengthen them.  

Negotiations commenced re pricing.  This painting would be three times the size of Secretariat.  We settled on C $15,000.  A deposit of 25% was wired, and the work commenced.

Christine Grant and granddaughter

Christine Grant and granddaughter

Lloyd hit the jackpot when he went shopping for two sturdy easels to hold the long canvas, getting two oak easels for the price of one at  Michaels!  The ever-present need to change the height of the canvas during the painting process was made easy by their ratchet mechanism.   

Lloyd rejected the first custom-made canvas we ordered, and consulted with an art supplier in Guelph to get heavier canvas, but utilize the frame from the first one.  On a very snowy day, Lloyd fetched it home in our Smart car.  Had it been ½” longer, he could not have got it in!

Canvas just barely fits in our Smart Car

Canvas just barely fits in our Smart Car

The detailed pencil sketching of the horses was done over several days on a long sheet of paper. Searches continued on the Internet to find other horses in similar poses because the source photo did not show the side of the sorrel horse or part of the black one’s back.  



The outline of the horses was traced onto the canvas.  To obtain a smooth surface for the detail on the horses’ faces, Lloyd helped me apply eight coats of Gesso, sanding in between each application.  

Now it was time to use tracing paper to put the detailed drawing back inside the outline on the canvas.  

In order not to muss up the edges of the horses, I worked on the background first.  Various things were tried before settling on the river, the back fence, and the tree.  Other misadventures remain a family secret – a definite advantage of working in oil!

Background finished

Background finished

From start to finish, the creation of Diesel and Shorty was a seven-month process.  The Grants chose the title in honour of two of their ranch horses who were retired but were kept on as pets.   

The trust the Grants exhibited and the lavish encouragement they channelled my way was incredible!  We were able to communicate openly and honestly with each other throughout the creative process, and have become good friends.  I endeavoured to email them photos of the work at various stages.

Asking the ranchers whether they wanted brass or silver hardware on the bridles, they left it up to me. Asked whether they wanted a blonde or black mane on the sorrel horse, they both wanted black.

My husband’s right knee replacement surgery in mid-September spurred me on to complete the work prior to that time.  As several friends said they wanted to see the painting before it was shipped to Utah, we ended up hosting an open house for its unveiling on September 12, with an article in the arts and culture column of the local newspaper one week before.

The turnout was gratifying, some coming from a distance of over two hours away.  Many were horse lovers.  A couple ladies from our church acted as gracious galleristas.  Our son did as well, taking photos of the event.  We couldn’t have pulled it off without his help.

Neighbour viewing the stallions

Neighbour viewing the stallions

Interestingly, we also had a four-legged viewer!  A neighbour, with his very calm, blue-eyed husky, intently viewed the painting together.

Eleanor in Studio

Eleanor in Studio

While the painting continues to dry before it is shipped in the wood crate Lloyd built, my husband and I experience continued thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father Who orchestrated all of the above, and enabled me to complete the commission!

Shipping crate on the ready

Crate ready for shipping

Things happened beforehand that we didn’t know were preparatory to the work that would be coming.  A year ago, my office computer died, and we ended up purchasing an additional computer for the studio.  It was extremely  helpful to be able to enlarge the photo purchased from Shutterstock whenever I needed to see certain details more clearly!

Equipment in studio

Equipment in studio

During the winter, Lloyd had installed an insulating blind over the studio skylight, which let the daylight through beautifully, but kept out the heat.  Otherwise, it would have been difficult to work during hot days as we restricted using air conditioning to off-peak hours.

I’m grateful also to my husband, Lloyd, and son, John, for their honest critiquing throughout the process . . . risking a bonk on the head!  

Lloyd is ready for the big day

Lloyd is ready for the big day

Should I be glad that I made Christine cry when she saw a photo of the partially completed painting?

Partially completed

Partially completed

Should I be glad that I made her speechless when she saw the completed work?  Yes, that’s exactly what I hoped to do, what I strived to do, and only God’s goodness enabled me to accomplish that.

Approved and signed painting of Diesel and Shorty

Approved and signed painting of Diesel and Shorty

Stallions on the Canvas!

