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Mushroom Monday

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Look at the size of these mushrooms!

Japanese Maple

One of the first ornamental trees we planted when we moved here was a Japanese maple – two, actually. One has stayed tiny and red, the other has become a giant (for the diminutive maple). Both Dad and I have always liked the delicate leaves and interesting forms of these trees.

Japanese Maple by E. Colin Williams

Japanese Maple by E. Colin Williams

While Dad has been sketching away in his studio, I’ve been a regular at the library, checking out various books about trees including a couple by Thomas Pakenham. In the book, Meetings with Remarkable Trees I found lots of odd information about trees with strong personalities. The photos and artwork in the book are inspiring and do, indeed, capture something of the individual nature of trees. What was perhaps the coolest thing, though, was the way a previous patron had pressed leaves between many of the pages.

Leaves, mostly maple, have been carefully pressed between the pages of this library book about trees...

Leaves, mostly maple, have been carefully pressed between the pages of this library book about trees…

So what should I do, librarian friends? Do I leave the leaves alone and let someone else have the pleasure of finding them? Or do I remove them because maybe it isn’t such a good idea to have fauna lurking inside library books?

The Holly and the Ivy (and the cabbage and the cigarette)

Dad is having his revenge. Today as we were driving to the local raw food/wrap shop to pick up scraps for the pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, et al (yes, there is still some farming going on around here) he started singing the old English Christmas carol, The Holly and the Ivy and then launched into a list of factoids relating to holly (evergreen, red-berry-bearing and manly) and ivy (evergreen, sinewy and feminine). The fact both plants are green in the depths of winter is reason enough to celebrate them in song, but what was really interesting was the way each had been assigned a gender.

Holly Tree by E. Colin Williams (Tree a day drawing project)

Holly Tree by E. Colin Williams
(Tree a day drawing project)

This tradition of association with one gender or the other was taken to some strange lengths back in the day. According to Dad (and his online sources), ancient Brits (as in, folk of the British Isles who lived long, long ago – not doddering fools living in Leicester) used to hold singing contests when there wasn’t much else to do when the days are short and frosty. It was the men against the women, singing their hearts out in praise of their respective shrubbery, dissing that of the opposition. All, of course, was done in good fun and, apparently, at the end of these vocal feuds everyone kissed and made up under the mistletoe.

Hm. I was still pondering all this when Dad mentioned a powder room and I immediately thought of a small room in which British types powdered their noses and otherwise readied themselves for well-mannered conversations with other primped and prepped pommies. “They were lined with copper,” Dad was on a roll and, as I was imagining what fancy powder rooms they used to have, he was chatting on about how the fine sailing vessel HMS Victory (the one Lord Nelson sailed into the Battle of Trafalgar) was made with wood from 6,000 oak trees and did I know that it was the oldest-still-in-commission ship in the British fleet and currently serves as a museum ship… All of this was coming at me rapid fire as I was driving and, I confess, I was still struggling to understand why anyone would line a powder room with copper.

“So, why did they line them with copper?”

“Because of sparks.”

At which point I burst out laughing because, of course, Dad was talking about powder rooms in old wooden gun ships where, yes, sparks would be a bit of a problem with all that gunpowder lying around. And I was thinking of little old English ladies who had consumed one too many helpings of cabbage and then slipped off to the powder room for an illicit cigarette.

This Month, it’s All About Trees

There is nothing like a deadline to inspire a burst of creative energy! My newest book (co-written with my daughter, Dani) has just come out and we are busy planning a cool book launch, hopefully in partnership with the kids at Shoreline School (stay tuned – more on that as the plans come together).

New book!! It was cool to work on a project like this with daughter, Dani...

New book!! It was cool to work on a project like this with daughter, Dani…More info here

Meanwhile, though, the next book (also in the Footprints series) is well underway. The subject of the book is trees, which means I’ve been driving friends and family mad recently by babbling on and on and on about baobabs and canopy scientists, corduroy roads and carbon sinks. In some kind of self-defense move, Dad piped up the other day and told me he was doing a tree-a-day drawing challenge. “Remember how you used to do that blog a day thing?” he asked pointedly. “Like that.”

Okay, okay – it has been BUSY around here this summer, too busy, apparently, for me to sit at the computer and blog on a regular basis. Well, at all, in fact. But here we are with the seasons shifting once again. The evenings are longer and there is hope that I can find some inside time to get to projects like the blog.

Trees herald the change of seasons with such... intensity!

Trees herald the change of seasons with such… intensity!

Given that I am obsessing about trees anyway, Dad suggested I write a little something about the trees he is capturing on paper. Which seemed like an excellent idea until I saw that his first subject was a Garry Oak. “They are so gnarly – all those twisty branches,” Dad explained when I asked why he had picked the Garry Oak as his first subject for the series.

Garry Oak Trees by E. Colin Williams (drawing)Garry Oak Trees by E. Colin Williams (drawing)

To an artist I guess twisty and gnarly equals interesting and challenging to draw, but I must confess that Garry Oaks are some of my least favourite trees! (Sorry, sorry to the Garry Oak lovers out there – and, no – it absolutely was not I who poisoned Margaret’s lovely old tree – THAT tree is special… and, yes – there are maniacs out there who go about drilling holes into the roots of gnarly old trees all the better to inject them with tree-murdering toxins! Note to self: subject for a future post…silvacide.)

Garry Oak ecosystems are fragile and rare, so much so that there are armies of volunteers out there who are working diligently to preserve the trees and their immediate surroundings [for more information on this work, visit this website and have a look at the amazing resources they have made available]. Garry Oaks (Oregon White Oaks) live in western North America close to the Pacific Ocean. Their range is limited and threatened by urban and agricultural development and linked to a whole community of native species threatened by all manner of invasive species like Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry. Given my propensity for cheering for the underdog, it’s a bit surprising I don’t know more about them. Hm. I sense a shift in attitude is already in progress…

What about you? Do you have a favourite kind of tree? A least favourite? What is it about some trees that makes them so appealing? Or, unappealing as the case may be…

 

Without warning I found myself

… in Alaska… On a boat… A large boat… Watching my daughter get married.

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The coolest part about this photo is not that there’s a glacier behind me or that it was actually quite chilly, but that the hat I’m wearing was made by the lovely Leola from wool produced from our sheep!!

The newlyweds!

Getting married by Captain Gus aboard the Disney Wonder is a pretty fun way to get the job done!

It was lovely to spend some time with family away from the responsibilities of home. Many thanks to Jo and Marcel who held the fort while we were gone!

Midsummer Night Sky

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One of the glorious things about this time of year is how long the days are… By ten pm I am still scurrying around, putting the last of the chickens to bed. One of the worst things about this time of year is that at ten pm, I am still scurrying around putting the last of the chickens to bed…

Shearing Day

Pieter, the sheep-shearer in action…

So quick, smooth, and efficient!

So quick, smooth, and efficient!