Coping with stress?

Back in December, someone had posted a link to a painting club. Just for fun I “liked” the page. Now and again they would post short e-pamphlets on different painting techniques, and ads for art classes. One of the classes caught my eye: painting acrylic pet portraits. It’s something I’d always wanted to try and I already had the acrylic paints for my carvings, so I gave it a try. They turned out great, and I was hooked. I went on to take three or four other Craftsy classes, exploring other media. That’s when I discovered pan pastels and a talent for painting portraits. I may have gone a little crazy. I’ve been quite prolific. The panda was my first pastel but I quickly moved on to other species.






I sold this elephant portrait to a friend who saw it on Facebook.






Black and white renderings are some of my favorites.







I did two versions of the tiger. Black and white….






…and color







Of course I had to try painting my own animals.











One of my hens, Jasmine.

Oscar has been the most challenging and I’ve actually produced 4 paintings of him, but haven’t been completely satisfied.






After Jasmine, I worked up the courage to paint other birds. A Spoon-billed Sandpiper…






A Cardinal…



This is just a sampling. I’ve done many more, including portraits of friends’ dogs. Peter wonders where this sudden surge of artistic creation comes from, and suspects it’s a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of him being in school. Maybe. Or maybe I just needed a new creative outlet that offers satisfaction at a much faster pace than the hours upon hours it takes to create a carved and painted bird. Whatever the reason, I absolutely love this art form and I continue to turn out painting after painting, even now that Peter has graduated.  If I can turn a profit at some point, then: Hurray!


How a chicken got her name.

I won’t post a picture with this one because it’s a bit too gruesome.  One day back in April, I was sitting quietly in the living room while the chickens roamed around outside of the fenced yard.  This was the middle of the day.

I heard a sudden commotion in the back yard.  A chicken giving an alarm call.  I ran to the back door to check. I could see several chickens spread out around the yard motionless, except for one who was high-tailing it for the fenced yard. Curious as to what caused the commotion, I took one more step out the back door.  A coyote, who was blocked from my view, took off for the woods.  Terrified, I gather up my girls and put them back into the safety of their yard and went  in search of the one that had taken “flight”.

It took me a while, but I finally found her in the far corner cowering in some weeds. It looked at first as if she had gotten away clean, but when she turned around, I realized just how close she had come to being a coyote’s dinner.  Half her tail feathers and a lot of her back and bottom body feathers were missing and she had a bad gash under her pygostyle (pope’s nose).

There was no way to catch her until nightfall, so I waited and arranged to have Sara come by to help with the veterinary care. After dark we nabbed her from her perch in the coop and took her inside to clean her up and start her on antibiotics.  I was all for calling her Lucky, but Sara had seen too many Luckies in her years of veterinary practice who were anything but lucky.  Peter suggested Roadrunner and it stuck.

It took about two weeks for the wound to heal and all the feathers to return, but she’s fully recovered and no worse for the experience. I’m able to tell her apart by the fresh black and white tail feathers. At least I will until she molts.

What still baffles me is why the coyote went for a Barred Rock hen, when far more obvious white Leghorn hens were sticking out like sore thumbs in the yard? Prey of convenience, I guess.

An amazing dog

Poor little Oscar sustained a rather hideous injury on Labor Day.  Excited by the arrival of one of his favorite guests, Oscar decided jumping on the fence was a good way to show his enthusiasm. Unfortunately, his paw slipped through the wiring and caught his caudal pad, partially tearing it from his wrist. Fortunately, the guest he was so excited about was my good friend Sara, a veterinarian, who always travels with a med kit. With some medications I had on hand and her bandages, we got him treated. Considering how much it hurt, he was amazingly cooperative.

The injury requires daily dressing changes. Remove the old bandage, clean, blow dry, and redress. He wasn’t impressed with the blow drier, so I had Peter rewarding him for staying still during the process. It became a nightly ritual. On the fifth day, I went into the bathroom (not the dogs’ favorite place because that’s where they get their baths), and got all my supplies ready. I opened the door and there was Oscar waiting in the hallway. I asked him if he’d like to come in, fully expecting him to slink off down the hall, but to my utter surprise, he walked in and lay down on the towel and propped his injured leg on the other towel.

The next night, he was in the living room when I got everything ready. I walked in and he looked up at me. I said, and these are my exact words, “Oscar, I need you in the bathroom”. He proceeded to get up, walk down the hall and into the bathroom. I stood there with my jaw sagging for a moment, and he popped his head out the door with a “well, aren’t you coming?” look.

Yes, dogs recognize and respond to patterns, and yes, they respond strongly to positive reinforcement, and yes, I’ve been working very hard to develop optimism in my dogs, but this just blew me away. All I can think is, “What an amazing, trusting, confident dog!” and “Thank the Good Dog the injury wasn’t sustained by D’Argo!”

Bunny Brain update

I thought I was so clever figuring out how Oscar was getting out and immediately fixing the problem. Unfortunately, he escaped again. It took me a little while to figure out that he was climbing the brush pile I had created when I cut back the shrubs to install the higher fence. I had stupidly left the brush pile up against the fence and it was just an easy matter for Oscar to just run up the pile and over.

So, out came the chipper. All the branches were chipped including some pear tree, catalpa, and sycamore branches I had trimmed earlier this year, creating a very nice pile of ramial mulch for the fruit trees.

Since then, there have been no escapes. We’ve gone a full two months without having to frantically search for a bunny crazed dog. Of course it does help that the bunnies seem to have disappeared. I wonder if that had anything to do with the coyote I saw one morning running along the fence to the garden yard. Coincidence? I doubt it.