The sketching work now completed, it’s time to get out the oil paints and brushes.  Day by day, I hope to gradually bring the stallions into 3-D.  I won’t be using black light either, such as the government has so cleverly done on the pages within new Canadian passports.  The horses will appear to breathe by means of colour – shades of colour. First I’ll begin by brushing in an out-of-focus background.  That will save  reworking the edges of the horses later on.


Meanwhile, the chickadees visiting Cedar Hollow are busily focused on keeping their tummies full during this unusually cold winter.  They grab a sunflower seed in their beak, fly over to a branch of the pear tree, and pound out their high-protein meal, clutching the hard-shelled seed between their toes.  When outside, I love to hear the  staccato rhythm!


The powerful beaks of the cardinals make their mealtime a much easier affair.



The HORSES are coming, Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!

Holding the canvas against the window for light, you can see the outline of the two stallions I will be painting.  Over eight coats of Gesso were applied to the canvas and sanded in between in order to obtain a perfectly smooth surface that will allow fine detail.  (The frame and support bars at back of canvas show through because of the backlighting.)


The next step is tracing the earlier sketch of the stallions onto the smooth surface,  ready to paint . . . ready to bring the majestic horses to life!

Below is a photo of something I have never seen before—a red squirrel out in the snow!  I guess the poor chap has been housebound like the rest of us during what has been the coldest February in 135 years!  Hope he was able to forage enough to get his tummy full this afternoon.  His tail and coat were certainly not in the best of shape.


Never mind.  The local paper showed an official in a photo op yesterday, driving a spigot into a maple tree for sap!  Yes, the great miracle of spring is about to unfold once again . . . even though some of us need to be convinced at this point that we will see such a colour once more as green .



What is the difference between possible and impossible?

After receiving delivery of it, Lloyd was not comfortable with the weight of the custom-made canvas from a Waterloo art store.  He felt there was too much bounce in it.  After speaking with Wyndham Art Supplies in Guelph, he made a trip over there, and ordered replacement of the canvas in a heavier, stronger weight.

The weather could not have been worse when he drove over to pick it up–snow white-outs and strong gusts of wind!  Had the canvas been just ½” longer . . . it would not have been possible to get it into the Smart car!  Mind you, I had to stay home so that the passenger seat could be collapsed in order to accommodate it!


Lloyd and I hauled out several large sheets of boxboard last night.  He wants to construct a cardboard box for the canvas before I get going with the oil paints.  It will be surrounded with lots of bubble-wrap, and then inserted into a sturdy wood box for shipping to Utah – his next project.

In the meantime, a frequent sound you would hear near the studio is the buzz of the electric pencil sharpener as I work on sketching the two stallions onto paper.  Hopefully, that will be completed early next week.  Their outline will be transferred onto the canvas, ready for the next stage.

Mother and father cardinal brighten our wintry front yard whenever they fly in for a seed break . . . or a dinner of high-protein nutmeats!  When you were a kid, did your mother ever tell you at the dinner table not to talk – but to get eating?  It’s quiet here around the bird table as well.


Shunted Off to the Siding

The sketch you saw earlier of a train winding through the Canadian Rockies is just that, a sketch.  It will have to remain that way for a while.

Our son John’s expertise on the web allowed ranchers in Utah to view my painting of Secretariat close up. That resulted in their commission to paint two very beautiful stallions, one black, and one sorrel.  The nose-to-nose pose of the horses melts your heart, and gives you that All is right with the world feeling.  Both horses have black manes.  It will be a challenge to do justice to such harnessed might and beauty. The canvas has been custom ordered to fit into a large frame above a stone fireplace in the cherry-wood library of their new home.  I’m hoping our Smart car doesn’t get its nose out of joint when it sees the canvas being delivered.

It was a relief to read in the Record this past week that a Christian-principled university in Edmonton, King’s University, has offered Omar Khadr admission as part of his bail application.  They developed a relationship with him over the past six years.  As you will read below, the vice president of King’s stated:  “This completely matches what we’re about:  Our mission is about inspiring and educating learners to be agents of reconciliation and renewal.”

It says a lot for this young man that his lawyer, Dennis Edney, has offered to foot the bill at King’s University.  Has it not been nauseating for so many years to read about the prolonged miscarriage of justice in this case that began when he was fifteen?

We know a man who was a professor at King’s University  some years ago.  He happened to reconnect with us by email just this past week, which brought us great happiness.

John has had a busy, totally enjoyable first week on Bonaire once again, diving, touring, and working with the Worldwide Christian Scuba Divers.

John w. WCSD-Feb.6-15 at one thousand steps_n

Can you see the propeller of the Hilma Hooker which lies on the sea floor off the south end of the island?  A special partition had been built in it where tons of marijuana was concealed.  No one wanted to claim it as theirs . . . and somehow . . .  it sunk to the bottom!

John took WCSD to Wilma Hooker-Feb.6-15_n

Meanwhile, we are taking care of John’s Tonkinese cat, Jasmine, who has been on her best behaviour.  She has found every register in the house!


What a cat!  She even tucks herself into bed!  See that bulge?  It moves!

When John stopped in at Addo’s Bookstore on Saturday, he found that so far they have sold over 300 copies of Colour the ABCs. It is delightful to think of little people in many parts of the world colouring away with their crayons . . .  trying to stay within the lines of goats and lizards, salt mountains and pink flamingos!

John with COLOUR THE ABCs at Addo's-Feb. 6-15_n

For 20 years, Bonaire’s marine park has been designated as the best shore diving location in the world, attracting top divers to its reefs.  This year it won three more awards:


The best diving photo place
The best macro-diving location
Bari Reef was rated the most diverse dive site in the Caribbean!


With all of these accolades, would you like to see Bonaire’s reefs up close?  Follow John’s daily write-ups.  Do take a moment to let him know you’re going along on his dives.


Go to –





200 Years Ago

Yesterday, Sunday, January 11th, marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald.  Stephen Harper paid tribute to Canada’s first prime minister by saying the Scots-born politician “forged Canada out of sheer will.”

Macdonald’s political career as a Kingston alderman began the year the cornerstone of Kingston City Hall was laid, 1843, and after his death, the first prime minister of Canada lay in state in the same room where Harper delivered his remarks.

Sir John A. Macdonald close-up

A gifted sculptor from Wellesley, Ruth Abernethy, created his likeness in bronze, which is temporarily on display in the Kitchener Auditorium, home of the Kitchener Rangers. (Some hockey fan had the audacity to put one of the team’s shirts on Sir John A.!)

John standing with Sir John A. Macdonald

Our oldest son is named John A. McDonald, and always signs his emails and correspondence with John A. In fact, he gets a kick out of using this as one of his email addresses:

Of course, there is a slight difference in the spelling of the last name, but for some strange reason, everyone thinks the prefix of our surname is spelled with an “a” and not just a “c.”

When people meet my husband for the first time and hear the surname McDonald, sometimes they jest, “You’re not Sir John A. Macdonald, are you?”  Lloyd replies with a straight face, “No.  I’m his father.”

Sir John A. Macdonald’s history and accomplishments are engraved on the backs of the two chairs he stands beside.  The installation is called “The Conversation.”  As you thank God for the blessings you enjoy in Canada . . . sit a spell . . . and read what is engraved on the back of the two chairs Sir John A. Macdonald stands between.  Find out what this remarkable man did to make Canada one of the best countries to live in.

Writing on Sir John A. Macdonald left chair

Writing on Sir John A. Macdonald chairs



All Aboard! 2014-11-09

Nearing the completion of a painting, I  experience a bit of restlessness, wondering what to paint next.  I spent a few days on the computer going through photos taken during our trip out West in the summer of 2011.

Lloyd and I boarded West Jet at the Regional International Airport situated on the eastern outskirts of Kitchener.

001-Wat.Reg.Airport, WestJet,Aug.8-11

Due to headwinds, our arrival in Calgary was later than expected.  We barely had time to catch the next flight to Vancouver.

I loved the smartly trimmed cedar hedging around many homes in Vancouver. It wasn’t the white swamp cedar which surrounds our home (named Cedar Hollow).  The leaves on these tall hedges were finer.  And how exciting it was to see palm trees!

In the ferry we took over to Vancouver Island was a long transport housing show horses on their way to a competition.  They stuck their beautiful heads out of their stalls, and enjoyed a handful of fresh hay from  their handler.

Butchart Gardens in Victoria taught me something I’ll never forget!  Make sure to have two camera batteries on hand!

013-L entering garden

Clicking Butchart’s unimaginable beauty constantly, my camera ran out of steam just as we entered the Rose Garden.  I could have cried . . . .

The magnificent parliament buildings and the impressive Empress Hotel were designed by a young Dutchman who stood in marble on a monument, blueprint papers under his arm.  Inspiring sayings were embedded on many of the stained glass windows throughout the parliament buildings.

044-Parliament - Inspiration - 8

Placed in the landscaped grounds of the ornate parliament buildings was the statue of a young Queen Victoria, so different from the matronly one in our city.

038-Young Queen Victoria;Captn.Geo.Vancouver

Hanging baskets of flowers were everywhere in Victoria.  Unusual evergreen specimens bowed their heads and drooped their arms on either side of the entry to the  Empress Hotel.

034-Splashes of colour everywhere!

Returning by ferry to Vancouver, we were fascinated by jellyfish pumping their delicate, frilly selves about in the huge aquariums.

051-Aquarium- Jellyfish

Awesome redwoods in old Stanley Park!

058-Stanley Park - Hollow Redwood-L

Booking into a hotel, we received an unpleasant jolt in the form of a letter handed to us by the concierge.  It was from the Rocky Mountaineer Railway we were to board in the morning.  They advised us that due to a strike they were experiencing, management would be standing in.  Picketers were in plain view as the “All aboard!” call rang out.

064-a-Train ride began this way

Although they tried their very best, management could not possibly relate all of the anecdotes of information that the regular train attendants would have, and often could not prepare us ahead of time to be ready to click a spectacular scene that was coming up just around the bend.

If we were doing it again, we would not have chosen the Redleaf cars, but the more costly ones with the upper domes, the ones which served hot meals.  Also, we would have taken the route that goes to Jasper instead of to Banff. The only wildlife I saw was painted on a sign, “Beware of Bears!”  At the local market, after returning home, a man waiting in line for some ground beef was from the West, and said that the Jasper leg of the trip would have guaranteed viewing bighorns, something I had really wanted to see.

Nonetheless, reading between the lines, you must have guessed that we snapped lots of beautiful scenes . . . given that it took a two-day sort to decide on the next painting!

What size is the canvas?  30” wide by 24” high.  Sketching, the fiddly part, is mostly over, and next week begins the fun of picking up the paint brushes!

Come along with us as the engineer slows down to take the curve to the right!


Not Timbits but Pearbits! 2014-10-28

Late frost, brisk winds and rain have left many trees bereft of their leaves.  In plain view now are hundreds of tiny pears on the ornamental pear tree in our front yard.  As a result of the frequent rainfalls, it grew by leaps and bounds this summer.  It grew so much, in fact, that a grey squirrel was able to leap from one of its branches onto the bird feeder last Saturday, sending the chickadees into a tizzie!! John and Lloyd moved the feeder closer to the living room window and out of his reach.  Before the feeder’s final position got a “thumbs up” signal, I went into the house and did a Goldilocks thing:

I sat on Lloyd’s spot on the sofa . . . . .

. . . . . and then I sat on mine!

Both of us must be able to easily view the feeder.  We often eat lunch on the sofa, and enjoy the company of the birds.  Lloyd was surprised to see some juncos yesterday.  They don’t usually stop by until late winter.

A warm, steady rain fell this afternoon.  Once when I looked out, a pair of plump, black squirrels were busy in the pear tree.  They feasted on the tiny pears . . . and washed them down with an unbottled beverage . . . rain.


They often put their ‘umbrellas’ up – large, fluffy tails – which covered their backs!

After combing through photos we took during our trip out West a few summers ago, I settled upon the next painting.   I’ll feature its sketch when that is done . . . and then the development of the painting on the blog as things progress over the coming weeks.  What will it feature?  From which province?  You’ll have to check back.


Rambling River Song

In between doing the week’s laundry this Saturday, I spent the day in the studio beneath the skylight.

During the past few days, we have been bantering titles about, and finally settled on Rambling River Song.  Listen, and see if you can hear the river gurgling bravely along in spite of the encroaching ice.

I thought the painting was done before noon, and placed it on an easel across from us in the living room where Lloyd and I could critique it while enjoying a sandwich in our lazyboys.  Lloyd didn’t like the looks of the rocks showing through the snow toward the bottom of the arch on the left.

“Kind of looks like a salamander, doesn’t it?” I said, amused, and was soon headed back into the studio to wipe it out.

If you go back to the previous blogs, you will note quite a change took place this week below the arch.  John brought it to my attention that he was having trouble with that area.

“Maybe I’m just not seeing it right,” he graciously remarked.

Oh, oh.  I knew that meant I had to go back and review the  reference material.  Foolishly, I liked what I saw in another photo, and got the perspective all out of whack by painting that into this!  “Thanks, John!  I pulled the river out of the sky.”

The inspiration for Rambling River Song came from the old stone arch above Blair Creek not more than five minutes from our home.  I photographed it several times in both summer and winter.  May this simple arch from yesteryear give you pleasure . . . and peace.



Red dogwood, a burrowing river, good news from afar, and a peek inside the mother mould

1-P1250427Red dogwood now brightens the left foreground.  Snow-bonnetted teasels bend on their tawny stems.  (Shadows will be added later after the snow has dried.  Whoever heard of snow drying?)

Milder temperatures have freed up some of the river, but not all, as it burrows beneath its icy coverlet.

I’m looking forward to painting the snow-daubed brush on the right knoll and bank in the  coming week.

Does the fluffy snow almost make you feel like sticking out your tongue . . . waiting for a snowflake or two to fall on it?  Only those who have lived in or visited colder climes could possibly feel this way.

Good news from a far country !  Addo’s Bookstore on Bonaire in the Caribbean Netherlands emailed me proofs of Colour the ABCs this week, a colouring book which I created about the tiny island.  It is being printed in Holland, and should be available in his store in another month.  Hopefully, tourists will pick it up, bringing tons of fun to little people in North America and Europe as they colour iguanas, goats and flamingos, and  learn about the unique semi-desert island off the north coast of Venezuela, South America . . . the island I never heard about in school.  Did you?   Its captions are in four languages:  Papiamentu, Dutch, English, Spanish.  The queen angel fish on the cover, John’s favourite fish on the reef, glides gracefully above the coral, wearing her jewelled crown.


Let’s head downstairs and see what Lloyd has been up to.

He has removed one section of the mother mould, revealing the rubber mould it supports.



It was a nerve-wracking procedure to cut the rubber mould open without marring the plasticene original inside!



This is the stand Lloyd built to support the mother mould, which securely cradles the rubber mould inside of it.  Lloyd is ready to cast the first reproduction of “Forty Winks.”


Mother Mould and Cedar Clump

As you saw in the last blog, layers of liquid rubber were applied in alternating colours of blue and white so Lloyd could tell where he left off when brushing on each new layer.  After the last coat of liquid rubber, he left it to cure overnight.

Now it was time to study its contours carefully in order to determine the location of the sections of the supporting mother mould that must be made.  Each piece would be a solid, unbending plaster cast about half an inch thick which must be able to be removed without locking in the rubber mould beneath. Lloyd marked lines on the rubber, to delineate the boundaries of the three mother mould sections.

Lloyd prepares the final third section of the mother mould, inserting fibreglass strips to provide additional strength.


The completed mother mould is left to dry.  The third section is at the back.

Meanwhile, up in the studio, the three sticks on the right side of the arch have donned their robes of fragrant cedar, ornamented with sticky snow.

Wild redwood bushes and weeds will soon appear in the left foreground.  The river has only been washed in, but will have to wait for more attention until after the redwood has arrived.  Snow-laden brush will sprout on the right, gloried here and there by sunbeams.  Please don’t shiver . . . but mix up a cup of hot chocolate instead, and dream of sleigh bells in the snow.

Musical chairs with paintings, and a new sculpture

The original of Brown Wings (in Wildlife category) is now available on our website.

Two of the Newfoundland originals may be purchased through Westmount Gallery, Toronto:  Gros Morne and Splashing Thru the Crags (see the Seascapes section).  Note that there are a total of five paintings in the Newfoundland series.

Lloyd has completed his sculpture of a hunter sleeping by a stump with a black and tan coon dog at his side.  He is in the process of making a rubber mould and then will fashion its mother mould in order to reproduce it.


I believe Lloyd is going to title it, “Forty Winks.”   It will soon be available in three different versions:

As a base for a lamp

As book ends

As a centrepiece to enjoy.

First of the cedars to arrive! – September 17, 2014

A lot has happened since I last blogged after the wrens fledged and left Cedar Hollow.

Threatening to do so for a few months, my old computer finally died. Its new replacement kicked the bucket in just two weeks!  What a shock!  Back to Best Buy again.  I am presently struggling with the frustrations of Windows 8.1, so enrolled in a brief computer course.

On the brighter side of things, it is rejuvenating to retreat into the studio, enjoying the wonderful light that comes in through the skylight.  Notice the cedar tree on the left side of the arch.  Hopefully the sticks on the other side will become elegant cedars by the end of the week.

2014-09-16-Blair Stone Arch

Stay tuned!

No time for a break – July 31, 2014

My husband and I have enjoyed the unusually cool weather July gave us.  We can’t remember one like it!  When it rained, which happened often, it wasn’t a whole day of overcast gloom, but often changed between sun and rain several times in one day.  Mind you, you had to put the deck cushions away whenever you used them or you might find them water-logged the next time you went outdoors.

Do you imagine retirement to be a laidback affair?   Think again.  I announced to Mr. McD that I wasn’t taking a morning break; no time.  How easily the day can slip away with this and that chore, and I was determined to get some time in the studio. 

The winter scene has been barely washed in.  I slipped trees and tree tops into much of the background this morning.  They will be mostly hidden from view as the painting progresses, but a branch or trunk here and there in the distance will give it reality and depth.

July 31-14-rough-in-1024

When Lloyd came back in from the deck, he told me what I had missed!  Lady Wren alighted on the railing of the lighthouse, of all places!  Of course, when something like that happens, one doesn’t have the camera.  And if you did, by the time you could half aim, she would have flitted elsewhere.  There isn’t a lazy bone in her!  

July 31-14-lighthouse-1024

Apparently, she hopped onto other rocks in the garden and scuttled through the flowers, searching here and there for bugs and beetles and all things deee-licious!

Living at Cedar Hollow means several hedge-clipping sessions, and what a fragrant scent one enjoys in the process.  John trimmed the arch to the back yard, the forsythia by the back gate, and the cedar hedge between us and our neighbours to the north – the “parents” of a baby robin named Pipinka, who is growing by leaps and bounds.

July 31-14-John trims-1024-hedge

When we were kids, someone told us that a sky like this meant that the sun was drawing up water.   Is it?

July 31-14-sun shafts-1024


Baby Pictures – July 29, 2014

Such a cool morning.  Lord Wren was out and about, serving in his many roles as co-provider for his little family, and as their loyal protector.  The clothesline provides him with a good vantage point.

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Whatever or whoever was on the ground below Swiss Chalet?  Lord Wren peered down from his post for a good five minutes – the longest he’s been in one spot since he arrived at Cedar Hollow.  You can just see the intelligence in those little eyes, can’t you, and his intense concentration. 

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Bounce the Hummer seemed to prefer the feeder this morning over flying amongst drenched flowers, no matter what flavour of nectar they might offer him.

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This afternoon, my neighbour called at the side door.  She brought someone with her that Mr. McD and I were delighted to see!!

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“Look.  He walks all around,” said his proud adopted mother, as she set him down on the patio.

Hop.  Hop.  Hop.  Soon he was at the edge of the flowerbed.  Mrs. B. gently scooped him up before he disappeared beneath a sprawling evergreen. 

“Sometimes he flaps his wings,” she added, beaming.

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Mrs. B’s natural and relaxed way of handling the little songster was truly amazing to behold!  She looked like she had done this all her life.  I was surprised that she didn’t bring him over in his crib but simply held  him cupped in her hands.

 And to think . . . all this joy just fell out of a tree! 

Maybe you’d better scoot over to your hairdresser right away quick and see if she has a baby bird for you to nurture!



Supplementing Baby Robin’s Diet – July 26, 2014

You wanted to know where our neighbour found that little bird, didn’t you?  At her hairdresser’s!  Where else would such a tousled looking individual go?  He didn’t exactly “go,” but found himself plopped on her front lawn, nest and all!  Perhaps the wind dislodged his mud-walled abode from the tree.  Perhaps a mean old coon did, or one of those always-in-a-hurry squirrels.

Anyway, when the hairdresser asked if he wanted a haircut, he simply cheeped, “No thanks.  I need a momma to look after me.”  He gave a little shiver.

 And that’s when my good neighbour, who was at the hairdresser’s, volunteered to take him home.

Chatting with her out of the window this morning, she said she caught a mosquito when she was preparing some scrambled eggs for him, and added it to the mix!  She kept his adobe-style nest in the nursery box so that he has familiar surroundings.   

Meanwhile, Lord and Lady Wren are pulling long-g-g shifts, caring for their youngsters.  Mind you, they’re not complaining.  Whoever heard a wren complain?

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The bee balm patches continue to be a fountain of refreshing sweetness for the hummers.

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Mr. McD got some odd jobs done today, both of which required him to climb on a stepladder, new knee and all.  A garden topper purchased a few years ago at the Stratford Garden Festival was installed on the clothesline pole.
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The upper shed had its hatpin put back on, which was taken off last summer when Mr. McD tarred the roof.

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I have no news to report on Mr. and Mrs. Treefrog.  They must have taken off on a day trip or something.   

Later this afternoon, my neighbour said that she thought the baby robin’s excrement was a bit loose, so she went to the pet store and got something for that, and also bought a jar of worms.  She must have his meal right ready before she pulls back the covers because the moment she does that, his mouth flies wide open!   By the time she also gives a tiny taste to her gentle Rottweiler . . . baby robin has dropped off to sleep.  This growing up business is mighty hard work!

By the way, when awake, he is already walking around! Worms must be super nutritious, but I don’t think I’ll give them a try.  I’ll just make that observation, OK, because I’m just way too busy.  However, if you add a worm or two to your scrambled eggs some morning, do email me and let me know if you experience a BURST OF ENERGY!   You’ll never know if you don’t try, will you? 

The parsley worked its magic! – July 24 – 2014

Pokers of hosta flowers seemed transformed into silk by the morning light filtering through the forest’s leafy canopy.

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When the hummingbird imbibes from one of the fragrant hosta lilies, he has to enter so far into the flower that he looks like he is wearing an elfin hat!  My photo of this was too blurry to share, but here he is homing in on the bee balm, which he will be sipping from in a nanosecond!

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The wrens’ repertoire has shrunk considerably since they started the demanding feeding schedule.  Come to think of it, Mr. McD and I didn’t have time for symphonies either when we were raising our three youngsters!

Today I picked the first-fruits of the green beans – a whole bowlful, in fact!   They are thriving in the sidewalk garden just in front of the Cedar Hollow sign.

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A new visitor arrived today, and not a bit too soon.  The black swallowtail butterfly confided that the bee balm nectar was absolutely delectable!  She couldn’t get enough of it!

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Mrs. Swallowtail bravely copes with a disability, having lost her lower right wing.

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After flitting about the bee balm patch and sipping to her heart’s content, she headed for the parsley that I had moved to the upper knoll in anticipation of just such a visit.  Now, how do you think she located the parsley in Cedar Hollow?  It’s not like we have a yard full of it.  You can see her laying eggs, one at a time.  They are pale yellow in colour.

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Caterpillars will emerge in 3-5 days.  If the wrens don’t spot them, they will gorge on the parsley, and then hang from a silken girdle inside a rather ugly looking chrysalis in some secluded spot.  After overwintering in the paperlike tomb, it will miraculously emerge in spring as an elegant butterfly, a black swallowtail!

Swallowtails are the state butterfly of Oklahoma, U.S.A.   Besides parsley, they like dill, caraway, celery, and sweet fennel, and wild Queen Anne’s Lace.  Unlike the Monarch butterfly, whose favourite food, the milkweed plant, is being eradicated by harmful pesticides, there seems to be an abundance of Queen Anne’s Lace everywhere you look.  The future looks bright, indeed, for these midnight beauties.

Navigational system par excellence! – July 23, 2014

Bright and early this morning, the wrens were shopping for babyfood, baby wren food, that is – on the roof of the shed, among the hostas, the lilac bushes, and the trees of the forest.  Fresh, mind you, following the guidelines of buying locally produced food within a one hundred-yard radius of Cedar Hollow.  None of that imported stuff for their family!

July 23-14-wren A big improvement was underway at Cedar Hollow today.  Our next-door neighbour had a new fence installed all the way around her yard so that her companion dog will have a place to play.  He is a hefty Rottweiler, but under her loving care and guidance, is friendly and well mannered.  The new fence between us is a handsome one, indeed.  Its five foot height will hopefully discourage deer from getting in and chomping down the cedars.   (They’ve been known to do that before!)  I’m already dreaming of planting sweet peas along one section of the fence next spring! 

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You’re not tired of seeing bee balm, are you?  Bounce the hummer isn’t!  Just look at him responding to the “Come along, do” invitation its flowerlettes extend.  They hold the lid of their punch bottles up high, clear out of the way of thirsty hummers. 

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With the overnight temperature dipping low again, you almost wish you could knit little shawls for the tiny hummers.  After all, Kitchener broke a 90-year record last week with a low overnight temperature of 6.5.  No doubt the hummers wished they had never left the tropical warmth of Costa Rica!    

During such mind-boggling flights, I don’t think their GPS ever intones, “Recalculating.”   Uh uh.  Our great Creator has equipped these flying jewels, as someone aptly described them, with an unfailing navigational system the size of a pinhead . . . or half a pinhead . . . or the point of a needle . . . or . . . . . . . .

And to all a good night – July 22, 2014

Up with the birds!  

When I looked into the back yard at 6:00 this morning, there was Lady Wren entering the Swiss Chalet with a breakfast tray.   She moved so fast that I wasn’t able to figure out what was on the menu for Tuesday.   

Later as Mr. McD opened the bench by some cedar hedging to fetch out cushions for the lawn swing, who should he see but Jumpy the Tree Frog!  How on earth did he get in there with the lid closed?  But there he was, and he didn’t so much as apologize for being in the way either. 

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Keeping the bird baths filled and clean is a must on a day as hot as this – 29 degrees!

However, I spent part of the day dabbling in snow!  And I’m not pulling your leg!  Using a thin wash of oil paint, I brushed in the shapes on canvas of a winter painting that will be titled “Blair Stone Arch.”   Covered with mounds of fluffy snow, it is located about five minutes from our home.   Well, the snow isn’t . . . but it was when I photographed it.  The quaint arch spans the Bowman/Blair Creek.  Its very shape reveals the history of the area when Scottish settlers arrived in the year 1830.

As the sun sets, it bathes the trunks of the forest’s trees in an orange glow.  Lady Wren is on her way into Swiss Chalet for the night. 

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I have a hunch that she is about to sing this lullaby:

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lake
From the hills
From the sky
All is well
God is nigh
Sweetly rest

As dusk settles down over Cedar Hollow, an evening primrose near the purple petunias pops open without a sound, ready to catch moonbeams in her golden cup.  The lighthouse on the rocky cliff sends forth shafts of light over the water. 

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  Good night all.